Mercedes Clubs National Rally 2022 – Summary

I recently attended the Mercedes Clubs National Rally 2022 in Glenelg, SA.   Not only did I attend the actual event, but I joined a group of friends in the MBCNSW to create a Classic Mercedes rally within a rally.   We all have young children and its not easy to get a lot of time off work, so our goal was to pack as much as we could into as short a time as possible.   I think we achieved that.

Instead of taking the direct route to the show over multiple days with the rest of the club, we crafted our own scenic route.   This allowed us to tick off as many bucket list items as possible along the way.   We were also set on doing the whole thing in our Classic Mercedes cars.   Doing the drive in a modern car would just be a long drive.   Doing it in a classic would be an adventure.

National rally

The way we did it the journey was just as big a part of our experience than the rally.

The Route

A full summary of our route is available here.   The plan was to take the coast road to Adelaide, taking in the NSW South Coast, Eastern Victoria, the ferry over Port Philip bay, great ocean road and then up the coast to Adelaide.   In Adelaide we would attend the National Rally.   We would not have time to attend the pre-rally or post-rally events.

On the way back we would experience the Outback, passing through Broken Hill, White Cliffs, Wilcannia, Cobar, Nyngan, Narromine, Mudgee and Lithgow.    Overall our route would be a little under 4,000KM, with the driving in Adelaide itself taking us over 4,000.

The Cars

Our group was doing a classic Mercedes rally, so we all chose classics we thought were appropriate for the trip.  As it happened, they were all high mileage cars.   We had on the journey:

  • 1977 450SLC (mine): 306,000
  • 1978 280CE (white): 445,000
  • 1981 280CE (green): ~250,000
  • 1983 380SEC: 277,000

We all spent time preparing our cars for the rally.   This involved fixing what we knew needed attention, and bringing spares we thought we would need.   I had a few things to sort out on my car.   I also packed a crate of spares and tools to help me on the way.   I’m glad I took what I did as I ended up using a fair number of the tools and spares I had.   These cars are over 40 years old, so no matter what preparation is done, there is always the possibility that something will fail.

On our drive, we did have some issues with the cars.   The important thing was that we got all of them through the trip and back home.    The 380SEC proved to be the most reliable car.   Its no coincidence that this is the only car of the group used as a daily driver on full registration.    These cars are at their best when driven regularly, and the less they are driven, the less reliable they will be.   Due to the lockdowns, the 1981 280CE had not seen a lot of recent use.  This is probably why a few parts failed on the journey and needed replacement.   It was all stuff that could be replaced on route, with some skill!

I lost the drive belts on my car, and while they were not all that old, in retrospect I should have just replaced them before the event.   Belts are consumables, and better to have the confidence of near new belts.

On the trip, I used 668 litres of petrol (with about 3/4 of a tank left at the end), so probably a bit over 600 in reality.   The cost was about $1,300.   The 450SLC is not the most economical car to begin with, and mine has the ADR27A pollution controls, which the government mandated to reduce emissions.  Consequently, it uses more fuel and produces more CO2 than the standard cars.    I also went through 2 litres of oil in covering about 4100KM.    On the trip I ranged from 14-17l per 100/km, with an average of mid 15s.   That is actually pretty good going compared to city usage.

I noticed that South Australian petrol was significantly cheaper than what was available in NSW and Victoria.   In some cases up to 50c per litre cheaper.   Not sure why that was.

Getting there

Our trip there took us three days.   On the first day, we drove down the NSW coast, crossed the Victorian border and stayed in Orbost.   The weather was diabolical through nearly the entire day, with a small break in the weather around lunchtime.   We could hardly see out of the cars, let alone take in the scenery.   Just after we crossed the Victorian border, the alternator on the 1981 280CE died, forcing us to limp the car back to the hotel in the dark without headlights or wipers.   The weather also highlighted how cars of this age are not exactly waterproof.

National Rally

On the second day, we located a wrecker to get parts for the 81 280CE, which also involved addressing the cooling system too.   That took us to the outskirts of Melbourne.   From there, we took the ferry across Port Philip bay to our destination in Torquay.   Highlights of the day were ensuring the 280CE would be able to continue and the Ferry over.     A detailed description of the second day can be found here.

On the third day, we did the Great Ocean Road.   That was the highlight of our drive to the National Rally.   We also drove some great coast roads to Adelaide.   Even better, there was minimal traffic on those roads and the weather was great.   I managed to loose my drive belts, but had help to get back up and running quickly.   This was the most demanding day of the trip.    The great thing was all four cars made it.

The Rally

The rally itself was really well managed by the very friendly MBCSA team.   The highlights for me were the Show and Shine event and the scenic drive to South Adelaide.   The event at the Cube was also an interesting location and it was nice to visit a South Australian winery and see the Dali exhibition.    Adelaide and Glenelg were both new locations for me and I would like to come back at some point and explore further when I have more time.

National rally

I would do another National Rally assuming the schedule and location.  Next rally in 2024 is being held in Queensland.  I hope it is held in somewhere interesting, rather than Brisbane or the Gold Coast.   For example, somewhere like Longreach could be a cool place for a rally.

Getting Back

Our return Journey was an outback adventure.   I had not experienced driving in the real Australian outback.   It was hot and pretty demanding on the cars.   There were road trains, wildlife, and endless plains.   Seeing Broken Hill, the outback driving and the underground model at White Cliffs were all highlights.   A more detailed overview of the first day of the return journey can be found here.   There is very little traffic and you can move along quickly without seeing another car for a long time.

The return drive was a real contrast from the coast roads of the way over.

Return from National Rally
On our final day of our Classic Mercedes rally within a rally we drove over 1000km back to Sydney.   It was the most uneventful day of our entire journey and it was interesting to see the landscape change from desert to more fertile land and less arid environments.   This final drive is covered here.   It was a great way to end our National Rally experience.

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