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1997 RALLY STORY

It was a sad sight, to see a car which had once been a successful rally car now just a dirty, dented, and rusty shell, unable to move under its own power. Barry started to recall his past exploits in the 142 as it was unloaded from the tow truck. It now sits awaiting stripping and scrapping. Earlier this week the decision to scrap Barry's 1972 Volvo 142 rally car was finally made. Its been two and a half years since it returned from the 1995 Super Endeavour Car Rally, which covered about 10,000 km in 12 days, taking it from Brisbane to the far north cape, returning via far western Queensland. This wasn't the cars first rally, it had also completed the 3 previous Endeavours. But, the rough roads, metal fatigue, and hidden rust had taken their toll, with a chassis rail cracking through and collapsing, the inner guard pulling away from the chassis rail and the B pillar separating from the roof. Barry exclaimed he wouldn't compete in another rally, unless someone else paid for and prepared a car. And that is where this story begins. I happened to visiting my father's workshop the day that Barry, his head mechanic, uttered those words. There have been times since that I wish he hadn't. I'd always wanted to get involved in motorsport, but until you have prepared a car you have no idea how much money, but more importantly time, quiet a lot of sweat and a fair bit of blood is needed to prepare a car. We had been considering using the 142 I had at the time, as a replacement, but early in 1996 the ex 1979 Repco Reliability Trial 244 was being offered for sale in Brisbane, actually just a few streets away from home. For those who don't know of the car it is the one prepared on the Gold Coast as part of a six car Volvo Dealer Team entry in the Trial. One dealer in each state preparing a car and providing backup for it, with the money coming from Volvo Australia. This car was driven by Ross Dunkerton and managed a quite remarkable first in class and fourth overall, behind the three car HDT team. Their victory received huge publicity, and rightly so. It covered the 20,000 km around Australia in the 2 weeks, with a much smaller budget and minimal backup. After the Repco it did a publicity tour and, based on what I have been told, it was put away in a garage on the coast when its registration ran out in 1980, with just 40,000 km on the clock. (It already had 20,000 km on the clock when it left for the rally, it was an ex-dealer car from South Australia). The guy I bought it form picked it up in about '95, apparently he knew someone involved in the preparation of the car, and he intended to restore it to compete in the re run of the Repco in '96 ? He drove the car daily and it was a well known sight in the local area, he had tried to sell the car before, but attracted no interest at the price he was asking. I don't know whether he was desperate or our enthusiasm affected him but we negotiated a price and the car was mine. I've since said that I bought the car's history, as the car itself was in a rather sad state. But what it lacked in condition it more than made up for it in originality. It still had bandages in the first aid kit, the seats, harnesses, UHF radio, radar detector, intercom, spot lights, wheels and tyres, even the shovel were there, as well as a box of paperwork including bills to Volvo for the car, workshop sheets for the cars preparation, photos, press releases and a Telex from Volvo Sweden congratulating them on there result. It makes an interesting read to trace the cars preparation. It had however suffered quite badly, not so much from the Trial but from the years of storage. The seam welding of the shell had burnt off the rust proofing and galvanising so the floor and sills had become quite rusty. The engine was not good, but it was complete, the seats and harnesses were not usable, it was in need of a total rebuild. It was going to be too much to prepare for the '96 Endeavour so we aimed for the one in July '97. As the Endeavour Rallies are set over very rough roads and tracks, far worse than a rally track you see on TV, in fact they are run over routes more like the type in Off Road Racing. Reliability, simplicity and strength are the keys to being successful. You can't win if you don't finish. It took eighteen months or around 500 hours to prepare the car. To give you an idea of what was involved I've put together a list, similar to the checklist I made before I started the rebuild, that gives you both an idea of the cars technical specs and modifications and the work done in its preparation. BODY fully seam welded, with front and rear chassis, strut towers, and inner guards plated and reinforced, six point roll cage, re-engineered and padded to modern standards, 120 litre fuel tank in boot, modified tank breather system, install rear firewall, move brake and fuel lines to inside of car, bull bar fitted with reinforced mounts and stabiliser, tow balls front and back to allow towing, alloy sump tray stretching from front bar to rear of gear box, rack on roof to carry two spare tyres, boot and bonnet fitted with pin locks, plate over unwanted holes and