ALL THE WAY THERE AND BACK……..
From the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and return.
It was pitch dark and bitterly cold at 6 am when the burble of a boatie could be
heard approaching our driveway on 24 August 2008. Tony and Marny Howe
had driven from their place to join us for the long haul east for the Queensland
With both boattails fuelled up and packed we headed due east. There is an air of
excitement when you’re starting out on a major journey and weeks of planning
have all come to fruition.
We stopped alongside the Avon River at Northam but this was colder than the hills
of Perth. Our coffee chilled quickly in our cups and we decided to press on. A
cold wind followed us to our lunch and fuel stop at Southern Cross. The cars
drew their usual crowd of interested parties and questions were fielded.
When we pulled in at Caiguna for lunch an old gentleman could be spotted
approaching the cars in some excitement clutching a half eaten sandwich in his
hand. He turned out to be an 81-year old American who had worked at Flint at
the Buick plant after the war and then became a project engineer at Detroit for
GM. He said he couldn’t believe his eyes when two Riviera Boattails had pulled
in. He himself was driving a T-model Ford with two others and a backup vehicle
across Australia. There was a lesson here that you and your car are never too
old to get out there.
Buicks at Caiguna
It never fails to amaze me the quality of meals and the decent bottle of wine which
can be had in restaurants in far flung motels. From Norseman and across the
Nullarbor we were well looked after. We even had a bottle of Goundrey Reserve
Shiraz at one place!
Our driving plan everyday was to get going about 6.30 am and put quite a few
kilometres on the clock (or miles in the Buick) before stopping about 5 pm in the
afternoon. When the road runs close to the cliffs there is spectacular scenery as
far as the eye can see and when you look at the Southern Ocean rolling in, the
next landfall in that direction must be Antarctica. The eagles are magnificent but
one has to slow down if they are eating roadkill on the road. The crows can get
going quickly as a car approaches but the eagles are much slower before they get
their revs up. One flew over the top of the Riv and you can appreciate the size of
their wings looking up at their underbelly.
The road up to Port Augusta goes through some spectacular desert type scenery
with bronze-red hills. Driving this road in the summer would be a challenge.
At Port Augusta Marny and I popped into the post office with the admonition “don’t
be too long”. When we returned to the cars, both bonnets were up and there
were a crowd of blokes looking at the engines. Apparently someone who knows
Buicks had seen the cars stop and immediately rang all his mates who have
Buicks to come and see the cars. At this point “don’t be too long” had gone out
the window. These blokes had left their workplaces and whatever they were doing
to come and inspect the cars. There is obviously a need for a Buick car club in
South Australia! Unfortunately we had to press on as we still had many miles to
Broken Hill was a great place to stay. They really seem to appreciate their
history and in one park was a memorial to the band which had played and gone
down on the “Titanic”. There was an air of Kalgoorlie about the place and the
The roads deteriorated in northern New South Wales with lumpy surfaces and the
trucks seemed to be more numerous. Our empty road cruising was coming to
We entered Goondiwindi late afternoon and saw the statue of the Goondiwindi
grey “Gunsynd”. Casing the town out and admiring the lovely old Queenslanderstyle
houses, we had stopped to reconnoitre when a woman parked her car in
front of ours. She said her husband had a ’26 Buick he was restoring and
couldn’t wait to get home to tell him what she had seen! They knew that the
National Meet was on but unfortunately couldn’t make it.
The scenery changed again from there and we drove through lush farming country
to Ashmore. Great to pull into the Ashmore Palms and see and hear Buicks
(and their owners).
On Thursday 18 September, after a simply wonderful time in Queensland (which I
am sure has been fully written about by other members) we headed to Macca’s at
6.00 a.m. for breakfast. John and Kaye Cook who had purchased their ‘71
boattail in Queensland had decided to drive it back rather than truck it and decided
to accompany us which was great. Stuart Syme and John Bell were driving their
Buicks to Tenterfield to pick up John’s truck, load the Buicks and then head west.
At Tamworth we spotted Ian and Margaret Baxter’s ‘46 and pulled over to have
lunch with them. They were heading for the Bay to Birdwood run.
