Saturday, April 24, 2021


It’s like ‘old home week’ around here. First up, an all-too-brief drive experience in a magnificent Bentley Continental GT V8 coupe; and then a turn in the latest Jaguar F-type R coupe – this drive made extra-special, thanks to the supercharged 5L V8.


Where I waxed poetically about the significant design refinements on the Bentley by Stefan Sielaff, the subtle changes to the Jaguar F-type seem almost to defy comparison with the car it replaces.

However, Jaguar’s Design Chief, Julian Thompson, and exterior design manager Adam Hatton, have executed what all good designers do best – effect change you almost don’t notice, but once acquainted with the details, they flag the skill and talent of people who create an art form in metal.

There’s no point in trying to be clever by ‘playing’ with words on the subject of design changes. So, let’s cut to the chase and I’ll just quote the text from the press release.

‘Calligraphy’ J signature daytime running lights and sweeping direction indicators blend perfectly into the ‘liquid metal’ surfacing of the new clamshell bonnet. The new front bumpers and subtly enlarged grille deliver even more visual impact and presence. 

The rear haunches enhance the F-TYPE’s inherently dramatic, purposeful form, and sweep downwards to the slender rear LED lights with ‘Chicane’ signature inspired by the all-electric I-PACE Performance SUV. 

When highlighted, that description says it all, the changes are symbiotic with the image of the original F-type penned by my legendary friend, Ian Callum.


In the almost 20 years I was associated with Jaguar, we always used to say that Jaguar styling should “reflect the car as being fast, when simply standing still.”

This new F-type coupe superbly reflects that epithet, in so many ways.

Now, to a more serious tone. Sales. Pre-pandemic Jaguar sales demographics had split dramatically – cars were ‘on the nose’ and Crossovers were taking the lion’s share. The JLR Board dived into a massive cost-cutting program, gutting funds for some planned programs, using pencils instead of biros, and perhaps even placing limits on toilet paper usage!


Despite my desultory comments, the program appears to have paid off, because by the time the pandemic’s effect was felt across the entire auto industry, JLR was in a much better position to parry the changed financial conditions.


So, here we have the facelifted F-type, together with a large number of under-the-skin changes which have had a profound effect on the cars’ dynamics.

Matched to new springs and anti-roll bars, the chassis is further enhanced by the continuously-variable dampers. The valves inside each damper, and the control algorithms have been recalibrated to improve both low-speed comfort and high-speed control.

The rear knuckles are now aluminium die castings, which, together with new, larger wheel bearings and revised upper ball joints increase camber and toe stiffness by 37 per cent and 41 per cent respectively. This results in more precise control of the tyre contact patch, which translates to an even more connected steering feel. 

These unseen changes in mechanicals produce a car which is instantly more responsive at high speeds, and introduces greater confidence at the steering wheel.

However once the boot spoiler deploys at 113km/h, you almost get an instant visualisation that you’re at a track day, dicing with your sport-friendly competitors.

What more can you demand of a performance-focussed classic sports car?

I think I’ve said enough. Nothing I can add to this text can change the reality that Jaguar, as a widely-acknowledged and iconic sports car specialist, can produce in this year of 2021, such an accomplished and satisfying example of the breed.

The all-wheel-drive F Type R is very surefooted and responsive, but I am not happy about the level of tyre roar from the Pirelli P-Zeros.

Of course, selecting Dynamic Mode, or by pressing the switchable exhaust button before starting the engine, ensures the distinctive crackle and pop on the overrun which is synonymous with F-TYPE – with the sounds meticulously tuned to suit the distinctive character of each model.  That goes some way to eliminating focus on tyre noise, whilst upping the ‘fun factor’.

Wisely, JLR ditched the full-size spare wheel. On a test drive out of Boston Logan airport to Cape Cod some years ago, my wife and I struggled to accommodate two 62cm rollaway bags, plus our hand baggage – one of which she was forced to nurse on her lap until we arrived at our accommodation.

This is one instance where automotive art and practicality did not form a harmonious bond.