cut out rust, fit roof vent, perspex rear and side windows with rear winders removed, new windscreen, larger urethane mud flaps, step and grab handles on rear bumper, repaint in original colours and sign writing SUSPENSION/WHEELS heavy duty springs and modified shocks to give increased clearance and weight carrying, strengthened front wishbones, trailing arms, panard rod and reinforced suspension pick up points, relocated and twin shock system on rear, strut brace between each strut top and between each strut top and the fire wall, all new bushes, mounts and ball joints, rebuilt rack, extra engine mount to stop engine rocking and extra gear box mount to stop gear box moving front and back, 15 inch steel wheels with Desert Dueller tyres INTERIOR/ELECTRICAL three light weight racing seats, new harnesses, all on custom mounts with reinforcing sections in the floor, new auxilliary gauges, new fuse box, circuit breakers, harness and relays for extra lights etc, fit FM, UHF, and CB radio's, trip computer, speed sensor, map lights, foot rests, drink bottles, map pockets, large oil pressure 'idiot light', battery cutout switch, 3 fire extinguishers, steering column lock removed, remove unwanted trim and carpet, first aid kit, wheel brace holder, and torch charger, fit rubber mats, tool box mounted in back with high lift jack and towing and winching gear, four front mounted spot lights, rear facing spot light and strobe warning light, boot fitted with 2 batteries in vented boxes, fuel pumps and filters, mounts for jerry cans with water and fuel, containers with all spare parts needed for trip, modified windscreen washers onto blades, modify air ducting, fit new blower motor, heater tap and tested heater core, black band on windscreen top to replace sun visors, battery and tow point indicators ENGINE replaced the B21 with a B23, bored to 2.4 litres, new pistons, rings, bearing, all new seals and gaskets, reground crank, full balance, head left standard, new valves, double springs, stronger cam, all new belts, rebuilt starter and alternator, 54mm exhaust on standard headers, fully flange fitted to allow easy disassembly, custom inlet manifold, twin 45 DCOE Webers on soft mounts, air box braced to engine with oiled foam elements leads to cold air box with paper prefilter, oil cooler, oil temp and pressure gauges, new radiator with electric fan, all new rad and heater hoses, all new ignition including cap, leads, distributor windings etc. distributor vacuum advance disconnected and advance curve modified to compensate, several hours on the chassis dynometer to set up carbs, timing etc DRIVETRAIN four speed manual, machined flywheel, new clutch and bearing, rebuilt box, latter type top plate with modified shifter to give shorter throw, new master and slave cylinder and hoses, new universals and latter rear end with larger axles and tailshaft, 4.10 centre BRAKES machined discs, vented on front, new bearings, pads, rubber hoses, master cylinder and booster, racing brake fluid ENGINEERING engineers/modification plates needed for seating capacity change (to 3), seat mounts, harness mounts, fuel tank and roll cage It was now late '96, the engine had been rebuilt and fitted to the car, most of the paint had been finished and the interior was back together. I was heading overseas for six weeks and was trying to get as much done as I could before I left, time was running short. The original plan was to have the car on the road six months before the rally which started on July 18. While I was away Barry had been busy finishing the drivetrain, fitting all the engine ancillaries and getting the engine up and running, fitting the new gearbox, exhaust and latter rear end. It was now February and I had just a couple more months to work on the car as I was having to work in Sydney for six weeks and then the North Coast just prior to the rally. At least it was helping to cover all the money everyone was spending on the car for me. I had thought all the hard work was out of the way by this stage, but while I was away things were not going smoothly. My brother, Stephen, had been entrusted with, what we all thought would be an easy task of organising the Roadworthy Certificate and the Engineers Certificates so we could register the car. He ended up transporting the car to three different engineers to get the different modifications certified and to the roadworthy inspection station twice before being told he couldn't register the car in my name because he didn't have my drivers license! I had in the meantime returned to Brisbane and with only two weeks to go to the start date I was starting to stress out, we hadn't even driven the car on the road yet. Ten days to go and we finally had it registered, so much for six months. We had missed the one day rally we wanted to go on to try the car, so we needed to get some miles on the engine so that it was at least run in enough to allow us to reset the valve clearances, change the fluids and get it on the chassis dynometer to get it set up. A run to the Gold Coast with some other club members was in order. The trip down was without drama, it went, stopped and steered, and didn't overheat or misbehave in the