Originally bought new in 1920 by Jack Lye of Tamworth, the Dodge had eventually become the Lye family farm car in which each generation of kids had learned to drive. Ian Neuss bought it for £100 ($200) in 1961, when he was seventeen. He repaired it sufficiently for registration and drove it around Armidale in his student days. He named the car Horace, after one of the Dodge Brothers.
After forty years locked away on blocks, and an eight-year restoration, cleaning, re-machining, re-building, panel beating and body trimming, Horace was back on the road. After reconditioning the motor, and a test driving from Sydney to Perth, the back way, most mechanical problems were sorted. The old 4-cylinder motor, originally putting out about 34 horsepower, was ready. With a top speed of 70 kph, downhill, hanging on tight, but able to trundle along all day at 45, Ian claimed it would climb a vertical wall in first gear.
So into the container it went, shipped to Bangkok, and ready to conquer the world.
THE WILLYS WHIPPET
Bill Amann bought the Whippet and various bits of two others for $10,000 from the widow of Stan Perry, a Western Australian prospector. Stan had driven it through the WA deserts for many years, so Stan became the car’s name. A Model 96 with a four-cylinder motor, it originally boasted about 35 horsepower, 90 ft lbs of torque, and weighed less than a ton. The light body made those first Whippets feel lively and quick, hence the name. They were cheap, too, so many were sold in Australia. The Whippet was the basis for the World War II Jeep that Willys produced in the thousands for the US military and were shipped to all theatres of that war and to US allies, including Russia as we were unexpectedly reminded later in our journey.
Unlike Ian, Bill was still running a business so didn’t have a lot of time to put into preparation, instead deciding to trust his mechanical skills and rely on the simplicity of the car’s mechanics, and hope there would be some help available along the way.
He did manage to overhaul the fuel system, replacing fuel lines, fitting a fuel filter, electric pump, and a fuel pressure regulator. This last step backfired as it either stopped fuel flow when most needed or caused flooding, requiring regular adjustment.
The fuel cap was actually the cut-off base of a jam tin; fuel had a habit of splashing out whenever the tank was filled to the top, leaving a fuel trail on the service station forecourt and, most alarmingly, onto the exhaust pipe when turning left at speed. We were to learn to only fill the tank to about the three-quarter mark, weighing up the risk of running out on the road somewhere, which happened regularly. Bill’s back-up reserve tank was a pair of 10-litre plastic jerrycans.
A new distributor cap and points were also installed, all electrical wiring replaced, and even the windscreen wiper was replaced, but remained a joke. The original Whippet ran on a six-volt system, but Bill was reluctantly convinced that he would never find a spare battery, so at the last minute he changed to a 12-volt system. Valve clearances were set, and a new exhaust system installed.
Finally, for looks, Bill replaced all windows with new clear plastic all around and put a piece of carpet on the floor to try to insulate the cab from engine heat. His wife, Liz, took a paint brush and a couple of pots of paint and gave Stan a new thick coat of Public Service cream.
Finally, Bill loaded the spares and tools he thought he would need and shipped the car from Fremantle to Bangkok, hoping for the best.