Preferred method of driving taught/leant on outback corrugated roads.
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Thread: Preferred method of driving taught/leant on outback corrugated roads.

  1. #1
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    Icon5 Preferred method of driving taught/leant on outback corrugated roads.

    Ive been reading a book by G. Lindesay Clark "Built on gold" the recollections of the Western mining Company its exploration, politics and of course prospecting and gold mining over m any years.

    Its a little bit dry and board roomish in its content, but some of the trials and tribulations of early mining exploration experiences remind me of my early days driving on outback roads.

    At one point he describes the W.A. outback roads...page 32.

    Road travel was also not without its difficulties. The narrow bush tracks , winding in and out of the timber, were gradually replaced by roads surfaced with local coarse buckshot gravel. Cars travelling on these roads induced a wave formation, the waves being perhaps twelve to eighteen inches from crest to crest. The only way to travel on such roads was to drive at 50 to 60 miles an hour so that the wheels would hit the succession of crests and not go down into the troughs. It was rather dangerous because the driver had very limited control of his car.

    On the track from Coolgardie to Kalgoorlie, where the traffic was particularly heavy and corrugations correspondingly deep , the car could move left or right from course by perhaps 20 or so yards. Small trees on the edges of the road were, for some reason , rarely hit, possibly because the uncorrugated ground near the trees tended to be firmer than where the traffic was heavy.

    There is a story of two drivers, Yilgarn councillors, who had the same belief that very bad corrugations were less severe on the wrong side of the road and allowed a better ride at speeds above 60 mph. One was travelling north approaching Perilya Hill and the other approaching the hill from the south. Travelling at a closing speed of over 120 mph they passed each other at the top of the hill, both on the wrong side of the road!
    As kids growing up on similar roads, we also learnt that it was easier to drive fast on the wrong side of the road (when safe of course!!) as it was the only way to keep your teeth firmly in your mouth, and we used to laugh at newbies who would drive horribly slow and almost rattle their cars to pieces.

    These days they seem to at least get a grader out on unsealed roads to partly eliminate the corrugations. Often of course you can't see the condition of the road for the fine talcum like clay dust that settle inches thick on the surface of dirt road.

    I wondered at the experiences of froggy forum drivers and what they were taught and the best speed they achieved on the worst roads.

    Over to you.

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    1000+ Posts Kim Luck's Avatar
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    I tend to think there's an awful lot of stuff you found out yourself driving on gravel and dirt as a newbie driver. The main feature was if bravado and ignorance got ahead of your skill set, disaster was usually the result..........

    Fastest speed? 126mph taken from the tacho in the Twin Cam Escort in a rally in South Gippsland. On a dead straight one lane dirt track about 3km long with a control at a fence-line at a 90 degree bitumen road. I was advising my driver to start slowing down a little before it was really necessary.
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    Hi.
    With all due respect to the author, I suspect the idea of a car moving "20 yards" to either side, is maybe a bit fanciful.


    Regards
    John

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    Come on John, why spoil a good story with facts?

    John

    Quote Originally Posted by John Handley View Post
    Hi.
    With all due respect to the author, I suspect the idea of a car moving "20 yards" to either side, is maybe a bit fanciful.


    Regards
    John
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    The same speeding ( 50/60 MPH ) technique was recommended for cattle grids , but you would come unstuck if a bar was missing from the grid.

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    I have been waiting for someone who has actually driven on the roads in that locality to describe their experiences. I do know that if you don't watch out and drive with care a car can easily skate sideways, but then that is part of your driving and learning to maintain control, but I could think that novice drivers might induce skidding sideway.

    I guess I would have the same problem learning to drive on ice covered bitumen, but one learns quickly. One thing about dirt road driving as was the normal in my youth, you learnt instinctively to control your car. When the early volkswagon's were popular many drivers came to grief on dirt roads and rolled them when the wheels got into piled up sandy surfaces of dirt roads. I found that very hard to understand at the time and put it down to townies with little dirt road driving experience, not the cars themselves fault.

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    May have had a bit to do with rear swing axles too, although your point about townies not thinking about the piled up gravel on the verge is spot-on

    Kangaroo Island is notorious for this - a lot of the roads are ball bearing ironstone gravel which is a bit like driving on ice. Can be great fun if approached the right way, but it is easy to forget the pile on the verge and trip over it. At one stage they were averaging 1-2 tourist rollovers a week.

    The point about corrugations is dead on but the speed varies for every car - apparently it has to do with the natural harmonics of the spring ( and was probably easier in the old days when they had the same leaf springs front and rear )

    Best Wishes

    Andrew
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    There is some information on the frequency tuning of suspension here:
    https://www.rqriley.com/suspensn.htm
    Most cars are tuned within a very narrow range so they reinforce each other as they drive along the corrugations. But some pugs have multi rate dampers which can break up the vibrations, not sure about our cousins with their hydro magic.
    406 HDi

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    I find Raiding a 2CV gives one a lot of opportunity to drive on bad gravel roads. Being very light with long suspension travel helps. A low centre of gravity (ie around floorboard height on an empty vehicle) aids in stability.

