Peking to Paris June/July 2016 – Rob Garnsworthy/John Teasdale

Postscript – the Boss lives!

Huge effort to rebuild the Boss, co-ordinated by Vintage and Classic in Clayton, Victoria – now a better, stronger and lighter car. A lot of new sheet metal, the same stunning running gear. Just completed 9000 kms across Australia without any problems whatsoever.. On Cable Beach Western Australia July 2017

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The Wrap up

Race is over – in the Classics, Mark and David in the Z totally deserved to win, great car, great team. Ludo and Julia in the incredible Volvo in 2nd and first time Aussies, Adam and Murray in the Merc holding onto 3rd – amazing effort. Would have loved to have been there but……! Do it again? Don’t think so – the whole event is so long, so relentless, so fast and I personally disagree with the “no helmet” policy on timed stages. The car is a mess, but we think it can be saved – almost “deserves” to be rebuilt. Plenty of less onerous events/trips out there .. Right now it is heading to the UK and then to Australia. Will analyse the reason for the Off – may never know – probably driver error, or maybe something broke – angle on right front wheel is a bit weird so worth investigation.. Not the result we were hoping for but an amazing adventure – as one competitor’s T shirt read, “ADVENTURE BEFORE DEMENTIA ” says it all really!

Day 25 – out of raceIMG-20160709-WA0001

  1. Crashed out on a test that had a minimum time so under 80 kph – should not have happened and not really sure why – into a ravine, rolled once and landed on its wheels. John ok- mri monday on suspected fracture in vertebrae but clear to walk and sit up – bit wobbly and in some pain but that will come good. Could have been much worse other than for very, very, strong car. Is a bugger, but that is what an argument with a tree can do! Having come so far and having run so well, very disappointing . All ok though and cars can be replaced. .. not a good place  to park..
  2. What have we learnt?  We have proven you can build a Mustang to be competitive across Mongolia – nobody has done that before. We made a lot of correct decisions – first and foremost allowing Vintage and Classic in Melbourne to build the car. Tyres/tactics/pressures/Springs and shocks in Mongolia all worked. John fast learnt gps navigation and when we did make errors we recovered quickly. Plenty of driver errors and probably one big one. In hindsight we concentrated so hard on Mongolia and we should have concentrated a bit more on Europe and tarmac. The car was blindingly quick but possibly under braked HOWEVER anyone who ever heard it under full throttle will never forget the sound!!
  3. Thanks due to Raz and his team, my old mate and co-driver John, to Gonzo in Ulaanbaatar,  Dmitry in Novosibrsk, David in the UK and all those around the world who contributed so much to the build of the car and one giant adventure. On these events you meet fantastic people, some of whom remain friends for life and they have been very supportive. Lastly without ERA and their team it would not happen…From here my daughter tells me it is rocking chairs and slippers – we’ll see😊

Day 24 to Brest and 25 into Poland

Sitting at the Polish border expecting a 3 hr wait. Yesterday was a challenge – 2 closed road stages and did each twice. Very soft cut up sand – way too hot into a left hander and beached – pure driver error but got away with it managed to back it out after 30 seconds – could have been way worse.  Biggest problem was that camera crew caught it all – straight to the highlights reel and no amount of bribery will help! Next 3 stages much neater. Third placed Volvo driven by friends Ludo and Julia gained no time on us – still 20 minutes.  Very fast Aussie Datsun driven by tarmac racer David  Giner is 24 minutes back but he will close – 31 timed stages left. The Boss stays healthy and no more errors – who knows but still a long way to go. New tyres await in Budapest and brakes will be in Slovenia.  Hanging in there…Aussie “Green Voters” – 450 slc Merc doing very well, red Datsun 240 Z which is the lead car driven by Mark Pickering – deserves to win, the P76 of Gerry Crown who has twice won the event + us. Lot of Aussie cars at sharp end…

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 Day 23 into Belarus – Minsk