traffic, you can't ask for much more. The only minor problem was an exhaust manifold flange leak and a hole in the firewall which allowed the fumes into the car. We had lunch, checked to make sure everything was OK with the car and proceeded on the drive home. Isn't it amazing how quickly things can change, from a pleasant drive to a mind blurring panic. Within about two seconds we had a low oil pressure light, no ignition, smoke and fire, I was not having fun. Turn off the engine, pull over, tell Samantha to abandon ship, throw the battery master switch, take of the harness, pull the bonnet release, grab a fire extinguisher, and don't forget remain calm, open bonnet, swear a lot because there is flame everywhere and that was after using up the extinguisher (that's why you have three of them). Grab another extinguisher, pray, use up another extinguisher, swear some more, it seemed like the thing to do at the time, and then examine the mess. By this stage several curious Volvo drivers had stopped to see what all the excitement, and smoke was about. Now for the technical bit, what had happened was the braided line running from the standard oil pressure switch point in the block, to the new oil pressure gauge sensor and switch had shorted out the positive terminal on the back of the alternator. It burnt a hole in the hose, that's why we lost oil pressure and then the spraying oil caught light on either the hot exhaust or from the shorting out alternator, that's where all the fire and smoke came from. By this stage even the onlookers were swearing as well. A calm had descended upon me, I think I just ran out of things to say, and I got to work. All it needed was taking out the chard hose and screwing the oil switch directly into the block, top up the oil and then spend half an hour cleaning up the oil and extinguisher powder on the road and all over the car. At least things could only improve. Next day at the workshop we changed the routing of all the oil cooler and pressure lines to ensure it didn't happen again, we also replaced the alternator which had been damaged by the fire and the extinguisher powder. We now had less than a week to go, the car was booked in for a dyno session, which turned into a complete strip and rebuild of the carburettors. Someone in the past had tried to remove the main jets with what looked like a 5 lb hammer and a cold chisel, so while they were off the car to have the jets removed we decided to clean and rekit them. Talk about leaving things to the last minute. It was now Thursday the 17th of July, and all was ready. We had to be at Ipswich by 4.00 pm for scrutineering and registration. We changed all the oils, checked the car over and raided the spare parts area at Dad's work to make sure we had everything we might need. The last of the signwriting went on the car, we picked up the third party insurance extension, filled the car with fuel and prepared to leave. As a last minute job we decided to flush the cooling system and refill with Volvo coolant. Someone once said it was the small things that cause the most problems. I hate it when people are right, as we drove off up the road, Barry said 'Oh Bother' or something like that, as the heater tap started dripping on his foot. We should have known, the anticorrosion chemicals in the Volvo coolant often shifts the muck in heater taps and water pumps that has until then stopped them leaking. Return to the workshop, raid the spare parts again and take a secondhand heater tap with us, we can fit it after scrutineering. We arrived at the Brothers Football Club grounds for scrutineering and quickly pass through that and register as car 244. We head off to find a Hotel for the night, and to run the short navigation course used to calibrate the trip computer for the rally. Not a Hotel room left in town, so we end up camping on the club field, along with several other teams and the Army unit that accompanies the rally as a recovery crew and to provide welding and other heavy repair equipment. We replace the heater tap, guess what, it also leaked. I think we need a drink. We make our way to the Club house for the evening meal and pre event briefing. We decide on an early one as we will need to sort out the heater tap in the morning before we leave on the rally proper. Although the Endeavour is run as a charity event it has a far greater competitive basis than most of the others, such as Variety. There are class and an overall winner. The scoring is based on average times. Each timed section is given a rating which corresponds to a maximum speed. What happens is that the first twenty cars to finish each stage, under that speed, have their times averaged and that is the target time for that stage. The idea is to finish each stage with a time as close to that time as you can. For each minute you vary from that time you loose one point. What generally happens is that the first twenty starters are the first twenty to finish, you get to start at the front by either buying a place, by finishing high up the previous day or by gaining credit by getting good publicity for Endeavour. The more serious competitors tend to raise or have more money, we didn't so we started