Mercedes Clubs National Rally 2022 – Day 3 Torquay to Glenelg

One of the attractions of this trip was to be able to tick off a few bucket list items.   A big part of this was doing the Great Ocean Road in our own cars.   Part of the design of our route was to ensure we did the Great Ocean Road in daylight – hence its position as the first item on our third day.   The downside of this was that it meant for a very long days drive.    Not only did we have to cover around 930KM, but we aimed to arrive in time for the welcome event at the National Rally.

To account for this we left very early – 6:20AM on the road.    After the previous days repairs, the 1981 280CE was now running well.  A rebuilt electrical system and new cooling system will do that.   I didn’t really know what to expect with the Great Ocean Road.  I had heard it is very scenic, but also that it can get very congested.    It sounded like it could be either amazing or a complete tourist trap.   Still, two things were in our favour.   Firstly, it’s a weekday and not yet school holidays.   Secondly, leisure travel is only just opening up.   Travel in the world of COVID is still difficult enough that vacations outside visiting family members are still not back into swing.

Our first leg had us driving 90KM to Apollo Bay for a quick breakfast.   We were on a tight schedule so we grabbed something from a nice Bakery and Pie shop.    The thing that struck me about the Great Ocean Road was that it is this really interesting combination of scenery and great driving road.   Mostly not at the same time, but alternating from one to the other at short notice.    It was great to take my 450SLC through the twisty sections of the road and see our convoy of classic Mercedes-Benz coupes on the road.

Great ocean RoadAll the cars were going well at this point.   The only minor problem was the 380SEC has an issue where the steering occasionally loses power assist if the wheel is turned more than 90 degrees in one direction, but not the other.   Its been happening through the trip, but has been most noticeable in this section.   It sounds like a fault inside the steering box, which is beyond roadside repair.

After the horrible weather of the first two days, we really couldn’t have asked for better weather for day three.   It was bright and sunny without being too hot.    It was even possible to drive with the windows open at times.

From Apollo Bay, the next leg completed the Great Ocean Road.   On paper, our route included a stop at Allensford, 150KM away.   In reality, we planned to stop at a couple of the viewing platforms for the twelve apostles, and skip the Allensford stop.   That is what we did – we checked out three lookouts in the end.   The first one was a bit of a bust, with a path to nowhere.   The second allowed us to see some great views, but not the Apostles, and the final one we tried turned out to the best.

I really enjoyed driving the Great Ocean Road.   The biggest surprise was some of the fast sections in the middle bit.   The scenery was as good as I had anticipated and thanks to the factors mentioned above, it wasn’t particularly crowded.   I would do it again – but having your own car is the key.   I can’t see it as nearly so much fun in a three cylinder rental car.

By the time we hit Allensford, we were a bit over an hour behind the schedule we set.   Not fatal, as we planned to go easier on the breaks in the afternoon.    Our next leg would have us hug the coast for 206Km to Mt Gambier and cross the Border into South Australia.   We found the roads west of Warrnambool to be pretty deserted and were able to make good time.

It was interesting to note the difference crossing the border into South Australia.   It was noticeable how much better maintained the roads are in Victoria than South Australia (or NSW), but conversely the speed limits in South Australia were far more sensible and the roadside was not littered with useless signs like it is in Victoria.   The Victorian roads had all these signs telling the driver there were barriers ahead (Yes, I can see them), that overtaking was possible or not (Yes, I understand how broken and unbroken lines work) and various other messages about road safety that merely distracted the driver.    No wonder the speed limits are so low, everyone is too busy reading the signs.

At Mt Gambier, we debated driving directly to Glenelg, or if we should continue to take the coast road.   When we checked, the time difference was negligible so we stayed with the B101 coast road.    Before we even got there though, we had more problems with the cars.

This time, it was my turn.   All of a sudden it felt like there was something wrong with my steering.   At first I thought there might be ruts in the road, but then I realized I had lost power assist.   Looking down at the instrument cluster, the temperature gauge was in the red.

IMG_6589A roadside inspection revealed that both fan belts were shredded and the A/C belt had been dislodged too.   The belts were not that old, so it wasn’t apparent what had caused the issue.    One theory was one of them had a minor nick, which had grown over time.   Another was a piece of roadside debris.   Regardless, by the time we stopped, the car had overheated, so we let it cool down with the engine fan and heater.

As it happened, luck was on my side.   I had brought a spare set of belts for the car, and nothing else was damaged.     To swap the two fan belts and fit a new alternator belt would have taken me two hours.   Luckily, one of our group is the owner of a of a well regarded Automotive repair and service business, so he helped me change our the belts in about twenty minutes.   Actually he really did all the work, I just fetched the new belts and a few tools. I had brought spare coolant, so we topped that off too.   We had to cut off the A/C belt as it was damaged by the fan, and changing that one out would have been hard by the side of the road.    We will try and find the time to change that one before the return to Sydney.

With my 450SLC back up and running, the plan was to skip the next planned stop and drive up to Murray Bridge via the coast road, about 350KM.   We had all filled up in Mt Gambier, so we had mostly full perol tanks.   However, there was one small problem.   In the excitement of a belt shredding 450SLC, the owner of the 380SEC had locked his keys in the car.   This is possible because his 380SEC is fitted with a remote locking and unlocking feature.    Perhaps a reason to stick with the original keys and locks.    In any case, we had access to the boot, but nothing more.

Luckily, the boot provides access to the emergency sunroof release.   This was enough to grab the keys from the top and allow us to get back on our way.

IMG_6590cI was a bit worried about any damage that the overheating had caused to my car.   So far, everything seems normal.    It held temperature as it normally does on the drive to Glenelg, and was charging as normal too.

The coast road up to Murray Bridge was pretty good.  Other than being quite bumpy, there was very little traffic and were able to make good time and see some really nice scenery.    By the time we hit Murray Bridge, we were on track to make it by 7:15PM, which barely seemed possible when we were stuck by the side of the road a few hours earlier.    In the fast sections, the temperature of the green 280CE was climbing a bit, even with its new radiator.   Its likely the engine block is a bit silted up.   Running the heater with the windows open soon took care of that.     By this point both 280CEs were seriously low at the rear, and the 81 is not even fitted with SLS.   Small ride height issues were not going to stop us getting there.

I assumed that once we got on the motorway at Murray Bridge there would be plenty of freeway service centres where we could refuel.  It didn’t seem worth it diverting into the town for petrol when things were going so well.   That turned out to be a bad assumption, so we didn’t actually fill up until we had reached Adelaide and made the turn off to Glenelg.    We did over 400km in a single stretch and really broke the back of the days driving.

In the end we got there about 7:30PM.   It took a while to find parking, as the owners of many of the modern Mercedes were parked across two spots so there were not any left.  This was a bit of a contrast with the pristine 280SE 3.5 Coupe parked perfectly in the lines!   While our original plan had us arriving at 6:15PM, that didn’t take into account overheating cars or acrobatics trying to unlock them.   There was a Welcome event starting at 6:30PM.   Our plan was to check in and get changed for that event.

The event called for smart casual, but we were still in old shorts and T-shirts.    Still, the organizers were kindly waiting for us, so we went straight to the event for a well deserved cold beer.   Our poor attire managed to balance the equation however, as there was a strange push from some in our club to wear suits to this event – and nobody had died!  I wasn’t going to do that, but I wasn’t planning on wearing fraying shorts either.

After three days of driving and over 2,000KM, we were finally there.   What an adventure!    Our forty year old high milers had all made it.   We managed to do the Great Ocean road and the trip to Glenelg all in one day.

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