Yet another really long day – over 600 kms and four timed stages. Across the border early and no issues but all of a sudden the roads are much, much better – all the appearances of a more affluent society – neat and tidy, great roads – might be a mirage – more research needed. Currency is an issue – just paid 570,000 Belarus  rubles for a bottle of wine – does my head in. Great day with the car – do not have results of the 4 stages but suspect no or little time lost on 4 chasing cars. All dirt, all fast, one with a  tropical downpour mid stage. Pre race favourite Gerry Crown in a ditch – flew out and landed other side of the road…. hmmmm. Our mindset is to ignore 1st – just watch the challengers behind and maintain the buffer. Tyres a potential problem but David Thomson of Vintage  Tyres Beaulieu Uk has been brilliant and organised 4 new ones into Budapest at short notice to replace the ones I have destroyed! David was the guy to send 6 others into Russia! Given where we are, we are throwing everything at it! New brakes coming in from Australia. .  Running 2nd ex Russia way beyond expectations and all dates back to Mongolia – quite a few driving errors we got away with and very few navigational errors by John where others lost heaps of time. Avoiding big cock ups has been the key and still is.. In reality we expected to be less competitive in Mongolia  and more  competitive in Europe – now looks to be exactly the reverse. ..Still 2nd…

Car Park in Minsk

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Play time…

Day 22 last night in Russia

Another long day with two timed tests – both on race tracks – the first being closer to a go kart track and the second much more our style and thunder at Smolensk about 80 kms from Belarus. Task now is very much about managing the “gap” – we have some 20 minutes over 3rd and 4th and 27 minutes over hard charging very talented David Gainer – right now the fastest guy in the field BUT with 40 stages left he has to beat us by some 40 seconds per stage – as long as the car stays strong, that will be very hard. We are preserving the car, he is running hard – how that all works out will be known in a week! Short term, Nissan Dealer very kindly help us with more work on brakes with a wash thrown in to shed Russian and Mongolian dust… Cost $40!

21 to Zavidovo

Not far from Moscow and 600 km from St Petersburg – 2 more sleeps in Russia and then into Belarus.  One of my objectives was to have dinner each night as car would be ok – almost missed tonight! These are very long and draining days one after the other 500-600 kms on roads that range from goat tracks to highways – throw in some tests, often nightmare traffic, time controls to be met and it is hard but we have it easy – many of the older cars are out there for 12+ hours and then have to fix their car! Today first up a race track – saving tyres but pace ok. We can’t catch Mark Pickering  – if we tried would fail and probably break something.  All we can do is to try to “manage the gap” to third and fourth and hope the car holds together. As we get into Europe proper, nature of event changes and smaller more nimble cars come into their own on much tighter roads. But, the “danger cars” are 20-30 minutes back -that is a lot to catch up as days run out. The gap we opened in Mongolia is gold, however all cars and crews are tired – stuff is going to happen. Tonight we had to change the front disc pads – unscheduled but took time and testing – some of the track speeds are high – they need to work! Way better than most, every km you seem to hear a different noise…

Day 20

What was meant to be a a quiet 460 km transit did not quite work out that way. 40 minutes prior to our late start as second last car out, walked around the car, one tyre going down. Nail! ARB 4WD kit, stuck a plug in it – held all day. In my haste then knocked the fuel pump to off, set off 200m on 8 lane highway, engine cut out… brilliant!  Then it was just a long drag over crap roads BUT we now have two of the brand new tyres compromised so track tomorrow will need to be conservative. We simply cannot afford to trash another tyre. Objective from here is to make Paris and be on the podium – what position – dont care! We know Gerry Crown will be coming at us so we will concede some time over the next few days and then see where we are at..

Day 19 to Kazan

This was always going to be a tough day – 628 kms and 4 timed stages. When we we woke to the day 18 results to find the hot little Escort in 3rd place driven by Nigel and Stephen had a problem – all of a sudden our buffer  over 3rd,  had gone out to 18 minutes… Change of strategy required. .. The first 3 stages were  perfect Mustang roads – fast and open – problem – they were wet red clay and mud – anything tight and/or wet will be a problem for us. Keeping it more or less straight was a challenge.  No disasters. . 4th stage was Kazan race track – fast and furious but proved to us that the first car driven by Mark Pickering is out of reach.. We were actually the fastest car on the track by a mere second but it came at a price – damage to one tyre – keep that pace up we will trash tyres and come unglued. Now need to button it back and try to “manage ” second or third. The challenge is multiple winner Gerry Crown is fast recovering time – to preserve the tyres we may have to conceed some time.. The problem with the Escort highlights “Mongolia fatigue” – nobody knows how badly their car has been damaged in Mongolia including us – metal fatigue is a real issue… Mongolia looking back, was really really tough – no respite…

Day 18 – into Europe

No stages today but very big day coming up with 628 kms and four tests. Early night. We have reached the half way mark and crossed from Asia into Europe. Crowds everywhere to see the cars

– diverted thru the small town of Chusovoy – drove around their athletic track, up a podium – all good fun. Little gremlin in the steering box, hope it will all hang in there at least till Poland – first chance we get to ship in parts with a reasonable chance they will get there!

