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Cruise Through Toodyay, Northam & York, September 8, 2001 - Article by Richard H

A Little Further Afield!

Seeing as the previous cruise was cut short by dodgy weather, we decided to make up for it by planning a more ambitious route. We were going "country" (ish).

Four FTO owners convened at the South Perth ferry jetty early on a Saturday morning. Old hands Mark A & Dave W turned up as usual, and Leigh made an appearance for his first mini-meet.

Everyone was impressed that Leigh had managed to pick up a GPX with so many extras for a damn good price... apparently via a forced sale, the lucky beggar. It was the first time I'd seen an FTO with those optional Mitsy kickplates (glow in the dark logo and all). Add to that a sports exhaust, facelift front spoiler, better suspension and it was a tidy little number indeed.

First stop was a tea-room style food joint out in Middle Swan. After a bit of tyre-kicking in the carpark, we ordered up a hearty breakfast and planned the final route for the day's driving.

Earlier that week, I'd mentioned the upcoming drive at the garage while getting my custom oil temp gauge wired up. It turned out that Barry Lloyd at Crockenberg Motors was a bit of a veteran when it came to interesting Australian country driving (he's actually written a book about his exploits). Barry reckoned that most of the really great drives around Perth had been lost to development over time. However, one route still stood out in his mind - Route 359 (Chittering Rd) between Bullsbrook and Bindoon.

The 4-car convoy pulled out of the carpark and headed north until reaching RAAF Pearce air base, at which point we turned off onto Chittering Rd.

This turned out to be an absolutely cracking drive. In many areas, the road followed the course of a creek (with beautiful views across the gully), so there were plenty of twists and turns. We would frequently burst out of a sharpish bend onto a straight section of road with perfect visibility, blue sky above and gum trees whipping by on both sides. It was no wonder the loud pedal got a bit of a workout that morning!

I don't recall there being a single badly cambered bend or a challenging section of road that wasn't clearly identifiable well in advance. Definitely one of the nicer stretches of tarmac around these parts.

All too soon, we reached the end of that little run, so we pulled over for a breather. Dave commented that it was the first time in 15 minutes that the revs had dropped below MIVEC range...

We decided to head on through Toodyay to Northam. Leigh had a prior commitment in Perth, however, so he left us at that point and headed back the way we'd just come. Perhaps he just wanted to drive Route 359 again!

The drive through Toodyay to Northam was uneventful, except for a large number of other vehicles travelling below the 110km/h country speed limit.

It should be noted that a manual FTO can come within a whisker of that in second gear, so changing down to go around a 75km/h caravan means a whole heap of torque. However, we did have to bear in mind that there were two more vehicles behind the leader - they also needed to overtake if the convoy was to stay together. As a result, plenty of road was needed to keep things safe when passing.

Northam came up in good time, so another rest break was called for. We found a little park off the main drag, and stopped to stretch our legs.

From Northam, we set off in a south-easterly direction to York, where there was reportedly a classic car museum of some sort. This held some rare and unique examples of motoring history. For some unknown reason, however, I seemed to find their collection of 1970s matchbox cars the most interesting exhibit (sad git that I am). There was much pointing and muttering, "I had that one when I was a kid... and that one... that one too..." before the other blokes dragged me away to look at the real cars.

With the toy car spotting taken care of, all that was left to do was head home to Perth for a well-earned beer. We'd covered a lot of kilometres - a longer cruise would have to involve staying overnight somewhere. An idea for a future getaway, perhaps...

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