Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Things That Go Bump...

After returning from our expedition to the Granite Belt, I noticed a distinct tinny rattling noise which emanated from somewhere to the rear of the car.

It sounded like it was coming from the boot, and I found it to be a great source of irritation.

MX-5s aren't supposed to make tinny rattly noises. They're supposed to go "Zoom-Zoom" not "plink-plink".

I began to try to identify the source. It wasn't the exhaust system. After risking third degree buns, I discovered that it was attached as per specifications.

Next I took all the gear out of the boot (space-saver tyre, wheelbrace and jack). It looked as if the wheelbrace was contacting the jack in its cradle, so I packed a piece of towel around and between these two items. It made no difference at all. Plink-plinking continued.

Because the noise began to be heard after our Granite Belt trip, I racked my brains (this didn't take long) to think of anything unusual we did on this trip. Apart from drinking a little bit more red than usual, I was unable to recall anything significant. In any case, the quaffing of red wine and driving the MX-5 have always been mutually exclusive activities.

Then I remembered. We had to pack the boot pretty tightly. At the top and rear of the boot cavity are two very slim torsion bars held in place by a plastic clip.

A close inspection showed that these two skinny rods had separated from the plastic clip, and were merrily "plink-plinking" every time the car hit a small bump. Stuffing soft gear into the boot to the brim must have dislodged them.

The remedy was simply to put them back in the clip.

Hopefully this will help save someone else a fruitless search. It's back to "Zoom-zoom".

Friday, October 2, 2009

Heifers in the Barn

On Sunday 20th September, the local Darling Downs chapter of the MX5 club took a run through Cambooya, Nobby, Heifer Creek, Fordsdale, Mt Whitestone, Ma Ma Creek, Upper & Lower Tenthill, Carpendale, Lillydale, Flagstone Creek and The Barn.

Morning Tea was at a Camping Ground near heifer Creek, and Lunch at the Barn.

The route was brilliant, thanks to through planning by Harry and Andrea, and the instructions precise and specific.

This journey would be pleasant in just about any breed of wheeled appliance, but in the MX5 it was amazing. There was an enormous variety of road surface and scenery, and the weather was perfect - in itself unusual, given the extremes we've been experiencing recently.

The morning tea stop, whilst providing a very comfortable environment for a pause in proceedings, also featured a notice board that outlined the story of the Theiss brothers, who hailed from around here. Just to emphasis the history of this family, and their ability to move vast amounts of soil and rock about the landscape, we drove through a cutting, a massive engineering feat, but probably not entirely necessary.

I developed the distinct impression that the brothers Theiss built this cutting simply because they could.

Our lunch was great, even if the green tinge lent to the food (via the transparent roof panels in the barn) had a few of us looking twice at each mouthful.

Lunch was enhanced by the presence of a mid-fifties Thunderbird outside the barn which offered about the same amount of cockpit space as an MX5 in a chassis about twice the length.

Now if Mazda had built one of these, it would have looked better the closer you got to it, rather than the other way round.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wimped It

We've just returned from a 3200km sojourn to North Queensland and back.

This is the right time of the year to do it, and the original intention was to take the MX5. We have three cars - and choices were available.

We had three aims - to get warm, to enjoy the trip, and to be flexible. This last goal was a problem in the MX5.

In order to be flexible, we needed to pack camping gear. After much experimentation, it became clear that there was no way we were going to get tent, lpg cooker, sleeping gear and all our clothes into the Mazda. If we had been prepared to book motels and had only to pack clothes, it would have been possible, but the need to be flexible overruled.

As it turned out, we were able to stay in a variety of non-motel settings which certainly added to the enjoyment.

Having elected to use the sedan, I still had an interesting encounter with an MX5 in Atherton, on the Tableland.

I was filling the Falcon with LPG when an MX5 - an NB, and the same colour as ours rocked up at the bowser. It turned out that it had just been sold, and the driver was working for the used car lot. He was a mite discomforted y the MX5, never having driven one before.