Day 17 to Yekaterinburg

Was to be a realtively short day with one stage which again was cancelled – heavy rain has made them impassable BUT they arranged a rally cross at local track – 400 hp, road tyres, bellowing Mustang that as one spectator put it “filled the valley with noise. .” .No big errors – backed off for a dip – we need to “manage” what we do from here on.. Locals like the car 😊

Day 16 to Tuymen

Another long transit of 675km – was meant to be a time check but also cancelled – places unchanged in 2nd. “Should be” a gravel stage tomorrow – car now an inch lower with new wheels so hopefully not too rough. Now pretty much half way .. I have a few “hero cars” on the rally – Mini that goes thru pot holes and gullys bigger than it while the leviathans alongside it have long gone home and stunning DB 6 Aston Martin that really should not be here but each day rolls on, complete with pack rack wallowing like the Queen Mary in a heavy sea, BUT NOW it has a new set of shocks from, wait for it, a LADA – Russia’s own! Brilliant..

Day 15 to Omsk

Today and tomorrow long transit days 700 + 650 kms. We were to be on gravel for 300 but road closed – still a very long day as fast cars start at the rear, we did not get away till 0951. 100-120 kph all the way. Easy on the car though and makes it much easier for cars at the pointy end of the field to stay there.. Car is running so well you would hardly know it has crossed Mongolia – stunning build by Vintage and Classic – thank you Raz! Number of cars rejoined in Novosibrsk including the former front running Alfa and the former 3rd placed 911. There is a European Cup from Poland on – no doubt they will be after that – we don’t care – we would love to stay in a podium position – lead Datsun 240 z and highly credentialed crew too quick and too good for us but a long way to go…..

Day 13 and Day 14 rest day Novosibrsk 

What was going to be a very hard and long day 13 turned out to be just long! Early stages were cancelled – too wet and muddy – for those cars trying to catch up,  not helpful. For those cars in position but tired, like us, grateful.  One stage late in the day, very sandy,  not “Mustang country ” – only ok but no disasters.  Just wanted to nurse it into Novosibrsk for the rest day. I had organised for tyres to be shipped into Russia c/o my new Russian friend Dmitry and on friday night he offered to guide us to a workshop on Saturday morning – what a find! Could not have been more helpful. 6 new tyres and rims, all new  filters,  grease and oil change,  wheel alignment and weld up a hole in the exhaust. We have gone to road tyres – may be inspired or stupid – next 10 days will tell but car is now my first “hybrid” – half rally car and half  tarmac racer😊. Looks sensational! Attracts a crowd – must have had 30 kids sitting in it tonight…. Young Yura – Dmitry’s son , my new lightweight co driver

 

Fun in the sand

Day 12

A long day with one test and then a drive down a sweeping stunning piece of road that Top Gear never discovered – if it was a little longer it just might be the best road in the world surrounded by snow capped mountains and hardly a car on it. Afternoon a little problematic – split second timing btn timed controls.  Tough navigating but think we nailed it. Plenty of rain and mud. In Aya tonight – most preconceptions about Siberia are wrong – stunning so far (in June!).

Day 11

First objective “Survive Mongolia ” met! YES! Short day and now into Russia. In reality we are doing way better than we expected – great car and some luck BUT it is a very long way to go…..

Day 10

It got worse! We have “inherited” 2nd place which is a big surprise but means you need to push a bit to stay there – is a balance – how hard?  On a very rough, rutted and wet stage with “rivers” running down the track we badly bent two wheels – fortunately the tyres stayed inflated till we could change them. Add water crossings to make it interesting. Another 2 cars rolled – not good – field apparently now down 20 something cars.

