Australian Rally History

by Tom Snooks

The Quiet Achiever

SOLAR CAR CROSSING OF AUSTRALIA

Perth to Sydney

Sunday 19 December 1982 to Friday 7 January 1983

'THE LITTLE CAR THAT COULD'

Tom Snooks was the Project Coordinator and he has compiled a record of the BP Solar Trek, using press clippings from the day, a video made on the project, monitoring records, and memories.

An endurance test, the first of its kind ever held anywhere in the world, occurred in Australia in late 1982/early 1983. It was conducted under the auspices of the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS).

This test was the first trans-continental crossing by a solar-powered car, when Hans Tholstrup and Larry Perkins successfully completed the historic BP Solar Trek across Australia, when they brought ‘The Quiet Achiever’ from Perth to Sydney.

They had no overseas technology to draw on, no plans to follow, no previous mistakes to look at or learn from, yet in eight months they designed and built a whole new machine that ran for over 4000 kilometres with only some broken wheel spokes and a number of punctures. They took 20 days to make the crossing, but had all the roads been as smooth after Wilcannia when they covered 307 and 287 kilometres, they could have run the vehicle in high gear and completed the trip in around 14 days.

Hans got the idea for the trek in 1980 when the combined pedal and solar powered ‘Gossamer’ plane flew across the 35 kilometre English Channel. However, this distance was not enough for the adventure-hardened Hans, who wanted a purely solar powered vehicle to cross the sun-soaked Australian continent – a more respectable 4000 kilometres!!

There was a fair amount of strain on the drivers. Taking a turn at the wheel they endured temperatures reaching up to 50 degrees Celsius with the only fresh air being that which was admitted through small holes around the axles and the wheel openings in the fibreglass body. They ate oranges and drank fluids to prevent dehydration. They had the constant noise of the electric motor just centimetres from their heads. They camped out overnight, for they could not plan to pull up at motels, and therefore did not have the comforts of home. Although the conditions may have made many people give up these two fellows were, because of their backgrounds, used to the worst.

The journey of The Solar Trek would coincide with the 70th anniversary of the first crossing of Australia by a motor car – when in 1912 Francis Birtles drove a Brush car from Fremantle to Sydney, in 28 days. Thus, this period gave Hans and Larry a target to aim at, and to achieve this they would need to cover, on average, 150 kilometres (90 miles) per day.

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The Quiet Achiever