However, on Cape Cod’s wonderful driving roads the F-type coupe was a sheer delight and although I would have liked Jaguar’s new generation sports cars to be somewhat lighter, nimbler and perhaps more basic, I can easily understand that at this level of the market, customers want all the bells-and-whistles and that increases complexity, weight, function-overload and of course, price.

And of course, you couldn’t build a simple sports car like the XK-120 today, because modern legislation, regulatory standards for crash safety, pedestrian protection, side intrusion and crumple zones render that idea unrealistic.

On the flowing, undulating roads I use to sample high speed handling, the F-type was a heady pleasure – superbly responsive, flat in its stance and perfectly poised.

The car you see here starts at AUD$262,936, however with quite useful and pleasure-packed options, the price (before on-road costs) is AUD$272,849.

So, if I judged the AUD$570,000 Bentley Continental GT V8 as a ‘Gold Standard’, then the F-type R is a fantastic bargain for the joy and driving pleasure it delivers.

John Crawford

Friday, April 23, 2021


You bet it is. If not right at its core, then definitely in all the areas where British carmakers traditionally excel.

When the Continental GT (BY614) debuted in 2003, with its unusual, torquey 6-litre W12 engine there was more than a touch of Teutonic messing-around, thanks to Volkswagen Group’s acquisition of the famed British bruiser brand in 1998.


The new-age Continental shared its platform with Volkswagen’s (D1) Phaeton luxury sedan, an under-appreciated gem, but one of chairman Ferdinand Piëch’s vanity projects - alongside the Bugatti Veyron.


The body-in-white was stamped in Germany, plus the electrics and the all-wheel-drive system were all from the VW parts bin. And then there was the engine, designed by Piëch himself, and literally sketched on the back of an envelope over dinner with his closest engineering pals.


“See here," said Ferdy, to the boys around the table. “We take the humble, narrow-angle V6 (15 degrees) we developed for the Golf, put two of them together like a Big W, on a common crankshaft, and we’ve got ourselves a suitable grand touring engine.”


The newly-single Bentley Motors (now freed from the shackles of second-tier status in its marriage to Rolls-Royce) willingly agreed to all these German contributions because it was short of cash, short of engineers, and short on the facilities to make all this good stuff for its new GT coupe.


Dr. Piëch was planning this assault on the premium performance market hand-in-glove with what the Brits do best – tasteful, understated design; wood and leather in the cabin;  exemplary ride and handling; precision engineering; plus the craftsmen and women in Crewe, Cheshire, who were more than capable of combining the tectonic Teutonic mechanicals with the atmosphere of a private London club.

History tells us that all the program’s stakeholders managed to bring together a brilliant blend of the finest British craftsmanship, with all the whirring, whizzing German mechanicals. The 2003 Bentley Continental GT coupe was a huge hit all over the world – but, especially so in the USA.

The VWAG Board was less than happy with the launch price of USD$169,000 as a proper return on assets, but it was the sweet spot which saw the Continental GT launch itself into the American market like a Saturn rocket on steroids.


Then, there was the design itself. It was created by a wonderful combination of experience, youth, talent, taste and a perfect understanding of what would strongly resonate with the ‘new’ Bentley customers.

Up until then, the Bentley wings had only adorned clones of Rolls-Royce models – with the grille and the badging providing the only real difference between Bentleys and Rollers.


Design Director, Dirk van Braekel, gathered a brilliant team for the Continental GT coupe. The exterior was penned by a refreshing, Brazilian-Italian named Raul Pires, and a sophisticated young British designer, Robin Page, produced the now-famous double horseshoe interior concept. 

It was an instant success and paved the way for Bentley’s financial security within the giant VW empire.

Make no mistake. After paying dearly to 'own' Bentley, VWAG continued to invest huge amounts - both in new models, as well as it's three year racing program to reclaim its historical heritage of winning Le Mans five times in seven years in the 20s and 30s!

Many highly-respected automotive designers were openly questioning just how Bentley could ‘facelift’ the original design, as many considered the first GT coupe like a diamond that was going to be very hard to re-cut successfully into a new setting.


A number of designers have had their turn at Bentley’s works in Crewe but, with the launch of the 2021 Bentley Continental GT coupe and convertible, we have to thank a relatively unknown German, Stefan Sielaff (right).


