A dinner in the Oak Door at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo in December 2013; Matt’s innocent “Do you think Doug would be interested in driving from Peking to Paris?” to Doug’s wife Laura and here we are.
Having paid our entrance fee we had to decide on a vehicle that would manage to carry us from Beijing, across Mongolia, Siberia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, over the Alps and a finish in Paris nearly 14,000km and 35 days later.
A simple decision that would end up taking nearly nine months, countless telephone calls and email conversations. Scanning of “Classic Car” and “Classic & Sports Car” and a long-standing love of classic cars resulted in a very long ‘Long List’
We were told that without Works Team support we should not choose Italian – scratch Alfa and Lancia. We were too slow to decide that a Porsche, Datsun 240Z or Mercedes would have been a good idea as others chose quicker. Too poor (and too sensitive) to subject a Bentley or Aston Martin to the ordeal.
Peugeot 504 Coupe’s came and went, seasoned advisers suggested the 504 Saloon was a better bet – ‘but the Coupe is cool’ was not regarded as a sensible argument. The Volvo P1800 brought memories of ‘The Saint’ and led to the Jaguar XJS – too long and too fragile.
But the search led to a decision that it should be British and we stuck to the fact that it needed to be cool!
Much as we get on well, an Austin Healey was maybe just a bit too cozy (and too low) for 35 days and a desert. An E-Type offered amazing access to the engine as half the car is bonnet, though apparently the bonnet access would get better before we left China as it would likely fall off.
Toning it down a notch, a Triumph Stag offered performance, reasonable space and a suntan. Unlike many of the Vintage entries it has a roof so the suntan – along with windburn and regular soakings – was not enforced. Unfortunately, the roof was unlikely to stop the car ‘breaking in half’.
The desire to actually reach Paris and consideration that we had never rallied before and despite best efforts would probably take far too much with us reined in the wilder ideas and led to a closer study of what might fit the description a bit better.
The result – Grace, Space and Pace – a 1959 Jaguar MkII. Fast, comfortable, roomy and an understressed 3.8 litre engine – and British and cool.