Outback Marathon
A description of the event written just after its conclusion is as follows:

ONE thing you can say in of favor of British Leyland executives is that they have confidence in their product.

This was amply demonstrated when they recently sent forth a Morris 1500 to complete 15,000 non-stop miles in 10 days - equivalent to one year's normal motoring, they reckoned, in the space of the average vacation.

The team of drivers for the venture was headed by BMC's urbane and skilful public atboss and rally driver Evan Green, with support from his old sparring partner Jack Murray,  broadcaster John Pearce, Ian and Leo GLoghegan, Darwin BLMC dealer Mick Nudi, BLMC service man Alan Kemp, Green's regular navigator Roy Denny, and Modern Motor's Tech. Editor Barry Cooke.

The run was to take the form of 16 uninterrupted (they hoped) journeys up and down the Stuart Highway between Alice Springs and Darwin, with two men crewing the car, and changing over at the end of each trip.

The whole shebang got off to a bad start when the car fell off the trailer bearing it over the appalling road between Port Augusta and the starting point at Alice Springs. Fortunately there was no serious damage.

Ant Hill and outback vegetation north of Alice Springs There was fairly keen competition between crews for the fastest run over the 954 mile journey and this finally fell to local Mick Nudi and Roy Denny - an astonishing 11 hr 45 min, or 81 mph average! The schedule allowed for a 63 mph average, but as trouble beset the car, time was lost irretrievably, and at the end of the trip the average was just over 60 mph.

The first real headache came when lan Geoghegan left the road to avoid a long road train and smote the sump a mighty blow with a rock. Like all BMC fwd cars, the 1500's sump (it's the gearbox casing too don't forget) is fairly vulnerable, and isn't helped in this model's case by a poorly designed sump guard.

The sump deposited its contents on the road about 60 miles north of Katherine, and had to be towed in. At the Mobil service station of Ralph Sheppard in Katherine the damage was repaired with fibreglass and various other sticky compounds.

Geoghegan and his co-driver Alan Kemp then proceeded at largely unabated speed to Alice Springs, where a new gearbox (the imported fivespeeder was being used to facilitate high speed cruising) was fitted.

Drama No. 2 was a surprisingly similar incident. Evan Green making a downhill approach to a harmless-looking bridge over the Cullen River hooked the sump guard onto a steel strip dividing the bridge's concrete top from the black-top approaches.

The sump guard was swept back with such force that it broke the casing (naturally), cut the exhaust pipe, and pinched the hydrolastic pipes. This time the damage was so great that Alan Ramsbottom, the harassed BLMC mechanic stationed at Alice Springs for the run, had to be flown to Katherine with the necessary bits to build-up another gearbox.

On run No. 14 with Roy Denny and Barry Cooke aboard the 1500 went ass over tit about 50 miles north of Katherine, when the car ran wide approaching a fast-butnot-that-fast left hander. Body damage was comprehensive, but mechanical damage was restricted to a bent front suspension member and front disc pads spoiled by oil escaping through the breather pipe.

roadsideFortunately neither driver was hurt, and when the car was set back on its feet and the suspension straightened out with a large rock, Denny proceeded at reduced pace to the Mobil Service station in Katherine. A change of tyres, a windscreen protector from a Mk.1 Cortina, courtesy Katherine's friendly Ford dealer Nick Choish, and the car was off and running again.

From here on in it was mostly plain sailing, except for minor electrical troubles. Naturally the car was pretty tired at this stage, but despite the hard driving the motor was really singing, and until the rollover, handling was really good. Although it wasn't an official record attempt (you can't set or break records on public roads) the 1500 twice bettered a 24-hour record of 1699.8 miles set by racing car driver Norman  Wizard  Smith years ago. The 1500 covered 1786 miles and 1798 miles on consecutive days.


What did it prove?

It proved that it takes an awful lot to stop a Morris 1500 in its tracks, that's what. And it proved that the 1500 ohc engine will provide owners with at least one year's trouble-free service IF they keep its bottom clear of the ground.