He spent most of his time at VWAG with Audi, then had a three-year break with rival Daimler Benz. His design work started with interiors, before he was appointed Head of Exterior Design for Audi, but quite frankly his exterior work on the new Continental GT is, in my opinion, nothing short of breathtaking.

I call it 'creased perfection'

Stefan has managed what I considered impossible. He has refined the overall shape, introducing subtle accents, creating very attractive style lines and creases which have (can I be saying this?) improved on the original.


The 2021 Continental GT is contemporary, stylish, fresh, and - the best compliment I can pay - it boasts impressive 'presence'.


So, does the latest Continental GT have the chops to lay claim to a piece of automotive art? It does for me.

Continental V8 at the Gold Coast's Home of The Arts

Not only does the interior boast a phalanx of jewel-like features, including knurled finishes and delicate design touches, but the exterior is also a piece of automotive sculpture.

Bentley 'jewels'

Sadly, Bentley has lost Stefan to Geely, because the Chinese could offer more US dollars to induce the German to get into bed with Volvo, where he will replace long-time styling chief, Peter Horbury. VW will engage in musical chairs to re-assign Andreas Mindt (right), designer of the 1999 Bentley Hunaudieres concept, as his replacement.


Just talking to Bentley salesmen, they tell me that there is unprecedented interest in the Continental coupe and convertible, with demand driven by the appeal of the new V8.


Bentley shares this bent eight with the Audi RS models, and the underlying architecture can be traced back to the engine which powered the Bentley Speed 8 prototype to its momentous victory in the 2003 Vingt Quatre Heures du Mans in France.

In Sport mode, this V8 delivers in every department – a crisp and raspy exhaust note, fantastic response, and impressive flexibility.

I didn’t measure fuel economy (I was having too much fun), but many other road test reports say there’s very little difference between the V8 and the W12 – and that’s got a lot to do with how much fun they are to drive.


Actually, weight is the issue. The V8 is reportedly 100kg lighter than the W12, but the racy response engenders greater fuel use. The heavier W12 means you are sucking in more fuel just to keep the big bruiser at autobahn speeds. But, really, no-one buys a Bentley for its fuel economy.


As I was unable to do any form of back-to-back comparison testing between the V8 and W12, I’ll have to rely on my memory synapses running hot with messages flooding my brain - telling me the V8-engined car is lighter, sprightlier, more responsive, and a lot of fun on the limit.

On the deep country roads I use for ride and handling testing (location not revealed), I was thrilled with the stability and adhesion exerted by the combination of a well-sorted suspension and prodigious grip of Pirelli P-Zeros.

Using ‘Sport’ mode, the AWD Continental GT could dive into the apex and transition smoothly, appearing to follow an invisible rail track around the corner, as I poured on the power for the next lateral challenge.


BTW, this has got to be the most acceptable and accommodating ‘SPORT’ mode I’ve sampled to date. Of course, everything is sharper with this setting, but it’s not kidney-crunching, only stiff enough to make control more confidence-boosting.


As this is not intended to be a full ‘road test’ I won’t bother with performance data – since it’s more than competent, and using a stopwatch is just not worth the effort.


Handing the Continental GT V8 back to its owners, I realised the preceding 48 hours had successfully rekindled my love affair with what was the first of the building blocks which resulted in the re-writing of Bentley’s history to reflect a brand which does not waver from W.O. Bentley’s memorable aim to “build a good car, a fast car, the best in its class.”


I just wish WO could have been sitting beside me these past two days – as his smile would have been as wide and genuine as mine.

Thoroughbreds? Most certainly!

John Crawford

NOTE: The optioned 'Rose Gold' model here is tagged at AUD$570,000.

Sunday, April 18, 2021


Once again we are standing on the edge of another precipice above the state of conflict known as Afghanistan. The Americans will be out in September, and believe me, the Taliban will be back in before the door swings shut on the last US soldier to leave.


The sad truth is, the Taliban never left, it was just that the coalition forces did manage to subdue the tribes for a while with massive bombardments, and attacks on fortified refuges. But, every village has a few Taliban among the populace, so consequently Taliban ‘ideas’ permeate all social levels.