Day 9

Brutal – three very hard and long stages of 12/40/50 kms in gravel and very soft sand. Car continues to impress everyone including us! Vintage and Classic did a great job. Lead Alfa retired.20160620_221346

Day 8

Originally planned for 3 stages but heavy rain and all cancelled – happy as there was 300 kms of the worst car breaking corrugations I have ever seen and I have seen a few! They did add a new stage which was a sort 3km blast up a mountain  – 6 seconds off fastest… The scenery when you get a chance to look, is truly stunning – even the campsite…20160619_063717

Day 7

Could be driving in European alps or Montana. Only one stage and on the pace. Where it is real easy to lose time is gps navigation – we are running two Garmins and fast getting the hang of it but if you get off course, recovery costs time. However it was “moving day” – the lead Alfa and the third placed Porsche 911 both got into trouble . We had caught the 911 on  stage that suited us and he was really struggling with the corrugations. Into 2nd..

Day 6

Nightmare getting out of Ulaanbaatar – 1 hour to do 6 kms. 2 stages and doing ok – do not think we are overdoing it but keep moving up in the ranking. Roads go from bad to diabolical but it is the length of time effectively “off road” that is breaking the cars. Very late into camp and refuelling a pain. Capri rolled but incredibly is still running. Owner with humour ” Glad I only spent £700 on the paint job..” less happy when two days later his already trashed hood was on the ground and run over!20160618_085304

Day 5 “Rest” Day Ulaanbaatar

That was the theory. .. Australian contact Gonzo Sanchez could not have been more helpful. Once the car was in the air plenty of front suspension issues. With Gonzo’s knowledge of the roads ahead, we need to back off. Means of getting the car in the air was interesting. .!20160616_092542_resized

Moved into 5th overall in classics as others broke or got lost – we are in survival mode for next 5 days so that is likely to slip with s0me highly credentialed drivers and cars ahead of us.

Comms and posts will be bad to non existent!

Day 5 to  Ulaanbaatar

Rough and windy night but three fantastic stages – all long 20-40 kms which is a long time for me to concentrate!  Car is just fantastic – fast, stable, easy to steer and makes the best sounms d on full song.. Will see how the results end up but should be ok. There are hazards however  – lot of broken cars today including the front runners. Lots of blind crests, some off camber, plenty of wash aways – hit any too hard or fast = trouble. Speeds are quite high – fastest cars will be over 140 kph in pretty rough terrain – bit too quick for me. Important stuff on the car is terrific – few ancilliaries falling off like front indicators,  one rear not working, horn works when it shouldn’t. Suspect the list might grow! “Rest” day tomorrow – a contact via the Australian Mustang Club has an engineering business in Ulaanbaatar – should be able to help us get the car on a hoist. In the meantime – different kind of Mustang.20160615_150908

Into  Mongolia Day 3

After 3 hours at border the real test starts! It could have beenanywhere in the Aussie outback – fast rough gravel for the first 40km stage. You are confronted with 3 or 4 or 6 tracks all heading in roughly the same direction – navigation, GPS waypoint to waypoint – pick the wrong track and you end up going cross country to get back on line. Starting to get the hang of it. Second stage a little shorter and we did better. We won’t run with the very fastest cars but we are not being disgraced either. First night camping – friendly!20160614_184653_resized

 

Datong to Erenhot Day 2

Purely a transport day to get us to the Mongolian border but a long one  – 600 kms, from snarling city jams to sand swept roads through country that looked very similar to the Aussie outback except there were 4 lanes of tarmac with zero traffic and 130 kph was a cruise! They are quite literally rebuilding China – massive contruction everywhere and “pop up” new cities..  Car is fine BUT it is raining and tomorrow after crossing into Mongolia the real action and competition starts in what may well be mud. Hmmm… There are probably a dozen cars out there to win this event  – they will be gojng way faster than us – we will try to hang around and see what happens, at least that is the plan! Through Mongolia,  comms will be hard to impossible. .

Beijing to Datong Day 1

Early start to  get to Great Wall – a wee bit lost but recovered with some “spirited driving ” No penalties no problems. Highlight  – total truck gridlock blocking our path and many others. Chinese gent in fresh white shirt and like Moses parting the waters, parted the trucks! Gave him a hat! Much cleaner air since my last visit but new cities like Datong not for me. Nothing too serious till we get to Mongolia on day 3 …

In Beijing

Always a worry – will it be damaged, will everything we shipped still be in it, will it start? Worry way too much – all good, fired on first turn of the key, filled with gas, back to Shangri la hotel, pack and repack – no issues.  One Mustang however out of 4 entered, the Swiss car, clutch failed and we have not started.. Hmmm…. Time for a beer..

