The Mission

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.

Monday, 3 March 2014


So the big day has arrived and Richard and I drive up to Whitney to meet Paul, the vendor of the Buick, and go through the handover process.

It's a beautiful day  in the Cotswolds and Paul and Richard are already there when I arrive.  The car looks great and much bigger than in the photos - it weighs 1.5 tonnes unladen so on a rally it's total weight is around 2 tonnes.  Paul is extremely knowledgeable and takes us through the car mechanically and I become increasingly terrified as he does so because every other sentence starts, "when this goes wrong you just unscrew this bit and put a new one in - easy." To a mechanical novice like me it sounds anything but.  Paul has brought along two lever arch files of information on the car. It was originally built in Canada and shipped to South Africa, which is why it is Right Hand Drive.

Richard and I take the car for a drive. It feels enormous on the road and we both drive about three feet out from the kerb.  The steering is very imprecise, more like steering a boat than a modern car and the brakes are something else - at the first junction I thought it wasn't going to stop. The engine is new, producing 120 bhp against the original 90. Paul trashed the old one on the Inca trail in South America and the new engine was built in the US around an original 1936 Buick block.  It looks and sounds wonderful and the car burbles along like Mr Toad's, with it's open top and yellow and red paintwork the car attracts a lot of attention.

It's only got three forward gears, the gearbox is like stirring porridge and it's easy to smash your hand on the dashboard when you change up to second. Paul thinks fitting a four speed box would up the top speed to 80 mph from the present 70 mph.

Whilst we are at RPS, the winners of the 2013 Peking to Paris Rally - Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown - pull into the yard and give the Buick an admiring glance. They won in a 1930's Chevrolet, not unlike the Buick and also prepared by RPS.

We hand the car over to Simon at RPS who is going to check it over and then put it into storage until he has room in the workshop to undertake the upgrades we want. Then its off to the pub in Filkins - The Five Alls - where we have a splendid lunch with friends who live nearby. That evening both Richard and I are at a fancy dress party where I go as Dick Dastardly from Wacky Races - Richard refuses to go as his sidekick, the dog Mutley, much to my disappointment. 

Sunday, 2 March 2014

2 Kings

Richard has quite an extensive correspondence with Paul , the vendor of the Buick.  Paul has a huge knowledge of rallying and a whole stable of cars, mostly Bentleys, that he uses for rallying.  He suggests a compromise price of £55,000 but as part of this he will deliver the car to RPS in Whitney Oxfordshire from his home in Salcombe - a good 7 hour round trip - and he has eight boxes of spare parts.  The deal is struck but Richard and I are away skiing for a week so delivery has to be deferred until our return. In the meantime Paul sends us some incredibly useful spreadsheets about what he takes on a rally and what he now leaves behind. He has self-published many books about his adventures:

Paul's Blurb Page

1 Kings

Simon has driven down to Salcombe in Devon to see the car. It was dreadful weather and parts of the country were in flood, so we are very grateful to him for his efforts.  He's written a report for us on the car that basically says it a gem but needs attention. On the phone Simon tells me that he would spend about £10,000 on the car and his report recommends a price of £50,000 compared to the ask of £60,000.  Richard sent the report to Paul, the vendor, asking for his views (click on the jpeg files below to read the report):