I spent three days in Afghanistan during the 1977 Singapore Airlines London-to-Sydney Car Rally, crossing the country from its third largest city, Herat, to the capital Kabul, via the second-largest city, Kandahar, along the Trans-Asia Highway, which in 1977 was the country’s only continuously-paved highway – a distance close to 3000km.

I found it a fascinating country filled with contrasts – both in culture and topography.


Afghanistan’s history from 500BC to today has been simply a mix of wars, tribal conflicts, over-riding hordes of invaders, right up to the modern Russian intervention.


Interestingly though, all the conquerors were beaten in the end – none ever really triumphed over the tribes and the territory. The land is rugged, rough, mountainous and presents very difficult conditions to fight in – which always suited the Afghanis more than those who tried to subjugate them.


Persian Pashto (Afghanistan) as a ‘modern’ state has only existed since 1747.

Kandahar contrasts - British colonial buildings, overshadowed by a modern hotel

Alexander The Great and his Macedonian army conquered the country in 330BC and ever since the country has become a brewing ground for wars – either by attacks from external forces, or internal troubles, it has been made up of many ‘empires’ including GrecoBactriansKushansHephthalitesSaffaridsSamanidsGhaznavidsGhoridsKhaljisTimuridsMughalsHotakis and Durranis.


Since 330BC many and various ‘power plays’ have controlled the country, and by our modern standards Afghanistan “has never known long-lasting peace”.


Unfortunately for the Afghan people the country was seen as a ‘gateway to India’; being a vital part of ‘The Silk Road’; and it sat on many important trade and migration routes. It’s long been called the ‘Central Asian Roundabout’ with converging routes from the Middle East, the Indus Valley, through passes over the Hindu Kush from the Far East, and linking to the Eurasian Steppes.


The British attempt to control tribal fighting resulted in the ‘line of partition’, which solved nothing, and merely increased tribal tensions because the arbitrary line divided not only many tribal dynasties, but in many cases whole families.


The Afghans spend most of their time fighting each other – the Taliban involvement is just an inter-tribal conflict between secular and Islamist groups, which the West has no role in whatsoever. Once Western forces depart, Afghanistan will simply revert to what it has been doing since 330BC.


There is no ‘saving Afghanistan’ from itself. Trying to control tribes like the PashtunsTajiksHazarasUzbeksTurkmenAimakPashayiBalochPamiris and the Nuristanis is a thankless task, and today Afghanistan’s people won’t give any outsiders ‘thanks for helping them’.


The ‘Endless War’ has simply poured money and munitions into a country controlled by tribal warlords and made many of them rich at the West’s expense. It has solved nothing – and never will.


Conflict in Afghanistan is like many of the battles in the Middle East – it’s not a war of weapons, but a war of ideas. You can kill as many people as you like, but it’s almost impossible to kill ‘ideas’.

During our three days crossing the country, and because of my pathological curiosity about ‘everything’, I sought out as many different Afghanis as I could, to ask them about the country and how it’s ruled.


Broadly, the common answer was, “It’s got nothing to do with anyone else”.


So, sadly, when the coalition forces leave, Afghanistan will fall back into the fight between its more secular citizens, and the hard-line, extreme Islamist Taliban.


In other words – same old, same old. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021


Recently I was trawling my extensive photo library, and filed in an obscure folder I found this quite wonderful memory from the last Concours I attended at Amelia Island in 2006, the year I retired from Bentley Motors North America.

I sent the photo on to Amelia Founder, Chairman, and my good friend, Bill Warner. I will post his response below, and bittersweet the memories were too.