The lead up….

Build a car and drive Peking to Paris? Why not?

Always a romantic idea when you read the story of the original P 2 P – cars and drivers that did absolutely incredible things to cross two continents without roads, maps or supplies – East to West – toughest rally in the world, why not?

Add romantic ideas to Jack Nicholson’s “Bucket List”, throw in a health scare while training for a trek in Nepal and a general belief that “you should not die wondering” – why not indeed….It helps, of course, to be “slightly mad”….

I had the time and there was a whole wide world out there to explore. Multiple trips through the stunning Australian outback, a long distance rally from Buenos Aires to Ecuador across the Andes and an ill-fated attempt at the Classic East African Safari where the wheels literally fell off shortly after the brakes failed. Two incidents in the same day, either of which could have killed us..!

A lifetime love of classic cars, particularly those of my impressionable youth in the 1960’s led to the purchase of a couple of Mustangs in 2011 – a 1967 Convertible and an absolutely stunning 1966 Shelby GT 350. One thing led to another until I added a 1967 Shelby GT 350 in 2012 with the express intent to drive it across America which we did in May 2013. 6500 miles in 5 weeks – a trip that changed my attitude to classic car ownership and put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces. Using them was a lot more fun than showing them! A trans-European trip in the same car for 2014 and in two years, I had put on more miles in a classic Shelby than most owners do in 10 years. What next? Sitting reading the reports of the 2013 Peking to Paris event, the answer was obvious!

One of the 2013 contestants drove a 1964 Holden that was built by Raz Hansen of Vintage and Classic in Melbourne, Australia, my home town and logical first stop – a decision I have never regretted – he and his team, Ryan, David and Mathew, have been fantastic to deal with. Raz was very incisive, you can do the event in something entirely logical like a Porsche, Peugeot, Mercedes, Volvo or a Datsun, or you can simply stay with your passion – in my case a Mustang. Given we had done the East African event in a close cousin to the Mustang, a 1971 Ford Falcon, and that had nearly killed us, it was an entirely illogical choice as I have been frequently reminded! Rally pedigree of a Mustang? Almost Zero!

As to which Mustang, it wasn’t going to be either of the Shelby’s! 1967 -1970 was the range and why not go with a car that had a genuine competition heritage – a 1970 Boss 302, admittedly Laguna Seca tarmac is a long way from Mongolian gravel, but there was some logic! These cars have been raced continuously for 45 years and all of the weak points, for circuit racing at least, are known and lots of “race quality” parts are available at not ridiculous prices. Still a very long jump to a transcontinental event on tertiary or “no” roads…. What gave us some encouragement was the fact that a 1967 Mustang, in the hands of very talented Kenyan driver Ian Duncan, had actually won the East African Classic Safari …..Was not quite “stock” – one leaf and twin coils!Mustang Susp Duncan

Tony Conover in Pennsylvania had sold me the Shelby’s, “just happened” to have a 1970 restored Boss for sale. It wasn’t a “show car” but it was well put together and arrived in Australia in Oct 2013 stuffed full of parts out of the race catalogue. The plan was pretty simple, strip it down to its bare bones and build it up again into a formidable long distance rally car – engine that would run on 90 octane, gearbox, differential, wiring, front and rear suspensions, seats, belts, full roll cage, a reinforced shell and, of course, air con! It had to be raised 3” and needed serious under body protection – the objective was survival not winning, although we wanted to stay true to its competition heritage – noise, power and a degree of drama was important!

As delivered ex USA

Boss 302

Much as I love them, when you strip a Mustang, you can see why they were inexpensive! In this case US$3,189 + 4 gallons of gas for $1.28 – no wonder fuel economy was not exactly top of mind! When we stripped this car it  was solid other than the driver’s floor – notorious weak spots in these cars and we replaced both. While it was in the panel shop, in the knowledge that it was going to have a 2-3″ lift and run All Terrain tyres, all the guards were widened and extended – if we hit something hard on full lock, we weren’t going to rip a guard off or slash a tyre. Beautiful work by JC Classic Cars in Mount Evelyn. No way was this car going to survive Mongolia unless it was heavily modified. Mustangs have previously attempted Peking to Paris and have run into a few problems – reading their trip reports, talking to them, looking at the car, we had some work to do and the Budget was already blown. The power of the World Wide Web came to our aid via the Mustang Club of Australia Forum – I asked what knowledge there was out there on classic Mustang rally cars and had an instant contact with Phil Wickham of Mustang Spares in Kitchener, New South Wales – Phil had been building and rallying Mustangs for almost 50 years! Raz and I went up to see him and he has been nothing but helpful ever since.

