back to the future

Past Events - 1900s

1991 - Sicily

March 1999 - Sicily Trip - by Judy N

Looking through the 750 Club magazine in 1998 we were intrigued to see that a German Sports Car Club were planning a trip to Sicily in March 1999 and were keen to include a few Austin’s. “Would anyone from England like to join us?” Would we?

We had never attempted such an adventurous trip before and in a rash moment said “Yes let’s do it”

Our friend Brian Adam was also keen although Jana was unable to join us due to family problems.

So: Off we set on the Dover to Calais ferry and once there drove through France and Belgium staying one night on the way to Cologne where we were to catch the early Motorail train to Switzerland. When we arrived in Cologne in the pouring rain and darkness we discovered the Hotel for the overnight stay was all locked up and in darkness. This was the first time I uttered “What the B hell are we doing here?”

Good morning Switzerland
Good morning switzerland

Anyway very early the next day (it was still raining and dark) we attempted to find the railway station. After paying a taxi driver to lead us there we boarded the train and with the cars loaded we travelled to Chur Switzerland where we were met by Horst and Barbie a delightful German couple with a Chummy. Also there was a chap called Qureshi who was to be Brian’s (wife) for the duration .In the morning we woke to find the cars covered in snow. Oh Joy!!!

We proceeded to drive down through Switzerland and into Italy via the San Bernardino Tunnel and Lake Como. The snow was piled high on the roadsides and with roof down (well we were on a rally apparently) I could hardly read the map due to shaking hands and arms. I have never, before or since, been so cold. When we reached a roadside loo (see picture) it was difficult to decide how desperate I was. The loo was under the road and yes it was icy. Luckily Qureshi had a Doctors bag and in that bag he had bottles of schnapps. Just the job.

Handy loo stop
Handy loo stop

We spent the night in Milan and the next day we drove down to Genoa to catch the Grimaldi Line ferry. As we drove into the port surrounded by huge lorries our leader a very efficient German gentleman with a wartime siren strapped to his chest led us through shouting “Bumper to bumper” very loudly until the police got involved and we boarded safely.

When in Scicily we stayed in Cefalu a very pretty seaside town which must have been lovely except due to the cold journey I developed the most dreadful chest infection and spent the next few days in bed. Len and Brian visited Palermo and other places and I just “coughed ”a lot.

We spent the next week going on tours to Etna where we got up as far as the Lava flow, the ruins of Taomina and a wonderful hillside farm lunch in the olive groves.

Mount Etna
Mount Etna
Lunch in the olive grove
Lunch in the olive grove

One of the most exciting days was when we assembled to drive the famous and historic Targa Floria race route. We were waved off by the Mayor and it was a great occasion.

What a beautiful island we saw but the draw back was that we had to do the return journey which was just as long and just as cold. The German car club were such fun and so welcoming just three Austins amongst their very smart and elegant sports cars.

It was a wonderful trip and one I have remembered fondly apart from the “Cough”


1982 - JoGLE

10th April 1982 - Easter John o'Groats to Lands End Trip - by Jim R

I am an ordinary 1937 Pearl Cabriolet and have been named Auzzie by the children of my family. I have 2 drivers, Sue who is very gentle with me and Jim who is not so gentle. I am driven all year and cover between 5000 and 8000 miles in 12 months of varied motoring. We've been together now for 14 years and travelled approx. 120000 miles in that time.

I could tell something special was happening when during the summer of 1981 my good engine was removed and my standby was fitted. My good engine was dismantled and carefully rebuilt using the existing ball and roller bearings on the crankshaft with new shell bearings for the centre main and con rod big ends. A French ( Jack ) camshaft was fitted and my inlet and exhaust ports cleaned up.. Double valve springs were fitted and the carburettor jets opened out a little. My nice loose pistons, rings and bores were left undisturbed.

When this engine had been re-assembled I couldn't wait to try it so just before the Nightjar Rally I damaged the oil pump in my standby engine. This forced Jim to work late into the night to install my original and very reliable engine. What a difference, even while running in the new shell bearings I felt like a 2 year old again.