Ken  Gross, writer;  Edward Herrmann, distinguished actor; Michael Lamm, writer;  Bill Brodrick, “The Hat Man”;  Peter Egan, writer R&T;  Keith Crain, publisher ;  Steve Roby, McLaren Engineer;, Jack Telnack, Designer;  Leo Levine, writer (died last week)  David E. Davis, Jr…..simply the best;  Johnnny Rutherford, 23 time Indy winner; Steve Pasteiner, Designer; Christian Phillipsen, raconteur; Peter Bryant, Shadow engineer, Bill Spoerle, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Bobby Unser, 3 time Indy winner; John Herlitz, Designer, Chrysler Corp.; Linda Sharp, racer;  William Jeanes; author, writer , publisher R&T and Car and Driver; Peter Brock, designer, engineer, racer;  Gus Ehrmann, Bonneville Record Holder (MG Special), Denise McCluggage, author, writer, racer;  Tim Considine, actor and automotive writer; Peter Egan, writer R&T;  Matt Stone , author , editor Motor Trend; Brian Redman, 4 time world endurance champion;  Chuck Queener, artist;  Tom Kowaleski, PR Chrysler Corp and GM;  Risch Ceppos, writer and racer;   Brock Yates, author, writer, racer.


John, sincerely, thanks for the memories.

Lots of good friends in this photo, and I am missing them all - those who've passed, and those who are still here, but due to COVID running rampant in America, I will never see again.

John Crawford

Thursday, April 8, 2021

BENTLEY IN AMERICA - MAKING A MARQUE (Part 3) - by John Crawford

Establishing a presence for Bentley in the lifestyle media scene in the USA demanded a dedicated resource, and I was thrilled when the PR Manager from our central European office in Berlin, Annette Koch, accepted our offer to join the small PR team in Detroit.


We could never have achieved the results we did without her unwavering commitment, her European style and sophistication, and her complete focus on the challenge.

Over to you Annette ….


When I arrived in Michigan in 2003, the range of programs encompassing the automotive media were coming to fruition, and we decided it was time to broaden the appeal of Bentley cars, so we immediately implemented programs focussing on the ‘lifestyle’ outlets of the American media scene.


Consistent with our whole PR approach to the challenges of establishing Bentley as a new brand, and also introducing a consistent set of brand values across all sections of the media, I was assigned to infiltrate as many levels of the lifestyle media landscape as we could, with quite meagre resources, and the task of targeting the luxury and fashion industry, personalities in the public eye, and eventually entwining these activities with Bentley cars, to complete the circle.


PR Director John Crawford gave me whatever resources he had available, but left it entirely to me, to develop programs which would appeal to a range of creative types, who probably never envisaged that ‘their brand’ could work with a British automotive icon.


Ultimately, this led to me spending quite a lot of time in New York, and occasionally Los Angeles and Chicago, as I created a ‘model’, or modus operandi I could utilise consistently across the country, which would deliver results. 


Starting with the fashion industry, it was of course impossible to attempt high visibility sponsorships associated with high value consumer brands, because we simply didn’t have the budget. 

However, I did identify a lot of opportunities in the luxury business as such, which would bring the Bentley name to prominence, albeit in a more circuitous manner.


The contacts which we successfully established were a combination of three opportunities: Firstly, partnerships which Bentley Motors headquarters in Crewe, UK had built and which we transferred to the respective representatives in the U.S. such as Breitling watches for example.

Secondly, contacts introduced by the branding agency Visual Therapy, which we took on board to help us.

The principals, Joe Lupo (right) and Jesse Garza were invaluable in helping me understand the ins and outs of the American lifestyle media; the high society landscape; and luxury buying patterns.

And last but not least, contacts which we established ourselves by having a clear focus on key publications, socialites and media personalities. 


The timing could not have been better: We had just launched the new Bentley Continental GT, a stunning grand tourer and the perfect combination of power, performance, presence and luxury.

It appealed to the Zeitgeist: Traditional British craftsmanship; German technology; and a very contemporary and understated design. All of a sudden Bentley was an aspirational brand.

And yet, it still remained a huge task to make it known in such a large and diverse market as the USA. To make it appeal to people who had previously not thought of buying a premium luxury car, or who had no understanding at all of what a modern Bentley would even look like.


This led to the idea of the “Bentley VIP Party”: Its goal was to show Bentley in totally unexpected surroundings, to a completely new audience.

So, to launch the Continental GT on the West Coast we showcased it like a piece of art in the Gagosian Gallery on Camden Drive, Los Angeles.