All the historic race experience + Phil’s off road experience confirmed one thing, the Achilles heel was the front end, very unsophisticated, nowhere near enough travel and nowhere near strong enough. Everything else could be made strong enough but the front suspension was a problem. Noted!

When we took the Falcon to Africa, we blew the front towers apart, pretty much on Day 1. Hindsight is seldom wrong but there is no way that car was strong enough and it was a good lesson on the importance of getting the cage design right, the longitudinal and cross bracing of the car, the gussets, the reinforcing, the spot welds, the seam welds and the bump stops. In Africa we ran rally tyres and while the car handled brilliantly, there was another lesson to be learnt, this time from our Outback travels….

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In the Australian bush, on sometimes heavily corrugated gravel roads, most people run their tyre pressures way too high – the car bounces from corrugation to corrugation, the shock is taken by the suspension and the passengers! The old timers and the experts do it very differently, they drop their tyre pressures significantly and “roll over” the corrugations and rocks rather than bounce over them. We have been doing just that for years in 4WD’s and it makes a massive difference to the ride. Very early in the design of the P2P Mustang, we took the decision to run All Terrain tyres in Mongolia rather than rally tyres – we could safely drop the pressures, improve the ride and critically, take the load off the front suspension. It would be a tradeoff, speed for reliability but as we not out there, or capable of “winning the event”, seemed like a smart trade!

The drive train involved fewer decisions and a well-trodden path. Given the need for low down power, the probability of low octane fuel – the high compression, high revving Boss 302 was not going to work. A new engine from Orger Engines, stroked Ford 302, 9:1 compression, 2V steel heads, mild cam, 650 Holley – all very low tech but it runs like a dream and has more power than we really need! Overdrive is allowed in the Regs, many cars running 5 speeds as some of the distances between fuel stops can be quite long – 500 kms or more. A TKO 5 speed, modified by Mal Wood in Queensland, with an overdrive 0.64 and mated to a 9” LS diff with a 3.5 centre. 100 kph = 1800 rpm. The fuel tank is off road, 4 wheel drive strong, 105 litres, gently driven, 550 kms is possible, 600 km if we really try!!! A single exhaust with a “skid plate” on the muffler, tucked up as high as possible along with all fuel and brake lines with added protection against an errant rock. Everything underneath the car has been built firstly, to avoid hitting that “rock” and secondly, if [when!] we do, surviving the damage!

The suspension involved a great deal of thought. The rear was not much of a problem, specially made leaves to “Phil’s special formula” to give us the lift and ride we needed, massive Koni, re valved, Landcruiser shocks “solve” that problem – we hope…. Front end a bit more problematic… The issue was always going to be the shocker size and the amount of travel. The period race cars also had a nasty habit of cracking shock towers and a lot of work has gone into the strength and bracing of the towers, getting the bump stops right so the shocks do not bottom out, reinforced Upper and Lower control arms from Opentracker CA.…. It now has more ground clearance than my Land Cruiser!

Brakes – originally we went for upgraded discs and retained the rear drums – subsequently we have gone to 4 wheel discs!

However a long distance rally car is not just about the running gear – 36 days in a car is a long time, the cabin has to work, the storage has to work – bit too old to have it really basic and fatigue will be an issue. Another trade off – sound proofing and carpet weighs a lot! One of the biggest constraints is the need to carry two spare wheels – once a cage is in, where do they go and how do you access them? We solved that problem by replacing the rear window with a removable Perspex window – the two spares could be bolted down in the rear seat area with the weight right over the axle. Storage between the wheels for items we hoped we would not need, like the clutch plate! All the wiring has been replaced, provision for the Monit trip computer, Garmin GPS, additional power off takes and the inevitable chargers! The original gauges on the Boss are really hard to read so they have also gone – new binnacle and new Auto Meter gauges. Switch gear now on the transmission tunnel, where it can be reached, all the little map pockets etc. to make day to day a little easier. Originally we fitted Corbeau seats – worked ok for one event but we found a small crack in the frame so they have now gone and been replaced by full race seats – just safer in the event of a major accident. Off road, dust is inevitable – it gets into everything. Modern cars have problems, a 1970 Mustang, good luck! There are an extraordinary number of “holes” in the Mustang where dust [and water] can get in – you will never stop it all but we have tried, new seals, air vents closed off, close attention to the firewall, window gaps, lining in the doors and still it gets in but we will be better than most!

