Around the World in 80 Days Motor Challenge

Octagon Newsletter … April 2000

By Doug Ingram

A few weeks ago I rented the film “Around the World in Eighty Days”. Made in 1956, it is an adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel about a Victorian Englishman named Phileas Fogg, who enters into a wager that he can travel around the earth in only 80 days. He finds a whole world of adventure. Noel Coward, John Gielgud, Charles Boyer, and David Niven (in the lead role), appear in a fun, satisfying, and truly entertaining movie.

The adventurous spirit displayed in this film lives on, and brings us to the following subject. The Around the World in 80 Days Motor Challenge.

In the last 100 years, almost every possible venue for motor sport has been raced or rallied. But there has only been one previous attempt to circumnavigate the globe by car … the 1908 New York to Paris Rally. This year’s event, which begins at the Tower Bridge in London, England on May 1st, sets out to emulate those motoring pioneers from nearly a century ago and is the very first timed event to lap a full circle of the earth. A daunting rally, it measures time, speed, and distance, with a set route for each day‘s travel. This is man and machine versus the elements, against the scenery of some of the most spectacular routes on earth and a real test for those who face the challenge with older cars.

This is a drive through Europe via the Carpathian Mountains into Poland, the Ukraine, southern Russia, across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and into China through a high mountain pass north of Kashgar. Down the Silk Route, skirting the remote Taklimakan Desert, and on to Peking. There, the competitors and their cars will be airlifted to Anchorage, Alaska and onwards through the wild terrain of the Yukon and Klondike. The route enters our own province, passing through Terrace, Smithers, Prince George, Williams Lake, Kamloops and into Alberta through Banff. Then south and across the continent through the northern United States to New York City. Another airlift, this time to Casablanca, Morocco and then along the fringe of the Sahara Desert to Tangier for a short ferry crossing to Spain, on through France and back to the start line in London. All in 80 days!

Many cars from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s are participating. Priority is to those whose basic design predates 1960. There is, of course, a British Car connection to this event. The oldest is a 1913 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost and there are two pre-War Bentleys as well. Three Aston Martin coupes and a single Jaguar XK140 FHC are on the list. Sorry, not even one MG is taking the challenge, but the sporting heritage of the Austin-Healey marque is well represented by two 3000 models.

There is also a local tie in to the story. Jim Walters, who owns Bristol Motors here in Victoria, is the co-driver of a 1938 Packard Touring Sedan along with Lennox McNeely of Toronto. No doubt Jim will have great stories for us all when he returns.

Significant media coverage of this event is expected, so watch for reports of what surely is the greatest motoring adventure ever conceived. I know I’ll be along … if only in spirit.

For more information, check out http://www.carnet.co.uk/rallyoffice.

1938 Packard

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