The Concours Run 2023 – Day 2: Great Alpine Road

The second day of our classic Mercedes road trip between Sydney and Melbourne focused mostly on driving the Great Alpine Road (B500).    On Day 1, we started in Mt Victoria and ended up in Tumut.

These cars did the Great Alpine Road

We started early, at 6:30AM to maximise daylight hours.    Our destination was Corryong for a breakfast stop.    This first leg was rather scenic and we stopped a few times to get some good photos of the cars at various spots.       At Corryong, we had breakfast at a country bakery, before heading off to our next destination, which was Myrtleford.

These cars did the Great Alpine Road

The road between Corryong and Myrtleford was one of the best driving roads of the trip and we did less stops on this leg as we focused on enjoying the driving.   Everyone in the group enjoyed exploring the capabilities of their cars.   The route had all the things you would expect on a good driving road – twisty sections, sweeping corners, changes of elevation and great scenery.     I really enjoyed using the full power of my 560SEC ECE overtaking trucks up steep hills.

The most challenging leg was next.   From Myrtleford to Omeo, the road took us over Mt Hotham.    This section of the road rises to 1,840m in elevation.  By world standards, this isn’t all that high, but its about as a high as a road gets in Australia.

On the Great Alpine Road

The first part of this road was kind of boring, but as we started to gain elevation, it showed it’s true colours.   The southbound climb was extremely steep, and featured constant hairpin turns.     The road was narrow, and there were no shoulders to speak of.   There were sheer drops of hundreds of meters from the edge of the road, and few of these sections had guard rails.   Even worse, various sections of the edge of the road was crumbling away into the abyss below.

I don’t know if it is that some people have no fear, or a generally food hardy nature but I saw some motorcyclists really gunning it down the mountain.   In this case,  leaning over with their wheels centimetres from the sheer drop.

As well as that, there was a constant stream of cyclists riding at high speed down the hill.   Having seen many Utes with trailers, it looked like many of them are trucked up to the top to descend the mountain.

On the Great Alpine Road

Given the speeds and cyclists it took us quite a while to ascend the mountain.   I’m normally one of the faster drivers in the group, but in this section I was one of the slowest.   I did not want to be anywhere near that edge.   While I had the line of sight to drive on the wrong side of the road, I did.   I got slower and slower as we got higher and higher and the margin for error became smaller and smaller.     There was probably great scenery out the window, but I was two focused on gripping the steering wheel as hard as I could and looking at the edge of the road.

Eventually we reached the summit for a few photos.   It was still very clear when fire came through this area.   The dead trees on the mountains looked like grey whiskers from the top.    All nine of the cars had done really well and reached this point without any real incident.

On the Great Alpine Road

At this point I wasn’t especially looking  forward to the decent, assuming more of the same.   I couldn’t have been more wrong.   The decent was long sweeping corners with a much wider road, shoulders, and no sheer drops.    We were able to resume normal operations and explore the capabilities of our cars again.

We stopped at another excellent country bakery for a break and a quick bite to eat.   The country bakeries are great because they mostly make what they sell.   It shows.

Our next leg was another great driving road.   It was a long twisty section along a river.   Event at the speed limit of 100km/h it was possible to push our cars quite hard  – and we did.   A few of our group had never driven their cars like that before and came away with a new respect for their capabilities.

Our final leg of the day took us from Bairnsdale to Traralgon.   The first part of this leg we skipped the mind numbing A1 and took the C106.   However, once we hit Sale we joined the A1 until we got to Traralgon.    We stayed at the Mantra.  While it is more expensive than other options, It has undercover parking.

at the mantra

In the day’s driving, I had completed 686km at 13.5l/100km.  I am quite happy with that given the type of driving we did.   Yet again ,the W108 3.5’s continue to impress with their performance and frugality.   There are not many cars from 1972 you could drive like that, on roads like that, and get fuel consumption figures like that.   Everyone on the trip has remarked how much better their cars are running after the first two days of this drive.  Classics need to be used properly, and few are.

At dinner after we checked into the hotel, a few of our group remarked it was probably the best day of driving they have done.   It was certainly up there.  The Great Alpine Road is well worth the trip.

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