The Peking to Paris Rally is a recreation of the 1907 challenge issued by Le Matin, "Is there anyone who will undertake to travel this summer from Peking to Paris by automobile?"
The 2016 version will follow a route of 13,695 Km (8,510 miles) and take 35 days. We are travelling in Rhubarb and Custard, a 1936 Buick. We know nothing about cars or rallying.
Friday, 14 February 2014
The Car is offered for £60,000 but offers are invited. and as Richard neatly pointed out, 'That's not £90,000'. So we allowed ourselves to get a bit excited and Richard sent an email to the owner for more information. As a result we got a lot of extra detail about the car. Paul - the owner clearly knows his stuff.
At this point Richard and I realised that we have to get serious about this and that neither of us know anything about how to properly assess a rally car. It's agreed that, for about £600, Simon from Rally Preparation Services will drive down to Devon from Whitney in Oxfordshire and inspect the car. Exciting times.
Thursday, 13 February 2014
As it happens he owns a Willys Jeep, built in 1944, which we think would be ideal for the rally. The organisers are not so keen as they want cars with more bling, and to make the rally look like its something more exceptional - 4x4s are not really in the spirit of the thing.
Richard discovered that a Jeep driven by Phil Surtees and John Bayliss actually won the event in 1997: John Bayliss' Blog of the Rally
Richard called Bayliss and discovered that he had spent £50,000 on getting the Jeep ready - so our idea of a cut price ride are wide of the mark. He also tells us that Surtees lost three fingers when trialing the Jeep and the brakes failed. The Jeep idea is dead.
Over some good red burgundy they unfolded their stories of eccentrics from around the world coming together to take part in this event, how much they had enjoyed it, and of the various adventures and disasters they had encountered. Bruce had driven a pre-war Bentley on his trip whilst Gordon's journey was made in a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. That trip took a route through Nepal, Afghanistan and Iraq, which is now closed.
Both Bruce and Gordon were adamant that we should do the trip if at all possible. They agreed with Simon Ayris that a 1930's American vehicle would give the least trouble. Other tips were to enjoy the experience, take it steady and to travel light.
Of course we also needed a car and Simon Ayris of Rally preparation Services had told us that we would need to spend £80-90,000 on a fully prepared Rally car. Many people do it for far less but they inevitably have more problems along the route.
Myself, Richard, Paul and Edmund held a council of war at the Royal Automobile Club in London's Pall Mall and concluded we needed to do more research before committing ourselves.
Simon provides many of the mechanics who support the Rally and is himself part of the back up crew. He spent considerable time with us. His advice was to buy a 1930's American car as these are mechanically simple and therefore easy to repair, have powerful engines, so are reasonably fast and have good ground clearance, and so can cope with rough roads.Since Richard has a strong aversion to breaking down we took careful note of what Simon was saying.
He said that the winners of the race tended to go at a steady pace rather than hell-for-leather. This was less stressful on the cars and the crew. His strong advice was not to miss the people and the scenery for the sake of going faster.
Simon had a number of cars for sale, ready prepared for this type of Rally, but we weren't yet ready to buy a car.
Modern Day Allure of Classic Cars
I was interested enough to ask Richard if he would like to go to a film night about the Rally organised at the Royal Geographical Society by the Endurance Rally Association. The film was a bit rubbish, but the idea of taking part in the 2016 rally began to form in our minds...