He couldn't find the fuel cap lever, didn't know what grade of fuel it took, and wasn't sure how to find reverse. I was able to help him on all counts.

The price on the windscreen said $25999, which was a bit steep. It had covered 52000km and looked a bit tatty. It was a special edition with leather upholstery and metal finish in the cockpit, but our car cost $3000 less and had only 30000km when we bought it.

I took a shot as we left, and drove through the Tolga scrub. It's not very clear, but was the best I could do.

We will do a long trip in the MX5 one of these days - probably in the Spring.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Lift and Separation

As self-funded (semi-) retirees, outside what we own in the way of real estate, the MX5 is probably our best investment, given what the GFC is dong to our shares and Super.

It is important, therefore, to keep it as pristine as possible.

It seems highly susceptible to stone chips. Maybe the paintwork is at fault, or perhaps the exposed paintwork on the front of the car is lower than the average, and simply closer to where the flying stones are generated. The recent on-and-off heavy rain doesn't help. It softens the road foundations, and the B-doubles do the rest. What used to be a stretches of solid bitumen is now pock-marked with potholes and loose stones. This is particularly the case along the Warrego.

With this in mind, I've bought a starnge and wonderful device called a Carbra. Made of heavy grade vinyl, and tailored to the NB version of the MX5, it attaches to the front of the car with velcro and little metal hooks. It is a tight fit, and the instructions demanded that I put it in direct sunshine for an hour or two so that the vinyl might soften. Sunny days have been conspicuous by their absence recently, so I had to tussle with unsoft vinyl. All this did was increase the frequency and intensity of profanity, and it did fit (eventually).

It does the job, and doesn't flap or flutter, but takes a bit of time to fit. It's also not a good idea (if you have the choice) to use it in wet weather, as it would take a lot of drying out, I imagine.

Getting hold of one of these is part of our preparation for the great trek North in July. We must be crazy - having two other vehicles much more suited to long road journeys than an open-topped roadster, but I've always yearned to do such a journey in minimalist fashion.

I guess I'll just have to get it out of my system.

By the way - in connection with bras, I always thought "lift" and "separation" were aerodynamic terms. My wife has set me straight - it's never too late to learn.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Marburg Loop

Our most recent MX5 run was to a winery at Marburg via Cunningham’s Gap, Rosevale and Rosewood.

It was a brilliant day, just before a massive change of weather which saw the South-East receive a record May rainfall. We assembled at Toowoomba, and headed down the New England towards Allora.

There were six cars in the convoy, which grew to ten as we got together with non Darling Downs members (Mexicans).The run across from the Warwick turnoff to morning tea at Cunningham’s gap was scenically spectacular.

The countryside looked green and lush, and the sight of Glengallon homestead off to the left reminded us of the history of the area – just as spectacular.Morning tea was taken to the background of the characteristic calls of Whipbirds (Psophodes olivaceus) in a well-hidden little park. These noisy, but shy birds were in abundance, even though they remained well out of sight.

We then headed north to Rosevale, Maryvale and Rosewood along secondary and very enjoyable roads. This reminded most of us why we do this – nothing beats the sounds, sights and smells of travelling in a convoy of MX5s through the beautiful countryside – truly a tonic for the soul.
Lunch was at Warrego Winery. There was a great choice of tipple, even though the drivers had to abstain.

Just up the road was Woodlands, a venue used for a local festival which featured a display of veteran cars. We enjoyed lunch in the shade of the Jacarandas, whilst watching a procession of these vehicles trundling past. A few of us visited the festival, to find a few displays and cars still in situ. The opportunity to photograph both the older machinery presented itself, and there were some interesting results.

Thanks are due to the organisers, both local and Mexicans. I’m looking forward to the next one.


Staying with the vintage/veteran motoring theme, I’m posting some shots that I took at Glenmorgan last week.

Click on the images to get a good look.