Friday 9th April – Everything was going according to plan when just before Easter the baby of the family was taken ill and admitted to hospital. Right up until 3.30 pm on Good Friday my participation looked doubtful. Suddenly spare fuel was strapped to my luggage rack, bags of food put on the back seat and after visiting the baby in hospital we were off to Euston Station.

It was then I realised that only Jim was on board, Sue had stayed behind to look after Paul who was coming home from hospital on Easter Saturday. We arrived at Euston in good time and along with about 25 other Austins drove onto the train. Apart from 2 or 3 bad jolts during the night, the run up to Inverness was not bad. I certainly had more rest than Jim who said he could not sleep in a bunk built for a 10 year old.

Saturday 10th April – After a brief stop for breakfast the run from Inverness to John O'Groats was accomplished in just over 3 hours. This pleased Jim considerably and he immediately re-scheduled some of our hourly targets on the maps. The original idea was to complete the run non stop except for fuel,oil and loo stops in 21 hours. However now that I only had one driver without his essential co-driver/navigator it seemed doubtful to me as a machine that a mere human could last the distance.

Signing in queue

As midday approached excitement was obviously mounting, several people were observed dashing about with bits of dynamo, distributor and carburettor, a bit late for a rebuild now I thought. By 2.00 pm most of my fellow Sevens had departed leaving Ken and Eileen's Chummy, me AJB 785 awaiting my 4.00 pm start and 2 others still in pieces. Jim applying some tactics had delayed our start to 4.00 pm hoping for a clear run through the Highlands.

It's 3.58pm and apart from Ken and Eileen's Chummy I'm the only Austin in the John O'Groats Hotel car park, my engine is running, people are coming out of the caravan, Roger drops the flag and amidst cheers and encouraging shouts we're on our way – a really enthusiastic send off.

Nigel and Jane waiting for their start time

On the undulating straight roads towards Wick I'm already doing 55 MPH, Jim slowed me down for a few minutes while it snowed too hard for my wiper to clear the screen. Driving into Wick we overtake 3 moderns creeping along in the snow then come to a stop due to traffic congestion in the town. After what seemed an age ( probably only 10 seconds ) we're going again but not for long. The road works traffic light is red and there are 10 cars queuing in front of me, will they all get through on the next green? They didn't, I did !

After these short holdups everything went perfectly – 5.00pm Berrie-dale, 6.00pm Bonar Bridge, 7.00pm Inverness, 8.00pm Aviemore, 9.00pm Pitlochry, 10.00pm just south of Perth after stopping for petrol, an hour ahead of schedule now, 11.00pm Glasgow, midnight Carlisle on the M6.

Sunday 11th April – Jim has done his bit keeping me on the road through the twisty bits, now it's my turn to work hard maintaining a steady 65MPH on the motorway, I want to go faster but he won't let me. The next 7 hours are a real bore, I had expected to see several Austin Sevens on the motorway but saw hardly any. At times in the early hours 15 minutes could pass without seeing another vehicle of any sort. During these periods Jim would switch off my lights to allow my battery to recharge. At some point Jim became a bit dozy and I managed to ease the speed up to 70MPH on a downhill stretch but maybe the extra noise woke him up.

My driver is now getting drowsy again and despite hitting a bump to spill hot coffee on his trousers, I can't keep him awake. It's not until he starts shouting at himself that we get our act together and he once more concentrates on the job in hand.

Ready for the start

At last we see 2 tiny red lights in the distance, another Austin. For a few minutes we seem to creep slowly up behind and then when along side we realise it's Nigel and Jane Coulter. Jim slowed a little to exchange thumbs up with Nigel before slowly increasing back to our cruising speed. We did see 4 other Austins before we found ourselves skirting Exeter at 7.30am to take the A30 to Lands End.

Not far to go now and at least Jim is awake enough to stop me from over revving my engine on the steep downhill bits. Through Oakhampton and what a coincidence there's Sue's brother going in the opposite direction to Camberley to visit the family. Launceston, Bodmin, Redruth and on to Penzance, heavy traffic in the town slows us down but not too much. Only a few more miles to go and then suddenly there it is, the car park and the finish banner. We drove up to the caravan, Jim leapt out to get signed in and promptly fell over, he blamed me for cramp in his legs. Ted Messenger signs us in at 10.55am.