eighty-third, so you get stuck in the slower traffic which makes it hard to gauge what times the front runners are doing and therefore to guess what the average time will be. But there is one thing you can be sure of, they will be going as close as they can to the maximum speed specified. For some stages this can be real easy, as you might have a 350 km stage over good roads and a maximum speed of 95 km/h. So all you do is set the computer to average speed and sit on 95 for the next four hours. It might sound a bit easy but I can assure you that there are times when the more serious competitors are running as fast as on any full blown timed rally. Where the fun begins is when the first 330 km is over good roads and the last section is 20 km of farm tracks and forestry roads. You know the front runners are going to be going as hard as they can so you have to do the same to try and match their times. This is where the men are sorted from the boys. Hitting 140 or 160 km/h on farm tracks can be a lot of fun though. And there is no point doing the first section faster to make up for the fact you are slower over the last section as there are often secret timing stations set to catch you out. Day One The first day had us departing Ipswich, about a hour west of Brisbane, at about 8.00 am. While waiting in line to leave we picked up a universal fit heater tap from an auto parts store and fitted it, so with about three minutes before we were officially flagged off, we finished the car. The morning run was non competitive with a few promo stops and photo sessions on the way through Gatten, Toowoomba and Oakey, to our lunch stop at the Jondaryan Woolsheds. The afternoon saw the first competitive stage of the rally. We started cautiously, because at this time we still hadn't driven the car at speed on dirt, and we had no idea as to how it would handle on a loose surface. We thought the weight of the car and all the gear would still be too much for the worked engine and would hamper the cars performance on the dirt. But as we increased the pace the car came into its own, it is very stable and predictable with the suspension working well on the rough roads and when dropping into creek crossings and floodways. The afternoon saw us pass through Dalby, Chinchilla, Miles, Roma and Mitchell to our night stop at Mungallala, covering 690 km in the first day. The night stop also saw the first Rally Wacko, which is an optional section, and is a straight timed event with no speed restrictions. The pace notes are very basic and to make it even more fun we did it at night. Time to test Barry's panic threshold. I was having heaps of fun, I don't know about him, but I was starting to get used to the car and Barry was starting to have more faith in my driving ability. It was all going perfectly, sideways out of corners, steering with the throttle, opposite lock, the whole rally thing, we round a bend and in the distance we can see something reflecting the headlights back at us, I thought it was a hub cap nailed on a fence post, until it got up and moved, with about six of his mates. We had come face to face with a herd of cattle, we were probably wondering the same thing as them, what the hell are you doing here! After a frustrating standoff, cows do move so slowly, we continued and finished. Allowing for the bovine roadblock, we covered the four kilometres in about three minutes, not bad. The night was uneventful, check over the car, eat, drink and sleep. There is one thing about the inland that no one tells you, it's bloody cold at night. Day Two Day two saw a 7.30 start for the 820 kilometres to be covered that day. The day was a mix of high and low speed competitive stages and transport sections. We passed through Wyandra, Toompine and Eromanga and onto Durham Downs, on the Cooper Creek. The day was uneventful, but two flat tyres and starting a fair way down the field made for a late finish. Durham Downs is a 3,000,000 acre cattle station in the far south west of Queensland. The camp area had been cleared from the scrub just for us, there are no toilets or showers (I don't know how the few women who come on the rally manage) and dinner was a freshly slaughtered cow with the vege's cooked in 44 gallon drums. It's not for those who are used to the Hilton. We do the usual check over, change the air filter, and find a tube so we would have at least one spare for the next day. The army team who accompany the rally have tyre changing gear. Day Three Another 7.30 start for the 690 kilometres from Durham Downs through Innaminka, Moomba, Balcanoona, the Flinders and ending at Blinman. The first stage of the day saw many casualties, with most having collapsed front suspension, usually from bent wishbones. The tracks out of Durham Downs were very rocky and this caused our only mechanical failure. We had completed the roughest stage and were now on some higher speed open tracks when the car started handling like it had a flat tyre. Barry stopped, I jumped out and check the tyres, they were fine, I had a look under the car to see that we had lost one of the rear springs. We had fitted check straps to limit the rear suspension travel, so that the shock absorbers did not