Return to Paradise
by Peter R
Since joining Motafrenz I have felt the need to buy myself a Riley preferably a 2.5 litre RMB or if it is really impossible to fulfil that dream then I’d settle for an RMA 1.5 litre or even a Pathfinder.
My desire to return to that glorious age of British grand touring began after seeing 2 superb Rileys at the George Hetrell Open Day; the appearance and the unique aroma wafting from the interiors of these cars making my heart go pitter patter.
This desire was turned from a smouldering wish to a consuming conflagration after seeing a RMB and a Pathfinder at the Cora Lynn show. My acquaintanceship with Rileys began back in my 20’s so it started a long time ago then after a number of years I moved on to various other makes. Was I being stupid at my advanced years to buy a car that would take me back to my youth again? Was it a fantasy?
Maybe but only time would tell. I also had to organise my finances to enable me to buy such a car, thanks to Russell, our worthy Treasurer for his assistance and advice.
Recently Nick sent me an advert for an RMB 2.5 litre for sale at what I reckon was a bargain price; the only draw back was it was in Penguin Tasmania. I couldn’t just go and check the car out but Errol, the owner, was happy to send me pics of this wonderful machine.
He’d owned it for 2 years but hadn’t proceeded with restoring the car after having a motorcycle accident that affected him and caused him to lose interest in the car. He’d kept it garaged and ran the engine every week or two till it reached operating temperature to keep the engine lubricated and charge the battery, this was a plus as it hadn’t just been sitting idle in the shed gathering dust.
Errol told me of the faults, not usual for a seller to inform a prospective buyer, and I felt reassured by his candid approach, I since found out after flying over to get the car, he was a retired police officer.
Finally I sent over a deposit of 10% and asked him to get the brakes fixed and I’d pay the bill, as I didn’t want the higher cost of having it shipped across Bass Strait even though Nick organised shipping if I needed it. I decided to fly down and bring it back on the ferry from Devonport.
This would be a great adventure for me as I hadn’t flown since leaving QANTAS back in the early 1970’s and had never travelled on a ship before.
The day arrived and after a sleepless night I arose early to get everything done to catch the Dandenong to Tullamarine shuttle bus at 10am in Dandenong Road Chadstone, I had to catch the suburban bus to Dandenong Road then walk to the bus pick up point. I’d been, for me, very organised, booked my airfare to Devonport on November 17th and the ferry trip back that night,
I even went online and checked in on the internet. I arrived at the airport and after the x-ray and metal detector then the explosive check I finally found my way to the Qantas check in desk to wait for 30 minutes till boarding, I was 1st in line and was asked for my boarding pass, all I had was my e-ticket.
The girl told me I needed a pass and to wait while she attended to the other passengers. So a word to travellers, ensure if you check in on line that you download the boarding pass, I didn’t even see anything about one when I checked in.
Finally I made it to the aircraft a De Havilland Dash 8, a sleek twin engined turbo prop I climbed aboard and waited for take off, a delay caused by 3 passengers not turning up meant their baggage had to be offloaded, then as we began to taxi away the wind changed so we had more time lost taxiing to the other runway.
I arrived in Devonport and was met by Errol who then took me on a scenic drive along the coast road as we chatted getting to know each other.
In Penguin he took me to see an elderly gentleman who was into old motorbikes and cars, what an eye opener; he collected and restored mainly English bikes, Nortons,
Triumphs and BSAs also tucked away in the huge garage was an immaculately restored Austin A40, an unrestored Honda S600 hard top sports car.
I well remembered the first one of these imported into Australia came in on a Qantas 747 not long after Tullamarine Airport opened and I thought it was as cute as a button.
Kerry made most of the parts for restoring the bikes and proudly showed me an extremely rare Triumph Tiger racing bike he had built almost completely from the ground up.
From there we drove to Errol’s to see the Riley, I was over the moon it looked even better in the flesh than in the pictures, it sat there gleaming in the sunlight my eyes dazzled by the bright chrome and shiny black duco; I fell instantly in love, my old ticker pounding away in my chest.
We climbed aboard and took her out for a test drive, I was out of touch with manual gears and the steering was heavy without power assistance, although the massive steering wheel did help a little, turning the large 600x16” wheels shod with nice new Michelin tyres.
