The First Blue Mountains Rally 1956
By Keith Holmes
In 1956 the Veteran Car Club held its first Blue Mountains Rally sponsored by the Golden Fleece Oil Co. This was a 50 mile trek from the Lidcome in western Sydney along the Great Western Road to Penrith and then p the steep escapement and onto the high plateau of the Blue Mountains, ending at Katoomba where we spent the night eating, drinking and talking veteran cars. For me this was a hectic and exhausting trip. The 2 cylinder motor of the Albion had a mechanical governor that restricted the engine to 980 rpm. This effectively limited my speed in top (3rd) gear to 18mph. And it was only on good going that I got into top gear! I was among the first entrants to start and was by far the last to arrive for our overnight stay at Katoomba. Everyone overtook us. But we were excited to overtake Perdriau's little 1908 Le Zebre being assisted by its straining pushing passenger up the notorious Boddington Hill. (Today's car fly up it in top gear). However my passenger, younger bother Rod was kept busy holding down the steaming cap of the boiling radiator. On the return trip next day down to Penrith I averaged a much higher speed than my 18mph. In neutral gear I coasted down the long step winding hills, the wind whistling in my ears but at all times I kept a firm grip on the external hand lever that worked the asbestos lined brakes on the two back wheels. The footbrake was rarely used for it comprised two metal shoes contracting onto a wheel behind the diff and very quickly became overheated.
Off to a good start. It was a bit of a squash with hefty mate Bruce Faux as passenger but he was always good company. Lots of traffic along Parramatta Road and then onto the Great Western Road through the growing western suburbs and onto Penrith. Drivers and passengers of passing cars all waved. However I had to always be alert for overtaking cars that braked suddenly in front of me to get a closer look. Just as well I had quick reflexes and the Albion's braked were good (fairly).
Up and down the Mountains
Lapstone Hill, Boddington Hill and many others had the Albion chuffing up in low gear. At the top of one of those hills the radiator was boiling so much that a bystander asked if this was a Stanley Steamer! But coming down was another matter - 30mph in neutral!
After the fast trip down the mountains from Katoomba to Emu Plains, I decided not to stop for lunch. At my top speed of 18mph it took me twice as long to get anywhere as it did most other veterans. As I got closer and closer to Lidcombe more and more of my competitors overtook me, waving back as they disappeared ahead. But hooray I was not quite the last one home.