Autocar’s Austin 1800 long-term test car covers the 867-mile trek from one end of the country to the other - without stopping for fuel
Matt Burt
23 July 2015

Driving the country from toe to tip has always been an alluring challenge for motoring journalists.

For Stuart Bladon, Martin Lewis and photographer Peter Cramer, it was a way of investigating the frugality of Autocar’s Austin 1800 long-term test car, which had been converted to run a dual petrol-LPG fuel set-up.

“Our Austin retained its 16-gallon petrol tank, plus a 15-gallon cylinder in the boot for LPG,” wrote Bladon and Lewis in their account of the trip, which also raised money for charity. “With that lot, we argued, surely it would even go from Land’s End to John O’Groats without refuelling. Or would it?”

The team set off to their departure point, Land’s End, in the middle of that summer’s heatwave. “We decided that a late start would suit best, giving us most of the driving during the night. We kept the gas tank filled up to the warning line on the gauge, which, unfortunately, is on the tank in the boot; there is no direct read-off in the car. The drive to Cornwall was made on petrol, since we knew we might be in difficulty trying to refill the gas cylinder down there.”

In front of swarms of holidaymakers at Land’s End, they brimmed the petrol tank, making their departure at exactly 5pm. “Within half an hour we were stuck in the Penzance rush hour (if they call it that),” they reported. “Eventually we were clear and able to build up the speed again, to Tiverton.

“Long before the event, we had written to the AA for a route, which they furnished with due solemnity, showing the distance as 865.95 miles. However, we noticed that they took us from Okehampton down to Exeter, which the map clearly showed to involve extra mileage. Instead, we cut across, using Ordnance Survey maps. Once on the M5 we relaxed, switched to gas and pushed up the cruising speed to 60mph.”

As they neared Carlisle, they hit trouble. The team didn’t realise it at the time, but a faulty regulator valve had been feeding an over-rich mixture of LPG into the engine.

“Stuart was attempting sleep in the back when the car gave a jerk and then started to lose speed. ‘The gas has gone,’ came the muttered explanation. 330 miles covered on 15 gallons of gas meant we had barely cleared 20mpg, and that meant over 500 miles to do on the petrol.

“Could we believe the petrol gauge? If we could, then it might still be on. It was still over the half mark on the A9 near Balinluig. It became increasingly obvious that we should complete the distance safely enough for the speed to be increased to 50mph.”

Panic over, the team found their arrival at John O’Groats to be “something of an anti-climax, but it was great to get out and stretch and know that we had done it”.

The true distance of the route was measured at 860.3 miles. The Austin had covered 540.6 miles on 13.05 gallons to give average petrol consumption of 41.4mpg.

Previous Throwback Thursdays

4 March 1899 - Steam, electric or combustion engine? 

26 June 1906 - The first French Grand Prix

9 July 1907 - The beginning of Brooklands

14 February 1913 - 100 miles in one hour

8 April 1916 - Making post-war predictions

25 March 1922 - Caterpillar tracks are the future

4 July 1925 - Citroën lights up the Eiffel Tower

2 February 1934 - The ethics of skidding

6 July 1934 - A tour of Cowley

1 June 1935 - Introduction of the driving test

22 June 1945 - Driving through post-WW2 Europe

21 January 1949 - Tidier tails

24 April 1959 - Aston Martin enters Formula 1

27 January 1961 - Ford Thunderbird road test

17 November 1961 - TVR Grantura road test

6 May 1971 - Driving Ford's Supervan

13 May 1978 - Ferrari 512 BB road test

19 January 1980 - Talbot Horizon road test

13 February 1982 - 4x4s tested on the farm 

17 April 1985 - Secrets of a lost British supercar

28 April 1993 - BL's unseen concepts

16 March 1994 - Bentley's Concept Java

16 April 1997 - When Bugatti bit the dust

4 April 2001 - 0-260mph in 6.0 seconds

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Comments
2

23 July 2015
Autocar Headline wrote:

Land's End to John O'Groats on one tank

Actually 2 tanks: One full of LPG the other petrol.

 

23 July 2015
Get one of those limos or pick-ups with a jacuzzi in the back, fill it with petrol and try to drive across America on one tank and a pool....

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

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