A few gear crunches sounded as I drove but gradually I improved a little as we returned back to base.
Errol took me into his home where we had a much needed cuppa, to calm my jittery excited nerves and palpitating heart while we chatted and I handed him the bank cheque and some cash to cover what he’d spent doing the front hydraulic brakes.
He handed me a heap of manuals and Riley books which he was giving me then he produced 2 magnificent hard cover books on Rileys I made an offer of $60, they were worth much more, he smiled and said, “Give $50 and they are yours.”
Time passed and it was time to set off back to Devonport, Errol’s Commodore ute in the lead with me chugging along in his wake down the freeway,
I had the car sitting on 60mph Errol later told me we were doing between 80 and 90kph so the speedo reads high, so I shouldn’t get speeding tickets driving him. I decided the RMB’s name is Roger, definitely a male car, while the smaller less powerful RMAs are feminine.
We arrived at the Ferry and after a farewell chat and hand shake, some photo taking I set off to the gates and pulled up at the gatehouse. Stopped the engine and was amazed as a cloud of steam gushed from the bonnet shrouding the Kestrel mascot from sight.
I discovered the thermatic fan was not operating thus causing overheating and the radiator water was full of rust, the radiator obviously needed a flush out when I got home.
I restarted the engine and limped to the inspection shed where the staff mobbed the car expressing sympathy for the problem saying don’t worry we’ll get you on board the ferry and saying what a beautiful Riley it was.
This allayed my worries and gave my psyche a boost with their praise of the car; I was directed into a line of cars banked up awaiting boarding and I was glad to turn Roger off hoping he would cool down b4 the climb up the steep ramp into the ferry.
A number of fellow travellers came crowding around sympathising and admiring Roger; even the driver of the modern Jaguar in the next queue climbed out and chatted about the Riley saying what a beautiful car it looked and asked if he could look under the bonnet.
Time for boarding arrived so I restarted the still very hot engine and made my way slowly to the ramp; one eye on the temp gauge then stopped at the bottom of the ramp where the car marshal saw she was running hot and suggested I wait till the ramp was empty before driving up.
I sat there holding up those behind me until the ramp cleared then I restarted and drove up and into the ferry without any problem and pulled up in the line in the hold on deck 5. I grabbed my bag and headed up to the recliner lounge at the stern on deck 8 overlooking the loading ramp and found my seat for the overnight trip home.
The trip home was on calm seas, I found an internet café on board and sent a few emails informing my friends and Errol what had occurred then went to eat, the restaurant was full and had people waiting so I wandered to the starboard side where the self serve type eatery was situated.
A good assortment of tucker was on display so I grabbed a tray, crockery and knife and fork then joined the queue loading up the plate. The meal was ok and I was ravenous, after eating I wandered out on deck to see the sun setting over the mountains of Tasmania then made my way back to my recliner.
I found I couldn’t sleep due to the vibration, the noise and the gentle rolling movement of the ship, plus the lady next to me snoring all night long, it was a long night.
At 1 am I saw the sister ferry pass us on her way to Devonport. Just before we reached the Heads of Port Philip Bay I finally fell asleep but as the ship entered the Rip it shook like crazy everything creaked and rattled waking me up so I remained awake and saw the dawn come up as we passed St Kilda as my mobile rang.
It was Peter F who asked if I’d like him to meet me on arrival so he could live wire the fan to stop the overheating problem; I was really happy he was prepared to travel across town at this hour and showed how great our Motafrenz friends are. We met up and in a few minutes he had done the emergency repair and he filled the radiator with water and away we drove.
I thought I’d call in on Big Bruce as it was on my way home; Peter followed me in case I had more over heating and we got Bruce out of bed at 7am.
Bruce extended hospitality to us by brewing a cuppa for us and toasted some bread to allay hunger pangs before I took them both for a drive in Roger.
On return both Peter and Bruce took pics of Roger and then I headed home exhausted but extremely happy, later I found an email from Errol asking if by chance I’d switched off the Thematic fan, how embarrassing.
I’m now looking forward to getting Roger up to roadworthy condition, the windscreen wipers need attention but as far as I can tell he is in pretty good mechanical condition.