Late last year, I had the pleasure of being asked to help organise the inaugural Royal Automobile Club of Australia (RACA) Tour which we ran last weekend (at the end of April). The idea is to make the event an annual one that hopefully will grow as more members join us on a jaunt out of Sydney to somewhere interesting with events that make the attendees think about their cars or the technology that goes into them.
I worked with another member and we chose Orange as our base for a 3 day run. This was because there were several locations we wanted to introduce our members to and the roads are in most part well maintained and easy to navigate. We chose the Duntryleague guesthouse as our base – this used to be a majestic family home and is now part of a golf course near the outskirts of the town. Built in 1876 by an Irish settler after he came out to join his father who had been transported for a misdemeanour, the guesthouse now has 14 rooms with a couple of cottages. It is steeped with history and the classical design of its time!
We had 6 cars (FIAT Abarth 695, Volvo C70 T5, Daimler SP250, HSV W427, BMW 240i & Mercedes-Benz S600) line up at Dural on the northern edge of Sydney for a run over the top of the west to pick up two more cars near Windsor (BMW 330Ci & Bentley Continental GTC). We then headed through Kurmond to Bilpin for a coffee break and to allow several cars to catch up after delays in traffic.
From here we headed to the Secret Creek Cafe for lunch. This venue is part of a Quoll sanctuary and it was good for the participants to see the animals, birds (Emu’s) and the resident Dingoes as well as learning about why the Quoll needs a sanctuary – it was the desire of an ex coal miner to put something back into the Australian community and help save an animal that was threatened with extinction.
Waiting for us at the cafe was a beautiful 1956 Bentley S1 and after lunch we headed up through Bathurst and on to Millthorpe, a small time-warp village where we had a tour of the streets (lots of history) followed by a wine tasting at Angullong Vineyard (for those allowed!) and we were joined by the last car: a Jaguar S Type R.
The second day was a big one with a drive from Orange to Dubbo up the Mitchell Highway. Our first port of call was Mark Nugent Coachbuilders who specialises in rebuilding classic cars using the original hand-formed metal-working skills. He has a original buck for an AC Cobra and he has had bucks made for other cars, again in the classical way – out of wood. The buck is used to form the metal into the shapes required to build the vehicles. In the workshop were several cars including some repatriated for bodywork repairs and some that needed whole new bodywork to be created. They also manufacture replica cars too. The workshop tour we had, also uncovered their business of light aircraft repairs where parts are needed after rough landings! These are shipped worldwide. I think another visit and article is warranted because 1 hour wasn’t enough time to see everything!
Lunch was in town at the Two Doors Tapas – a fabulous lunch stop with a great cuisine and plenty of parking. We were blessed with plenty of sunshine in their courtyard.
The afternoon venue was the Royal Flying Doctor Service – an organisation close to my heart. We were given a view of how they have expanded their services to not only be recovery of patients from remote areas to now providing medical and dental clinics with road transport to help the patients as well. We had a look at their aircraft simulator and also saw the map of where their planes were (including the inflight operations).
The evening dinner was at the Highland Heritage Estate back in Orange and we had a bus organised so that everyone could enjoy their wines as well as the cuisine. This vineyard was founded in 1946 and is still a premier producer in the region.
The return to Sydney. Leaving Duntryleague mid morning we headed straight down the main road to Bathurst before taking the road to Oberon and O’Connell. After a regroup at O’Connell we turned left along Mutton Falls Road to the famous Tarana Hotel. Like many of our stops, the pub dates from the 1870s when the countryside was being colonised by European settlers.
From here it was a short run back to Lithgow and along the Bells Line of Road to Bilpin for a final break.
I like these types of runs – it gets city folk out of their comfort zones and teaches them about what is on their doorstep that they probably didn’t know existed. Plus it puts valuable funds into local communities and encourages return visits in the future. I would recommend all the venues we went to as they were all worth the effort to visit or stay at.