Gagosian guests included Denis Franz and Buzz Aldrin

In New York we put it into the new and trendy Heller Gallery in the Meatpacking District which was quite a bold move at the time. 

In New York, Kim Cattrall headlined our Party

By partnering with likeminded luxury partners for the parties, for example NetJets, Breitling, a variety of jewellery brands, and British luxury hotels such as Claridges or The Connaught, we introduced our brand to a whole new clientele.


And at the same time, we made best use of a limited budget as all partners contributed financially to the events. Alongside media partnerships with The Robb Report, Hamptons Cottages & Gardens or Ocean Drive Magazine, for example, we added another lifestyle dimension to our events. And generated coverage in our target media outlets.


We even contrived to become involved on the fringe of New York’s Fashion Week, with a low budget partnership with the new and growing fashion label Alice&Olivia, discovered by Visual Therapy.

The label was started by young designer Stacey Bendet (right), and true to Joe Lupo’s predictions she went on to become a major designer, now selling in 50 countries!

So, it was just the right way to attach Bentley to Fashion Week – rubbing shoulders with Fashion Week’s major, multi-million-dollar sponsor, Mercedes-Benz! 


Vanity Fair's Amy Fine Collins (above), dedicated a chapter of her book “The God of Driving” to the Bentley Continental GT. The book describes how she managed to overcome her fear of driving, with a talented driving instructor.

Amy's book launch event in New York was very high-value exposure. 

Yet, arguably, the biggest coup was that we managed to become an integral partner of one of the most important fixtures in Hollywood’s society calendar: The Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscar Party. This is where we auctioned off the first Bentley Continental GT to be delivered to a US customer.

In addition to fantastic visibility, we were thrilled to contribute to such an important charity.


Annette Koch


Annette returned to Europe in 2006, taking with her all her experience and achievements, and went on to further entrench Bentley into European media, working with Bentley dealers in Moscow, Kiev, Riga, Tallinn, Warsaw, Stockholm, Athens and Copenhagen. She was an invaluable asset to establishing a credible image for Bentley in America, and Europe.

The original idea, to introduce automotive coverage into lifestyle magazines eventually began to pay off, with magazines as diverse as Architectural Digest, Harper's Bazaar, Forbes, plus the cover of The Robb Report.

Having Bentley widely accepted as a premium luxury performance car in its own right, after years of being hidden in the shadow of Rolls-Royce was achieved in just four years.

It's also interesting that the overall shape of the latest Continental GT has only changed with detailed design evolution, rather than complete change.

As the years went on we celebrated original Bentley buyers from the art and fashion worlds, who re-purchased newer Bentleys, like Cindy Crawford, Ralph Lauren and Australian singer Delta Goodrem.

I am very confident that the multi-layered approach to giving Bentley a ‘push’ into, then, the world’s most competitive luxury market was exactly the right recipe, especially given the careful allocation of a relatively low level of resources.

I think the end result, where Bentley posed with fashion models; was used as an accessory in fashion shoots; winning major automotive design awards; and the Brand used as a reference for precision and quality simply completed the circle we started in 1998.

However, the most significant contributor was the combination of innovative thinking and hard work by my own staff, Deniz and Beth, plus Annette Koch's innate sense of style, and a tremendously experienced and energetic PR agency in Los Angeles, JMPR, led by the inexhaustible Joe Molina.



John Crawford

Tuesday, April 6, 2021


The first European explorers to venture into what is now known as the Indian Ocean, and sailed east were the Dutch, which began trading for spices in what is now Indonesia, from the earliest part of the 17th century.

The first Dutchman to chart Australia’s west coast was Willem Janszoon, aboard the Duyfken in 1606. After that more than 30 European expeditions visited Australia’s west and southern coasts, but Dutchman Willem de Vlamingh first saw what is now Perth, in 1697.

In 1826 the colonial capital in Sydney ordered the establishment of a penal settlement at Albany, in the south of Western Australia, just in case of annexation by French explorers.

However, the most significant information about the west coast came from an expedition by British scientist-mariner, Matthew Flinders, aboard a small ship called Investigator, when he completed the first circumnavigation of Australia between 1802 and 1803.