Glenmorgan isn’t really on the way to anywhere in particular, but it can be an interesting destination in itself. A local bloke with the time and resources necessary has set up a museum to things automotive on the road through the township.

It features vehicles from the forties (mostly military) through to the early sixties. What makes it unique is that they are presented as if they’re on sale in a used car lot.

The Ford V8 Ute shown was one of a batch that was requisitioned. They were sedans when taken over by the military, but were smartly converted to Utes. The one displayed was used in Darwin and New Guinea. I remember my dad who served in the RAAF in New Guinea talking about these Utes. He was mightily impressed.

It is possible to imagine that you’ve slept through the last fifty
years or so when you look at the display. It’s also completely surprising, as there is nothing to suggest that it’s there until you turn the corner into the township.

There never seems to be anyone about – it reminds me of Canberra in that sense.

I’m usually on my way to Surat, itself an interesting spot.

Cars and Planes and Stuff

Last Sunday was David Hack Classic day in Toowoomba. The uninitiated should check here.

This is always a good day, but this year was amazing, despite GFC, AGW and SFP*.

I took the Mazda along to display it. It’s not vintage, but in my book is a classic. Any machine that’s depreciating more slowly than my Super, is by my definition, a classic.

Besides, you get in for less if you display, and it’s not a bad excuse to sit in the sun, read the papers and talk cars and aeroplanes.

I was surprised at the interest shown in the MX5, although not a lot of it was well-informed. One Gen Y character asked me if it handled well because of the “front wheel drive”, and was more than a little surprised when I pointed out that front engine – rear drive was the configuration.

The variety of machinery displayed was the best I’ve seen anywhere with the possible exception of Birdwood (SA), but there weren’t any aircraft at Birdwood.

Aircraft on display were a range of warbirds including Trojans, a Winjeel, and a number (don’t know the collective noun) of Yaks. Here was a wooden DH Dragon Rapide and there some Tiger Moths. The Aerotec hangar had its usual fantastic display including Guido Zuccoli's Fiat G-59-4B.

The dapper-looking chappie who flew the Winjeel up from Point Cook wasn’t persuaded that this breed of aircraft was used in the artillery spotting role until 1975.

I know it was. This is because the skipper (platoon commander) flew in one doing exactly that when we were training for tropical warfare in the sleet and mist in the Putty area in 1969. As I recall, the aircraft at that time was based at Williamtown. It’s not wonderful in that role, despite being very robust. The low wing and lack of agility don’t help.

I didn’t bother arguing. He came across as a bit like a number of bloggers (usually sharply inclined to the right) who derive their understanding of recent history from doubtful written sources, and place more trust in them than a primary source who has actually lived the real experience.

There was a contingent of Alvis owners, some from the UK, who had flown their cars across. Beautifully crafted cars – and their owners can’t be short of a quid. Maybe the UK isn’t in such a mess after all. The one in the photo has front wheel drive – a rarity in those days, although they didn’t persist with it.

A light tank was displayed that I can't identify. Any ideas?

I also found a 1967 HR Holden. Unremarkable? Perhaps, but I owned one exactly the same colour from 1971 until 1973.
I bought it from my Dad when I got back from Vietnam, and drove it everywhere (including one epic journey from Brisbane to Darwin and Alice Springs in 1972). It never missed a beat.

You could also buy a decent coffee if you were prepared to queue, and the loos were clean. Catering at events like these has come a long way in the last ten years.

Next year I’ll try to talk the MX5 club into a group display. Maybe we can conjure up some sponsorship from the local Mazda distributor.

