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Bill Coburn (
Posted on Thursday, 23 January, 2003 - 09:22:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IP

There is a small group of owners and enthusiasts in Canberra the Australian National Capital, who gather from time to time to have a mutual help session in maintaining their cars. Being some three hundred kilometres from the nearest Rolls-Royce agent, owners have found it well worth while to learn something about the workings of their vehicle, where to get spare parts and at the best prices, how to repair as well as maintain their vehicles and to assess what they are capable of fixing and when to bring in the experts.

The sad fact is becoming more and more apparent that at todayís labour rates, the complexity of our cars and the depreciation of these vehicles, unless owners do a lot or all of the work themselves the car becomes uneconomical to repair and the next parking spot will be the local wreckerís yard! A few members of the group tackle extensive restorations and repairs but the majority limit themselves to fundamental maintenance. Quite a few do not even take part in this activity but by developing an understanding of the car, they are able to give a repairer a reasonably informed account of the carís problems.

Saturday 18 January saw some 15 Silver Shadows parked at your authorís house. Some cars were barely touched others had drive belts changed, rear suspension springs changed, carburetters cleaned and adjusted, suspension noises diagnosed, coolant pipes examined, refrigeration tested and height controls adjusted.

There was a short presentation on the functions and operation of the accumulators and a demonstration of re-gassing the units. This also allowed some of those present to remove their pressure switches and check them for calibration. One 1972 Shadow had its rear springs replaced with locally manufactured units as the originals had sagged to an unfortunate level. This resulted in an extraordinary improvement in road holding and ride.

Canberra had been for the past weeks menaced by fires from the nearby National parks. The morning of 18 January however saw a sudden wind change from the West which tragically beset a pine plantation on the edge of the city and subsequently destroyed over 400 homes. Meanwhile a second front from the fire headed South and swung around the Western Suburbs and raced across barren paddocks headed for Tuggeranong out new Southern city in the Australian Capital Territory and location of our meet!!!.

The sky became so dark owners were using torches to finish their work. Prudence suggested an evacuation, at least of the cars and all were gone by mid afternoon. An hour later the fire front came storming over the hill straight for the house. My mate and I raced out with wet mops and towels to beat out flames fortunately assisted by neighbours on both sides of us. No one was injured, little damage was done, the cars were safe and weíll live to have another self help day.

Should any reader be interested the group puts out a monthly newslatter which is almost entirely technical dealing with post-war cars. If a subscription is desired email me on
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David Gore (
Posted on Thursday, 23 January, 2003 - 10:18:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IP

I was at this get-together and Bill is being a master of understatement regarding the conditions. At 3PM the smoke completely obscured the sun and light conditions approximated dusk; at 4PM the smoke was so thick in the sky it was equivalent to a total eclipse of the sun - fotunately the smoke had not descended to ground level at this stage so we could still breathe and see with lead-lights. I have the photos to show how bad the conditions were.

By this time there was a considerable degree of urgency to get the vehicles into a driveable condition as the local ABC radio was reporting an increasing number of road closures due to the fire fronts. You can have no idea of how frustrating it is to fit new fan belts to a Shadow in complete darkness when the belts are a tight fit and do not want to go over the pulleys - brute force and no finesse became the order of the day.

We all left with much haste and found the local police had positioned themselves at the access to the main road leading to Canberra City preparing to closing the road which took place very shortly afterwards as the hills alongside the road were fully covered by the advancing fire front. By the time we reached Woden, the sky was clear enough for normal daylight to return and looking South to where we had been was a surreal experience.

Fortunately, none of the participants suffered any losses however the location and surroundings of Bill's home rendered him particularly vulnerable especially if the wind conditions had remained as strong as they were earlier in the day - the most likely explanation for Bill's successful defence would be that the wind speed when the fire approached his property was sufficiently low to minimise the spread of burning embers especially into the roof of his buildings. This was a day we all will not forget in a hurry!!