Perth was first established in 1829, in a settlement party headed by Captain James Stirling.

Perth, viewed from Kings Park

Evidence of indigenous tribes in the Swan River Basin has been archeologically-dated to have occurred over a period of more than 38,000 years, and the main tribe was known as Nyoongar.

The city sits on the Swan Coastal Plain, backed in the east by the Darling Scarp, a range of low hills.

Today, Perth is a vibrant multicultural city thanks to the influx of a wide variety of Europeans who settled in the area after arriving from long sea voyages, prior to and after the establishment of the Suez Canal. There are large communities of British expats, plus big groups of Germans and Italians.

The makeup of Western Australia’s early residents changed dramatically when gold was discovered in 1890, in the eastern goldfields, which are about 380 miles east of Perth. 

Large numbers of Chinese workers arrived, and were recruited by miners as labourers. There was also a large influx of Americans who left the USA, as the gloss went off the west coast gold rush.

Wine seems to have replaced gold as the new ‘thing’. Wine growing began in the Swan Valley in 1830, but in 1960, winemakers were looking for more ideal conditions.

The narrow coastal strip between the ocean and the hills of the Darling Scarp enjoys extremely fertile conditions, especially around Margaret River, where the cooling breezes from the Indian Ocean create ideal conditions for vineyards. The Great Southern wine-growing region is an area 200 miles wide and 100 miles long, and is now responsible for some of the world’s finest wines.

After departing the city of Perth, the beginnings of this Great Drive must include a visit to the port city of Fremantle (right), which enjoys the retention of a large number of old colonial buildings in its downtown area, along with an extensive variety of fine dining restaurants.

It's a big fishing port too, with a large variety of fish restaurants around the inner harbour.

The main coastal road is Route 12, but when you reach the town of Mandurah, look for directions to Route 1. This drive takes you past a number of large lakes, and through the Myalup State Forest, where you begin to appreciate the unusual trees which are native to Western Australia.

Just under two hours from Perth you will reach the city of Bunbury, but continue along to the town of Busselton which makes a great lunch stop, and brings you in close contact with the ocean beaches which offer great waves for surfers.



In Bunbury Route 1 heads inland, so look for directions to Route 10 (Bussell Highway), which follows the coast.

After you leave Busselton, you will reach the township of Margaret River, about four hours south of Perth. As this is now the main centre for wine making in Western Australia it has attracted world class restauranteurs and wine makers.

Margaret River

There is a wide variety of accommodations, from 5-Star to budget, and Margaret River is the ideal place to pause for a few days, and visit not only the vineyards, but also the beaches and the surrounding national parks.

South of Margaret River, Route 10 goes inland, but Route 250 south will lead you to Boranup, and the Mammoth Cave. 

Mammoth Cave

Rejoining Route 10 (Brockman Highway) you will enter dense forests which reveal the huge variety and majesty of Western Australia’s native trees – the karri, jarrah, marri and tanglewood.

Route 10 continues to parallel the coast, but is well inland as most of the coastal region is made up of extensive sand dunes. This road connects once again with Route 1 (South Western Highway), and at Walpole the road becomes the South Coast Highway, which you will follow to journey’s end at Albany, about 340 miles south of Perth.

Albany’s colonial settlement predates Perth and Fremantle by two years.


Albany Town Hall
As Western Australia’s only deep water port, it was the first port of call for ships from Europe, however after Fremantle offered deep water port anchorage in 1897, Albany’s importance as a port declined, and the surrounding area turned to agriculture and timber felling.

Also prominent was whaling, as the Southern Ocean is a migrating path for Southern Right Whales and Humpback whales, and Albany’s two whaling stations operated from the 1950s to 1978.

During the First World War, Albany was the last stop in Australia for troops heading off to fight in Europe, and there’s a large Cenotaph statue commemorating the hundreds of thousands of Australians who signed up for the Great War.

Albany has a wide variety of accommodation and restaurants, but perhaps not quite 5-Star, as its popularity as a tourist destination began to level off in the 1990s.

However, with its Mediterranean climate, and extensive parks, tourist drives and well-preserved history, it is an excellent stopping point, before returning to Perth.

John Crawford