More Mazda Meanderings

I took a run out to Esk the other day. At 77ks and an hour on the road, it's a neat distance that doesn't render the rest of the day unusable. The round trip back to Toowoomba is about 150km.
The road drops down the escarpment East of Hampton through some interesting and varied country via Ravensbourne National Park, and you can loop back via Gatton so that you don't have to traverse the same piece of road twice.
In Esk itself there's a fair choice of coffee outlets, and the township is interesting and usually busy, although not congested.
The sun was in and out all morning, but I elected to leave the top down, which was OK until the return journey when it started to rain. I discovered that provided you stayed above 80kph, the rain generally blows over the cabin. There wasn't much traffic, but there were a few trucks between Esk and the Gatton turnoff, mostly carrying gear associated with the pipeline from Wivenhoe Dam to Toowoomba. The Mazda is an absolute treat to drive on these roads. Best of all, you don't have to drive it fast to have a good time. With the top down, and after recent rain, the scrub was fragrant, and you could have closed your eyes and your nose would know what sort of country you were in. (I didn't of course – close my eyes that is – not a good idea at 100kph).

This country has some personal significance. My dad was head teacher at Hampton in 1942 when he enlisted in the RAAF. When he went off to New Guinea as an LAC fitting radios to Kittyhawks, my mum took over the school until his return in 1946. I was conceived there and arrived in 1947. You can still see the pine trees dad planted, but the school is long gone.

On the outskirts of town was a school house. I lived in three or four different versions of this house as my dad moved around as a country principal, so for reasons of nostalgia I had to photograph this particular example. In Esk itself there is a lot of activity around the pipeline project. There's a fair-sized cluster of demountables to the West of the township, and you can see the pipes stockpiled not far away. According to the local rag, the first 1000m of pipeline has been laid.
I don't know when it will be finished, but until it is, Toowoomba languishes on level five restrictions. It's been raining on and off since the beginning of Autumn, but all of it has dodged the dams feeding Toowoomba's supply. It's probably karma after the "no" vote in the recycling referendum a few years ago.
(Click on the pics to see a larger version).

Mazda Meanderings

Last weekend the Mazda mob (of which we are now members) took a drive to Maclagan.

I'm sure, gentle reader, you know where Maclagan is, but in case you don't, take a look at the map (Click on it to get a decent sized pic). It's generally on the way to the Bunya Mountains, off the New England.

This is a very picturesque part of the Downs, and looks a lot better these days than it did when I used to work in nearby Bell. Back then (three years ago) the country was so dry that the trees were grey.

We've had plenty of rain since then, and the cattle are fat, the creeks brimming, and the grass green.

The goats look OK too.

The winery we visited (Rangemore) runs goats.

Now being a far western bushie – goats to me are scrubby looking creatures on the scrawny side of hungry. This is not the case with the Rangemore goats. They're plump and generally Omo white. The contrast is the same as that between Kiwi and Aussie sheep.

I'd never eaten goat before – but the curried goat pie I had for lunch was delicious. It tasted like well-cooked lamb.

The driving was excellent, the company good, and the wines OK. Unfortunately, driving and wine-tasting are mutually exclusive, so I had to rely on my wife's verdict.

She was right about the Rose.

It rejoices in the name of Tickled Pink.

Transition Object

I drove 25km to buy the paper this morning.

This had something to do with the fact that I now own a Mazda MX5 roadster. For years (since I was 17) I’ve wanted a sports car.

Arguably, this is as close as I’ll ever get. I reckon that at the rate my investments are being diminished by the crazy stock market, and the progress of arthritis and advancing senility, I have limited time to realise the dream.

This car was too good to miss. It has 34000 on the clock, was owned by a young married woman who drove it to work, and garaged it nightly. It has all the boring reliability of a modern Japanese car, but is a blast to drive. This morning I drove down the mountain with the top down to buy the paper.

Driving this thing gives a whole new meaning to sensory overload. It’s amazing how much more aware of your surroundings you become without a metal and glass cover over your head. There is a downside.

Cattle crates don’t mix well with open topped vehicles.

“Transition Object?”- The MX5 will assist in a smooth transition to old age.

Best of all, my children have automatic licenses only, so no more “Can I have the car please, Dad?” A six speed gearbox hopefully will be too much of a challenge.