Rare Railton to tackle the Outback

A 1934 Railton, similar to the car the Macwhirters are preparing for COT 2016. Image courtesy

A 1934 Railton, similar to the car the Macwhirters are preparing for COT 2016. Image courtesy

Alice Springs, in the Red Centre of Australia, will host in June 2016 the only long distance special stage rally conducted in Australia – the Classic Outback Trial.

The spectacular setting is one of the major attractions for entrants in the 2016 Classic Outback Trial. Most competitors will be in their highly developed and specialist Classic or Modern rally cars. They’ll be happy to race along the Trial’s great bush roads and tracks at breakneck speed with the scenery rushing by in a blur. But, others want to enjoy the ever-changing landscape.

For them, the Classic Outback Regularity section of the trial is just perfect. They not only get to enjoy the scenery, but they also get the challenge of compete against the clock, albeit at a more sedate speed.

Among those taking part in the Regularity section of the 2016 trial are the Victorian husband and wife team of Phil and Laurette Macwhirter who will compete in their rare 1934 Railton.

A major attraction of the trial for the Macwhirters is that they can both compete in it.

“I’ve done Targa Tasmania a couple of times with other guys, but I can do the Classic Outback Trial with my wife,” Phil said.

“It’s a good rally for us because it’s not so fast that we need helmets, but we will still be going fast enough to test the car and have some fun.”

Phil prepares and drives the Railton, while Laurette ensures they maintain the required average speed to keep them on time throughout each of the Trial’s 20 special stages.

The route used by the Regularity cars will be the same as that used by the Trial cars.

Laurette’s challenge will be to ensure Phil maintains the average speeds set by the organisers, which will be no more than 80 km/h, so they reach the checkpoints, which could be located at any point along the stage, at the precise time they are meant to arrive.

Maintaining the average speed shouldn’t be a problem for the Macwhirters in their 4.1-litre straight-eight powered Railton, which has been described by some as a pre-war Shelby Cobra.

Phil bought the Australian-delivered car two years ago. It was in pieces at the time having been dismantled 40 years ago, and he’s now in the process of rebuilding it with a view to competing in long distance rallies around the world.

The 2016 Classic Outback Trail will be its first outing and will be used as a shakedown test for the car.

By the time it rolls into Alice Springs in June next year the original Martin & King body will have been replaced by a rakish fabric-covered, close-coupled two-seater coupe body, the engine will have been moved back in the chassis, a Laycock overdrive unit will have been fitted, the chassis and suspension will have been strengthened, the ride height will have been raised, special shock absorbers will have been fitted, and the braking will have been improved markedly by the fitment of hydraulic brakes with a twin-circuit brake master cylinder.

“I’m planning to have the best prepared long distance rally car ever built,” Phil said.

The 2016 Classic Outback Trial Regularity Competition is open to suitable 2WD and 4WD SUV vehicles at the discretion of the organisers.

The Classic Outback Trial will attract some 60 crews from both Australia and overseas. Already 48 crews have nominated, including two crews from the UK and 2 crews from Europe.