The Australian Lancia Register held the Clive Beattie Memorial May Day rally on Sunday 1st of May 2011. Mid 2010 I had told Noel (somewhat to his surprise) that I intended to finally sort out the car’s engine dramas, put the car back together, and drive the car back to Melbourne. After 10 years of my dithering about with the car he was entitled to be sceptical; I think he thought that I would at least have the good sense to trailer the car home and carefully road test it locally.
I on the other hand, thought that the May Day Rally was a good opportunity to give myself a deadline and force me to make some more progress, so I rang Michael Southgate and booked myself in for lunch at the Mirboo North Grand Ridge Brewery. The rally was starting from the outskirts of Melbourne and finishing at the brewery. The terms of my VicRoads unregistered vehicle permit would allow me to drive the car back to Melbourne from Venus Bay, I didn’t think that a minor detour from Leongatha to Mirboo North would bother officialdom too much, but doing the complete rally might have been pushing my luck in more than one sense. I did however make one concession to common sense. My family had decided to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday on Saturday 30th at a coastal village about an hour’s drive from Venus Bay. I was therefore able to arrange my brother Stuart to escort me on the Saturday and render assistance if need be.
Stuart and I arrived at Noel’s on Saturday morning to pick the car up and do a few final checks. All seemed in order so I took a deep breath and left the sanctuary of Noel’s garage that had been the car’s home for past couple years and carefully proceeded up the road. The car ran remarkably well but I thought it wise to stop at Wonthaggi to check if anything was falling off. I found an oil line was leaking at a junction but that was simply fixed. All was well until I attempted to start the car, the engine spluttered a bit but would not co-operate. I did all the usual checks, I had spark at the points and fuel in the carby, Aerostart (ether based aerosol ) did no good. The timing was fine and everything appeared connected and correct. After numerous attempts at starting the battery was running down and as the generator was non-functional, I was getting worried. Thoughts of ringing Noel with a request for rescue with the Land Rover passed through my head. Fortunately Aprilias are not heavy, so we decided to try a push start and found instant success. I puzzled over this as I drove the half hour to our overnight stop in Coronet Bay. The car would not start immediately after arrival, but did an hour or two later when the car had cooled down. I then came to the conclusion that I had a warm start problem of an electrical nature and that I could probably risk the trip to Mirboo North, and on to Melbourne if was careful. I charged the battery overnight and bought another as a precaution.
I should mention that I also had the pleasure of surprising my family who were understandably taken aback when I arrived in this car that they had been hearing about for a decade or so, but seemed very unlikely to ever be more than another oversized garden gnome in the back of my garage. The run the next day to Mirboo North was happily uneventful and my confidence in the car grew as the little car flew around the curves and hills of the South Gippsland Hwy with the wonderfully loud exhaust note echoing around the landscape. After a few celebratory drinks and an excellent meal with my A.L.R compatriots it was time to go. Mirboo North is an hour and half drive from my home and it is starting to get dark early in May. I was worried I would need to use the headlights on the way home and the reader would remember the generator was not charging. In any event the car started well and with Russell Meehan following in his Fulvia I had an uneventful run home; better still the car sounded and ran exactly as it had when I left Noel’s and nothing had fallen off.
I solved the starting problem a month or so later, it turned out to be a faulty ignition condenser. The condenser had been attached to the N.O.S distributor I had bought and I had made the mistake of assuming that it would also be in as new condition, but apparently not.
Chapter Four. The First Trip
THE TALES OF STAINLESS STEPHEN’S LANCIA APRILIA