take the force of the axle dropping down when we launched the car. One end of the strap is fixed to the plate on the trailing arm that the spring fixes to, the force of the axle dropping had ripped the plate of the trailing arm, so the plate and spring, still attached to the car, were being dragged behind us. You can drive without a rear spring can't you Barry? Cut the strap, grab the spring and off we go. We drove the next 150 kilometres with out a left hand rear spring. We got to Innaminka, just near the Queensland / South Australia border, removed the trailing arm and as we were negotiating hire rates for the welding gear at the only service station (there's only a pub and service station at Innaminka), the spare parts truck arrived, with our spare trailing arm on board. Well planned I thought. While at Innaminka we had a shower and phoned our respective other halves, its much easier than trying to beat 400 other people to the one phone and two showers at most night stops. The rest of the day was uneventful, except the exhaust fell off, the first of many times, the vibration from the dirt roads kept working the flange bolts loose. We had to refuel from a petrol tanker in the middle of the desert somewhere, it had travelled 400 km to meet the rally, and the alternator mounting bolt vibrated loose, but the two big batteries meant we could finish the day on battery power. Day Four Day four saw us starting higher up the list because of our good times on the previous day. We were also running further up the field during the days by eating lunch in the car, and by bypassing petrol queues, as we could use unleaded. We also developed another technique that allowed us to increase our speed on the competitive stages over the Flinders Ranges. At strategically planned moments the throttle return spring would break, giving us an idle speed of about 3000 rpm. Its very disconcerting to let off the throttle to go into a corner, only to find the car still accelerating. It's even more of a thrill when you don't know its going to happen. The first time was a long right hand bend over the crest of a hill, taken at about 120 kilometres an hour, about twice the speed that would have made Barry comfortable. It required a modified driving style to say the least, you have to drive with your foot on the brake all through the corner to keep your speed down, and keeping gear changes to a minimum as the car over revs when you're on the clutch. The day took us from Blinman through Wilpena Pound, Burra, Kapunda, Tanunda and finally the Barossa, just on 590 km. Day Five We had managed to con our way into a Hotel, when we hadn't booked, so it was a refreshing change to sleep in a bed and have a shower. Day five is the rest day, with an organised tour of the wineries and the Birdwood Motor Museum. Barry and I decided to use the day to sleep and check over the car. The Hotel was quite a site, and god knows what the locals thought, as there was a row of rally cars in the carpark, up on jacks, with bonnets open and wheels off. They say ignorance is bliss and it definitely is, when you know what can go wrong you always manage to find something to modify or repair. So we spent the majority of the day driving around Adelaide getting a new warning strobe, having the broken muffler replaced, sorting out the spare tyres and tubes, and getting a new set of mud flaps. We also picked up a new set of rear shock absorbers as the set we started the rally on hadn't lasted two days. The rear springs on the car are made from wire two sizes up from standard to cope with the weight, when the car drops heavily on the suspension the rebound from the heavy springs is too much for the shocks, they overheat and die really quickly. Day six We left the Barossa for the trip to Broken Hill confident that the car was up to the task, even if it wasn't washed (washing your car is frowned upon as iot isn't in the spirit of the Rally). The 608 kilometres went without any major hiccups, but some didn't get it that easy. We were following a couple of first timers in a WB Holden ute. We had been in contact with them on the UHF for most of the latter stages on that day, as our trip computer had been playing up and they were letting us know when they reached an instruction in the route book. We knew they were only one minute in front of us because we were keeping just out of their dust. When you hit the car in fronts dust you have about five to ten metres of visibility, so we always play safe and drop back, the guys in the WB were using the strobe light at the back of the car in front of them as a guide and were driving virtually blind. All of a sudden the light disappeared, the car started climbing and everything went quiet, until they landed. All the cattle grids are built up from the surrounding area, as it saves digging a hole under one. The WB had hit the grid at full speed, the track turned hard right, they completely jumped the track and landed about fifteen metres from the grid in the bush. We got a rather hurried message on the radio and when we arrived it was like something out of a cartoon with these tyre tracks in the dust leading up to the grid and then nothing except for a trail of