THE 1968 LONDON TO SYDNEY MARATHON
Peter Briggs has sent us the following from Australia. It follows on from what we knew about Jean Denton’s adventures.
The London to Sydney Marathon in 1968 with Jean Denton’s MGB story was featured in recent editions of Safety Fast!. This has brought back a lot of memories for the Western Australian MG Car Club members. Particularly now that the original car has recently been discovered.
I was a Foundation Member of the Club in 1962, which was the first “ all model” MG Car Club in WA. At the time, in 1968, I had an MGB and I now own an MG NE and an MG K3 Chassis 3003 and an MG Airline Coupe. In 1968, whilst I was President, I had a call from your Club in London to say that Jean Denton was in the London to Sydney Marathon and would we look after her whilst she was in WA, which naturally I accepted.T
In 1968, whilst I was President, I had a call from your Club in London to say that Jean Denton was in the London to Sydney Marathon and would we look after her whilst she was in WA, which naturally I accepted.
This was like a Club Event and my fellow Club Member Richard Ashton takes up the story from here: “ The London to Sydney Marathon event started in London Earls Court, November 24 1968. One of the entrants was an MGB No 47 being entered and driven by Jean Denton and co-driven by Tom Boyce.
The rally was routed through Europe. Paris, Turin, Belgrade to Istanbul across the Bosporus by ferry, then on to Asia via Kabul, to Delhi on its way to Bombay, India. On December 5 they were transported by sea to Fremantle where we waved Jean in.
The first check point was at Youami, a deserted old mining town seven hours away from Perth. Some of us went there to be on standby. The second group were split into two and three. One group were to go to the end of stage two at Marvel Lock for 5.00am onward and the following morning for an expected 7.00am arrival of the MGB.
The second group would go on to Norseman, to be on standby for an anticipated 10.00am arrival. Although it was not an official check point, it was a stop for fuel and service point, before the big crossing through to Ceduna in South Australia on the old road, a journey expected to be some six hours and 18 minutes.
From the start at Gloucester Park at 6.00pm for the first cars, it would be 1.00am to expect the MG to reach Youami. A further four hours to Marvel Lock by 5.00am. Then on to Lake King by 7.00am. Considering that it would take the field about an hour to get on their way, we had adjusted times for us to be in place.
50 kms after leaving Lake King on the way to Norseman, Jean and Tom and the MG became briefly airborne over a “ jump” section. They were going a little too fast and applied the brakes too suddenly. When the car hit the road, the engine kept going and the fan went through the core of the radiator.
They patched up the radiator as best as possible and sent forward a message to us who were anxiously waiting at Norseman. Finally the message came through via another competitor that they were in trouble half way across from Lake King.
At the toss of a coin, which I lost, my radiator was sacrificed to the cause, and quickly removed from my car. Away we went; about six suddenly MG Car Club radiator experts were sandwiched into three cars, complete with a dripping radiator, a toolbox and water.
We found them about 30 miles into the Lake King Norseman track. Jean and Tom were running slowly toward us, after having blocked off the engine water pipes, they had had no success with trying to patch up the radiator. They had crawled along mile after mile with the heater going full bore. When the engine frequently got too hot, they would stop and wait for things to cool down and slowly move on again.
With repairs quickly made, MGB No. 47 was on its way. We also reversed and made our way back the way we came. Back at Norseman, with Jean and Tom well gone; we caught up with our remaining MG crew. They had seen them through and on their way to cross the Nullarbor.
In my radiator-less MGB, my wife Ronda and I were towed through to Esperance, after receiving promises that a new radiator would be sent down on the overnight trucking service from Perth. It’s amazing how cold a car can become with no engine heat from up front. MGB No 47 got through to Sydney and finished in 42nd place.
After leaving Ronda and I to wait for the radiator, the rest of the MG Car Club team drove back home to Perth the next day. We had a forced but happy break at Esperance, even though we were on shanks’s pony and forced to live frugally, owing to not having much cash with us, as we had to wait for the Rural & Industries bank to open. Three days later a new radiator turned up after much telephoning through to Perth.
Radiator fitted, which today is still in the car, we were on our way back home.”
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