    Corrugations: There is usually a sweet speed that minimise the effects of corrugations. This may not always be able to be safely maintained. Sometimes there is NO speed at which the corrugations can be satisfactorily negotiated. At times driving on the opposite side of the road really works well.

    Bulldust: This potentially hides a lot of surprises. Too slow its a pain. Too fast and the consequences can be painful.

    Washouts/lateral ruts: This is generally the area where most damage is done. Travel too quick and you feel them before you see them. If the sun is perpendicular to the road, the shadows of trees can make a rut invisible. That is when real damage can occur.

    Dips: I tend to favour either a left hand or right hand entry, never straight on. It is not until the last instant when you are on the brow of the dip that you can ascertain how severe the V at the bottom is. Traversing at an angle allows the front wheels to wobble through the dip. Straight on and you bury the nose.

    On very rough tracks (lower end of Canning Stock Route from Well 5 to Well 1) the ruts of 4WD vehicles (track about 1500mm) is interesting in a 2CV with a track of about 1000mm. Generally, it is one wheel on the high centre of the track and the outer wheel on the upper edge of the rut. Invariably the outer wheel slips down the rut a little. As it does this, grit can get forced up between the rim and the bead of the tyre, resulting in a slow tyre leak without obvious damage. Breaking the bead and washing the tyre and rim solves the problem.

    In conclusion, in a 2CV (or any car without power steering), gravel roads require much less steering effort as the car tends to skate around bends. The Great Ocean Road is equal to the hardest gym session you have ever had. Half a bottle of red and a good lie down seems to be the best cure.

    John
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    Quote Originally Posted by JBN View Post
    Half a bottle of red and a good lie down seems to be the best cure.

    John
    During the drive, or afterwards?
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    These are French cars , so it would be during

    One of the better ways to get a cheap feed in France was to use the 'Café Routiers" - aka truckie's cafs. For about $8-10.00 the standard lunch was soup, bread and cheese, and a substantial main, all washed down with a 1L bottle of plonk and a coffee. It gave one pause for thought when admiring the approaching camion to know that the driver was probably outside a litre of red wine.

    While at the National Motor Museum in Mulhouse I picked up quite a good book on the 4CV, with various racing and travelling exploits. One of these was a trip to northern Norway by a doc and an optometrist one summer. The provisions were: 60Kg of preserved meats and veges, 10 kg potatoes, 50 kg spare parts, 25 litres of wine and 4 Litres of spirits. I think that they enjoyed the trip.

    Santé

    Andrew


    Quote Originally Posted by FIVEDOOR View Post
    During the drive, or afterwards?
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    I recall a trip in about 1961 I made with a mate in his 1956 VW Beetle from Wagga through Albury and almost into the mountains . We pulled up at a Tallangatta pub for refreshment, in those day the bar was about 12 foot long and was populated by a few of elderly men (?) drinking ponies. All day. Mate Dave and I joined in with sevens, interesting discussions with the locals as a bonus. As the day progressed, several additional drinkers rocked in and before long the subject of cars came up. Someone asked Dave what he drove and he replied a VW. Ah, said the enquirer, I've had seven of those! One had to ask why so many. "They handle like a Spitfire in the air", said the man.........
    It's another lovely day! Again!

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    I had a VW when I taught at a one teacher school along the Walcha-Nowendoc road in NSW. It had a camber compensating spring which went from one rear swing axle to the other with a 2" high triangular fulcrum mounted underneath the transaxle. Not a good car for the dirt roads. The fulcrum used to get caught up in the ridge between the two wheel tracks, forcing one to drive on the side of the road, one wheel on the road edge and the other on the hump in the middle of the road. In a rear drive car, this meant a continuous slalom.

    Owning that Beetle made me glad Germany lost the war.

    John

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    Hi
    My memory of getting around dirt roads with the old man was they varied a lot in our area. Not the straight continuous corrugations like outback ? The road could be any combination of; potholes, loose gravel, sand, ruts, corrugations, or mud.
    In fact there are a couple of roads up along the coast still that are not official roads and are not maintained and short cuts to surfing beaches. I have attempted to go there over the years but gave up ever time as the punishment was too much ! But my dad drove those sort of roads and he just tried every speed and line all the time. Driving on the other side was common as others said, because for some reason it may look better I do that outback in my camper when the corrugations are bad and the visability good. Sometimes the van gets the dance up and moves around a lot, perhaps 20 yards would be an exaggeration or telling you to slow down a bit
    I don't think there is something to learn except to keep your wits about you. Stay clear of the 'red' or 'amber'. The loose gravel can catch you out as said, it is like ball bearings if you want to turn. A friend of mine rolled his newish Austin 1800 that way playing on the dirt roads out near Orange. The old '70s Kombis were good but still were punished by the pounding. I remember going to wind up the windows after a bad stretch and finding both had disapeared into the door ?
    Cheers Jaahn

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    There is one issue that makes a huge difference in outback dirt road travel. When was it last graded?