The Baxters, Cooks, Howes and Haimes at Tamworth
I drove in the afternoon and managed to cop roadworks, hilly rough surfaces and
huge trucks. Not ideal driving.
We reached Warren about 5.30 pm and pulled into what we consider about the
best motel on the run. It’s about 500 metres off the mainroad, very comfortable
and clean and virtually nobody staying there. We could walk to the United
Services Club a few blocks away and have a decent meal and a few drinks.
The weather was warming up a bit as we headed towards Cobar. The three
cars were driving alongside the railway line watching a big train tonk along. We
couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw a small four-wheel drive nip across in front
of the engine with about two seconds to spare from getting whacked by the train.
The woman pulled up and had her hands to her face, leaning on the steering
wheel. Obviously the enormity of her stupidity had struck home. The train also
slowed and stopped, no doubt the driver had a pounding heart.
We had estimated that Bev and Peter Nicholson (who had flown home after the
Nationals, trucked their Buick and picked up their Hupmobile for the Hupmobile
rally in Cessnock, New South Wales) would be roughly between Cobar and
Wilcannia when we would spot them on the return journey. Sure enough there
was the Nic’s four-wheel drive towing the Hup. The three boaties wheeled
around and pulled up behind the Hup. Great to catch up with people in the back
of beyond. Pete and Bev said they had spotted John Bell’s truck further along
ahead of us. I think these blokes roughed it a bit more than us.
Never know who you will bump into in the outback!
Broken Hill again and Tony’s birthday. The blokes fiddled and polished the cars,
laundry was done and then it was time to celebrate T’s birthday in the motel
Off early next morning, morning tea at Mannahill with a cold wind blowing. Just
the other side of Peterborough John Cook’s car developed a knock. An
inspection revealed that the universal joint had died. We drove back into
Peterborough to the local mechanic but the chances of getting parts weren’t
looking good. We decided to head for Port Pirie and hole up for the night.
Pitstop at Wilcannia
The drive was beautiful through lush paddocks and towns with lovely old stone
houses which South Australia is noted for. This was a bonus as none of us had
driven across on this road before.
We booked in at Port Pirie and discussed the various options about the car. John
was feeling a bit glum but this was just bad luck as it could have happened to any
of the cars. The three blokes crawled under the car to inspect the situation (see
photo). We womenfolk were initially horrified to see a pile of paving bricks
under the rear wheels of the car but fortunately there were no holes in the paved
courtyard as they had found residual bricks in the garden.
From a Buick 8?
It was decided to truck the car to Adelaide and John and Kaye would bus it to
Adelaide and then fly home to Perth. Regretfully we made our farewells and
turned north to Port Augusta.
That evening we pulled into Minnipa, a little town in the boonies with the usual
huge, white wheat silo dominating the town. The hotel/motel was shut but we
managed to ring the owner who turned up about 5 .30 pm and let us in. Nice
units out the back of the old pub.
At dinner time we headed into the dining room. Through most of the trip we
three had been trying to convince Tony not to have his steak well done, but to
have it medium-rare. Tony was eventually convinced of the error of his ways.
Anyway, Tony and I ordered steak for dinner, mine rare, Tony’s medium-rare.
Eventually the meals came out and the owner said carefully to me, “yours was the
rare one” and to Tony “yours was the medium-rare”. The reality was that they
were both cooked to shoe leather consistency (Ron Noonan would have loved the
steak). However one must realise that we were in a place where you couldn’t
drink the tapwater so you have to just get on with it sometimes.
The next morning we encountered rain all the way into Ceduna. Lunch at
Nullarbor was bitterly cold with a high wind. We all ate lunch back in the cars.
Further on down the road we saw a dingo sitting at the edge of the road surveying
the scene. They are a lovely looking dog (I don’t subscribe to the baby-taking
reputation they have).
The spectacular (and breezy) Nullarbor cliffs
Managed to get the last two rooms at Eucla, Norseman the next night and then
All in all for the trip both ways and the National runs we had travelled some 10,600
km and spent $2,850 on fuel. We all agreed that we wouldn’t have missed it for
L M Haime (WA Buicks)
ALL THE WAY THERE AND BACK……..