flattened grass and parted trees. Day seven With only 361 kilometres to travel the day seemed easy, but with most of the driving on private roads, with plenty of hazards to avoid and gates to open the routes were given class 2 and 3 speed ratings, quite low. We enjoyed the challenge, because as I said on these rough stages you can go as hard as you like as you know the front runners will be. The car didn't miss a beat, the only thing that slowed us was being caught in the dust of the cars in front. The night was spent at Whites Cliff, travelling through Silverton, Fowlers Pack and Packsaddle. Because of our strategy of jumping queues and missing lunch we were one of the first to arrive and took advantage of the showers before the other 400 people arrived. It also saw our most expensive fuel stop, we filled the tank and the jerry can and at one dollar a litre spent over $140. Day eight The trip from Whites Cliff to Goondiwindi via Wanaaring, Bourke, Walgett and Weemelah, was over 990 km and we left at sunrise, now running with the top thirty cars. Unfortunately the first twenty cars got lost dragging the average speed down for the first stage, meaning we lost eight minutes from finishing so fast. Oh well. Most the day consisted of fast stages and long transport sections, so we finished the day in around eleven hours. Day nine The final day was the shortest and the hardest. It was only 287 kilometres but included some of the most serious driving of the event. Those cars not in the running for a place or were not confident of their cars or their ability to finish were encouraged to bypass these stages and drive straight to the assembly area for the official finish in Warwick. We were at that stage about twenty-fourth outright and fourth in class. With second and third in the four cylinder class starting just in front of us, and with scoring based on average times, finishing at the same speed as them meant we would wouldn't pick up any places, so we had to go slower or faster. Faster is much more fun. Most the stages were on forestry tracks, it was the most exciting (for me) and frightening (for Barry) day of the rally. We had passed through Yetman, Beebo and Sandy Creek before assembling just outside Warwick for the official finish down the main street of the town. We had improved during the days running to finish eighteenth outright and third in class, and the Volvo attracted a great deal of attention with many recognising it as the old Dunkerton car. By the end of the event it had definitely changed a few people's attitudes towards Volvo reliability and performance. It received a lot of publicity, even getting in the local paper in the Barossa, and getting a lot of coverage in the Rally video. At the beginning of the day you find out where the camera and photography crews are going to be so you can put on a good show. But most importantly the event raised over $1.1 million for the Endeavour Foundation. We had a great time and we are already geared up and the car is ready to tackle this years event from Brisbane to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and back. The car never failed us, with only the breaking trailing arm and couple of flats costing us any time. And when you consider the car started the Rally with less than 300 kilometres on the engine it did very well. So if your interested in travelling over 5000 kilometres over dirt roads and tracks in eight days of driving then give us a call, next year we could win the team trophy. 1998 RALLY REPORT Once again we have ventured forth into the unknown and returned to tell the tale. Most of you should remember the epic tale of our entry in last years Great Endeavour Rally, well this time I shall spare you the novel and give you the condensed version (for now anyway). We once again dusted off the ex Dunkerton/Volvo Dealer Team 244 rally car and headed of to tackle the 8 days and 6500 kms taking us from Gladstone to Ayers Rock to Cooper Peedy and returning to Toowoomba. A change in scoring for this years event made life easier and allowed us to be placed seventh after two days, and unlike last years run of flat tyres we were able to improve steadily over the next few days, leading the event outright for the two days leading up to the final competitive stage (I bet your starting to think that this has a tragic ending?). Our success was much to the disgust and surprise of the Holden and Ford brigade and we received a lot of attention on the radio and TV coverage of the rally. The final day started with any problem, we started the final stage , set our times and speeds and proceeded along at our usual steady pace. It wasn't until we approached the 133 km mark (where the timer should have been) that we had any idea that there was something wrong. There was no timer, maybe around the next corner, no, the next, no, s__t!. We found it 13 km latter, finishing the stage over 4 minutes late. For the first and only time the trip/rally computer ran over, still don't know why. It cost us first place, it even put us out of the top ten, s__t again (get the feeling we were not happy). Anyway we still came first in the rally (speed) stages and first in class in the overall score.