Now a few words from my driver:-

Snow on the windscreen a few miles after leaving JOG

It was a tremendous feeling of satisfaction and achievement when I extricated myself from the driving seat, unfolded my cramped body and propped my eyes open. Approximately 90 cars had left John O' Groats before me but there at Lands End were only 3. Now I realise that not every entrant wished to accomplish the run as fast as possible, many crews would visit the hospitality laid on at various places en route and quite a few would stop over at night to make a more leisurely event but I was surprised to see only 16 Sevens on the run.

Without Sue who has been with me on every other Austin Seven event I felt rather lonely from the start. This was exaggerated when the expected 90 other cars were not encountered, at around 3.00am Sunday morning I drove for nearly half an hour without seeing another vehicle of any sort. That's when I started talking to the Austin it helped to keep me awake but the conversation was a bit one sided.

My overall time was 18 hours 55 minutes, the Austin used just over 25 gallons of fuel, recorded 860 miles which gives a fuel consumption of 34.4 mpg and an average speed of 45.46mph. 5 pints of BP 10/30 multigrade were used or leaked. I must emphasise that my effort was completely unaided ( as were the majority of entrants ) I had no service van or car and trailer following in case of mishap. After all the was a reliability demonstration run and we don't best demonstrate reliability by having a breakdown crew following to pick up the pieces.

I would like to thank Ken and Eileen Cook and friends for their excellent organisation and hard work to put on this event. Many thanks also to Bob and Giselle Flockhart and friends for giving up their Easter to operate the start. Also a big thank you to Ted Messenger and friends at Lands End for their signing in duties.

Somewhere on the motorway

Nigel and Jane arrived just before lunch having completed the run in 23 hours 7 minutes so we had a meal in the Lands End Hotel after which feeling much revived I drove home on Sunday after noon – another 260 miles in 6 hours 15 minutes.

This Diamond Jubilee Run was most enjoyable and I look forward to the 75th anniversary event. Congratulations to all who finished and commiserations to those who suffered problems.

Jim and Auzzie

and here are the full results:

1972 - LEJoG

1st April 1972 - Lands End Trip to John o'Groats - by Jim R

1972 Lands End to John O'Groats Demonstration Run

In 1972 we had been using the Pearl for 3 years clocking up over 70,000 miles driving to and from work, house hunting, holidays and attending many Austin 7 'Rallies' which were really static shows with maybe some driving tests. We really enjoyed the journeys to the shows visiting Beaulieu, Bristol, Rugby, Hawkshead, Doune in Scotland and many more. All these runs after 1970 included baby daughter Nicole even the Friday overnight to Doune, ceilidh and camping Saturday night, Rally on Sunday and drive home Sunday night.

We were excited when the news broke about the 50th anniversary run from Lands End to John O'Groats taking place over Easter and submitted our entry almost immediately. We were surprised to receive entry No. 93, obviously many others were even more enthusiastic than us.

After much deliberation we decided it would be a bit much to subject Nicole to an event such as this so she stayed with Grandma over Easter. Other than an oil change and a grease up nothing was done to the Pearl. We drove the Austin down to Sue's brother in Liskeard the weekend before Easter, this enabled us to be driven down to Cornwall on Good Friday thus giving us an easy run from Liskeard to Lands End ready for our midnight start.

Our actual start time was 00.13 Saturday which meant there were 12 cars starting before us. Shortly after leaving Lands End we encountered thick fog which troubled us all the way to just south of Bristol. By this time we had passed all 12 cars starting ahead of us and were feeling very pleased with ourselves. We stopped for fuel and a bite to eat just North of Bristol and in a very short time noticed the engine was not running so well. This became progressively worse eventually forcing us to stop and investigate. The spark was still good so it had to be fuel. Removing the float chamber revealed a lot of sludge in the jets, this was cleaned and away we went but only for a few miles before the same problem re-occurred. Again remove the float chamber, clean the jets and away we would go. Shortly after, guess what, the same problem. At this point I remembered throwing a few spares into a box in the back of the car amongst which was a carburettor. I swapped the float chamber and while Sue took over the driving, I was clearing sludge from jets. This procedure was repeated several more times until we stopped again to refuel, after which we suffered no more blocked jets.