    In 2008, I travelled the whole of the notorious Gibb River Road in WA. Fortunately it has recently been graded. Our experience was far more pleasant than a similar vehicle would have had a month BEFORE the road was graded.

    After travel on notorious dirt roads, it is hard to quantify whether the bulldust on the road can match the bulldust in recounting the experience over an ale or two.

    John
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    As a long time 4wd driver you soon learn that one of the secrets to corrugations [as in the ones that go for scores or hundreds of KMs] is tyre pressures. Let them down! eg a 4wd that might normally run 38-40 psi will be very happy at 28 psi on the corrugations but you will have to holds speeds down to about 80 kph.You will feel the corrugations less, do less damage to the car, have fewer impact punctures to the tyres and enjoy the scenery more. That said my 504s enjoyed warp speed on the dirt with no change in pressures [ but a few punctures].
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    I was a country kid in the 50's and 60's, out near Hyden WA (300kms from Perth). Early memories of all unsealed roads, then the "bitumen came through" in about 1960 - hallelujah! Still unsealed off the main highway when I learnt to drive about 14 yrs old. Corrugated roads were the norm, you just put up with them, but cursed them if they were really rough, and waiting for the grader - as said above - bliss. Yes, my Dad practised the method of driving on the wrong side of the road, or the centre, or wherever he felt might be best on the day. I did likewise, but all a long time ago now. Being brought up out there, and on a farm where getting bogged was par for the course, plus bad roads, I probably learnt to drive ok, but nowadays I just can't be bothered - give me a bitumen highway in a comfortable 2WD vehicle any day.
    I also remember preferring to drive dirt roads at night, when potholes were more visible than in daylight (as mentioned above by JBN). With the headlights lighting up the road ahead, just drive on the light patches of road and drive around the black ones (the shadows) - they could be 2" deep or 12" deep, just drive around the black bits. On a road like the Nullarbor, this meant continually snaking down the road, at a fair speed, one side of the road to the other, just keeping the wheels on the lighted up bits.
    Photos below of my first trip from Perth to Melbourne, 1971, 22 yrs old, just completed my apprenticeship in a Ford dealer, hence the pretty decent car I had picked up as a farmer's trade-in from our Used Car dept. I had good Michelin XZX tyres on it which rarely punctured. Story is we stopped in the middle of the night somewhere between Nullarbor Roadhouse and Ivy Tanks, for a cuppa. Left rear tyre must have gone flat while we were stopped. I accelerated away pretty hard (probably with a bit of wheelspin on the dirt - after all it was a V8!) and we thought the corrugations were bad at that speed, then realised it was the back axle tramping with a fully blown out tyre - my fault - probably just flat until I tore the guts out of it. Lesson learned.
    Other features of the photos - note they didn't publish roof load limits in those days, and no-one cared - love the photo of the "roadhouse" with the dogs - the beach buggy was my cousin's, we towed it on the bitumen, but drove separate on the unsealed bit, between WA/SA border and Ceduna at that time, about 500kms, note A-frame carried on Falcon roof. A memorable trip.

    Oh yes, and that was a road where the single grader took something like 6 months to grade that section, so at least for some time the road would be ok, then you overtake the grader, and whammo. The original grader is mounted as a monument out there somewhere, the grader driver became a bit of a legend.

    Preferred method of driving taught/leant on outback corrugated roads.-1971melbourne0010resize.jpgPreferred method of driving taught/leant on outback corrugated roads.-1971melbourne0006resize.jpgPreferred method of driving taught/leant on outback corrugated roads.-1971melbourne0009resize.jpg

    Edit: The old "roadhouse" was Koonalda, between WA/SA border and Nullarbor Roadhouse. Koonalda was more a farm homestead that sold fuel, and was cut off when the new highway opened in 1976. I looked it up on Google Maps and found interesting photos taken recently. If the link doesn't work just look up Koonalda on GM.
    https://www.google.com.au/maps/place....8588276?hl=en
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    JBN
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    Great stuff Fordman. I can't be bothered sourcing appropriate photos, but if you remember that a little Citroen 5CV (?) was the first to circumnavigate Australia in about 1925 on all dirt roads of variable quality and hold that image in your mind whilst conjuring up an image of a current large 4WD complete with huge driving lights, roo bars, extra spare tyre, Cooper chunky tyres, raised suspension and sand mats circumnavigating Australia on a fully bituminised Highway 1, it seems the bar for "adventure" has dropped a little.

    John

    John
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