Interior
Interior

The trunk has its own “design”. Clearly you have to carry a load of spares, most of which you hope you will never need so we decided on a “false floor” in the trunk. Parts are bubble wrapped and vacumn sealed with a “master plan” as to where they are stored. Breakdowns never happen in convenient places and sometimes happen in the dark, so knowing “where stuff is” can save a great deal of time. Above the false floor, are all the things you will need every day…. That is the theory anyway!

Theories and ideas are terrific but they need testing! The car was ready to test in late 2014 and the plan was to run it for about 4000 kms in Australia and then enter the “Road to Mandalay” an 8,000 km Rally starting in Singapore, into Malaysia, Thailand and back through Burma. Nowhere near as tough as Peking to Paris, but a great way to test the car and bring ourselves up to speed as to how these long distance rallies worked – same organisers Endurance Rally Association – UK.

ERA have been running long distance rallies for years but the Road to Mandalay was a “first” for them – tarmac, gravel, special stages and regularities http://www.endurorally.com/pages/road-to-mandalay. With low expectations, out there to learn, the Boss, “out of the box”, was very impressive – a few minor issues and one big one, brake fade from repeated high speed stops. On one very fast 10km tarmac stage we had an intermediate time control requiring a complete stop – that was “sort of” ok, but the final time control wasn’t! Missed it by 20 metres!!! Hence, we now have 4 wheel discs + different pads!

A 6th place result surprised us and could have been a bit better if we understood “regularity” stages where split second timing is required to hit the prescribed average speeds – we improved very quickly but 3 minutes of penalties for stupid things did not help! The suspension however did get a workout!

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Back from Asia “with a list” of things to do, mostly minor with the exception of the rear brakes and replacement of the sway bar. Some very smart ideas, fuel pumps “in tandem”, spare accelerator cable in position, ready to clip on, a hard look at our spares list and equipment. We changed rims to more rugged and lighter steel rims and gave a lot of thought to tyres – All Terrains across Mongolia but we know they will be a problem on tarmac once we get to Russia.

The testing revealed, under pressure, a bunch of other little problems and that is why you do it! We have now done 18,000 kms in this car since Nov 2014 – one event and a lot of testing… Whether we have done enough, only time will tell and the proverbial 20c part could still stop us …

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Aspirations?

For most entrants it is all about the “adventure”. For entrants in the older cars, I have the greatest admiration for them, but think they are completely nuts! For us, no delusions – there are many teams in the event with way more experience and skill than us. The Mustang is really well built, however the rally results of the 1970’s do not feature many Mustangs do they? We start with the “wrong car” – little doubt the Porsche 911’s, Datsun 240 Z’s, some Volvos and Mercedes, the extraordinary P76 that won the event in 2013 will be much faster!!!! First objective is very simple – “survive Mongolia”!  Next objective is “get to Paris”. Last objective is to “have dinner each night” – that will mean the car is ok!! Meet those objectives and the results will also be “ok”! The “problem” is that the car is very fast, if we use that speed, it is going to break or I will do something stupid, so the “challenge” for the Navigator, is to “slow down” the Driver!!!

The Route:

P2P Route 2016

13,695 Kms, 35 days, 11 countries, two continents, the Great Wall of China, the “no roads” of Mongolia, 12 days in Russia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland and finally France….Greatest motoring adventure possible on 4 wheels? Probably…

Countdown:

Boss ex Vintage and ClassicApril 3rd – two weeks away from shipping, parts all labelled, vacuum packed and listed. It all fits, just, however the camping gear is bulky and takes precious space – can be offloaded to a homeless Mongolian! Final 300 km test, wheel alignment and off to the Docks… Vintage and Classic crew want it back looking just the same! Possessive lot….

Check and check again… What have we forgotten? Not a lot of shops in Mongolia……!

June 8th – flying to Beijing today and hopefully re unite with car on Saturday  – will be relieved if everything we shipped with the car is still in it! Moment of truth will be when we re connect the battery and it fires up!  Then, the inevitable paperwork and repack..