Midnight at the start

Another problem which occurred during the hours of darkness was a loss of headlamp brightness followed by a misfiring engine. Fortunately we were in an area with street lighting, I switched off the headlights which immediately cured the engine misfire. The poor old dynamo could not keep up with 2 x 35 watt headlights, other lighting, windscreen wipers and ignition demand, the battery had slowly been discharging through the night. The cure was simple, run without any lights whenever possible.

We reached the M5 around 8.00 am and made steady progress on the M5 and M6 throughout the day stopping for food and fuel when necessary. We carried on into Scotland reaching Inverness around 11.00 pm, we were now very tired so decided to rest for a couple of hours. By this time it was below freezing outside so we put on all the clothes we had and wrapped an old blanket around our legs. Less than 2 minutes later a police car stopped to ask if we were ok, apparently a couple had perished in their car nearby quite recently. We assured them we were warm and had a hot drink in a Thermos. It was nearly 7 hours later when we awoke very cold and stiff but a swig from the Thermos and a sandwich while driving soon revived us. By now the Austin was going really well and before long we were clocking in at John O' Groats at 10.34 am.

Finish control

When I started school at the age of 5, I met another lad called Richard and we remained good chums as we endured the same schools through to the age of 16. I became an engineering apprentice attending day release studies at Farnborough Technical College and Richard followed a similar path in the Fleet Air Arm. Although we couldn't meet very often in early years, we did stay in touch (in 2021 we will meet up to celebrate 70 years of friendship). At the time of our trip to JOG Richard was stationed in Lossiemouth and lived with his wife Angela in Elgin. We had therefore arranged to visit them on our way home providing the car was still going. We telephoned them from the JOG Hotel and discovered they were already preparing an evening meal for us so after an early lunch at the Hotel we set off for Elgin.We eventually found their remote cottage up on the moor above the town and enjoyed a lovely meal and much reminiscing. We were invited to stay the night but had to resist the temptation as we had to collect Nicole from Grandma on Monday evening. We said our goodbyes around 11.00 pm and motored off into a very cold night.

Richard's cottage was on the A941 heading South from Elgin, so he recommended staying on the A941 until you reach the A95 then turn right, it will take you to the A9 at Aviemore. That sounded good, no difficult map reading in the dark, however, had we bothered to study the map we might have noticed the A95 took us over the Cairngorms.

JoG Hotel

As we started climbing we noticed the temperature dropping and before long it started snowing, not much at first but soon the road was turning white. We were now past the point of no return so decided to carry on. It was now snowing heavily and 4 to 6 inches deep on the road but the Austin was coping really well and not giving us any anxious moments. Every now and again I would flick the instrument lights on to check oil pressure etc.It was around 1.00 am when I noticed higher than usual oil pressure which to every Austin 7 driver means a blocked oil jet so out I went into the blizzard with my spanner and bit of wire, very quickly pushed the wire through the jets and jumped back into the car. Imagine my surprise when starting the engine to see the oil pressure higher than before. It didn't take too long to realise the problem was caused by the extreme cold so out I went again and removed the fan belt which did help a little.

We carried on through the early hours once again wearing every piece of clothing we had and the blanket over our legs which did trap a little heat from the engine and gearbox. Eventually we hit the A9 and although it was still snowing it wasn't so deep on the road. Strangely we didn't suffer from tiredness through the night and with daylight appearing without any more snow we carried on non stop arriving home in Fleet around 9.00 pm Monday.

The Pearl at the finish with beige hood

From midnight on the Friday to 9.00pm on the Monday we covered 1700 miles and spent 56.5 hours driving with just 7 hours sleep in the car on Saturday night – quite a journey.

and here are the full results:

back to top