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.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Explorer Beard Day 20


Rally Day 18

This was the day when our ongoing engine problem got the better of us.

We broke down three times after lunch and at at that point Jamie Turner decided he'd had enough. He ripped out the entire fuel system and put a new one in. Pretty impressive for a roadside fix.

Suddenly it was as if Rhubarb and custard had shed 300 lbs in weight - this was a different car that had a good 10 Kmh extra top speed and could accelerate past the deadly lorries that fill the Russian roads.

But all this came at a price. We lost our gold medal and potential top 20 place. No glory for us in Paris now.

It's a shame that we couldn't get one more day out of the car because tomorrow is a rest day and we had plans to strip everything out to solve the problem. Events have overtaken us.

Broken down again

















Enamel ware

When we were driving onto the podium at Chusovoy on the way to Perm a very lovely lady thrust two Peking to Paris enamel mugs into our hands. She works for a company called Elros (www.elros-vip.ru) and they make nice things, do go on the website and support our fans.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Pop Quiz Answers



1.  Match the Chinese names to their meaning:
(a) Chi Cho - Motor Car (b) Huo Cho - Train and (c) Chi Chi - Panda

2. What do the letters in the brand name Fiat stand for? Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torinolit. 'Italian Automobiles Factory, Turin'

3. Name three American cars named after a word for Horse.

Mustang, Pinto, Charger

4. Rolls Royce. (a) in what year was Rolls Royce nationalised?
1971

(b) the development cost of which aero engine was blamed for the company's collapse
RB 211

(c) what was the company renamed after nationalisation
Rolls Royce 1971

(d) who now owns the Rolls Royce brand name?
Rolls Royce (licenced to BMW)

5. Which British Leyland car was styled by Pininfarina?
Morris Ital

6. Where in London is Sierra Drive?
Internal road on the ford plant at Dagenham 

7. When Mercedes Benz launched its 190 model it was rumoured that Ford bought one to find out how an innovative component worked. What was the component?
Wing mirror

8. Cars are sometimes rebranded around the world. Give the alternative names for the following:
(a) Oxford Ambassador (India)
(b) Rabbit Golf (USA)
(c) Keffer Beetle (Germany) 

9. The following towns had new car plants built for them. Name the cars that the plants initially produced.
(a) Speke Triumph TR7
(b) Valencia Ford Fiesta
(c) Mirafiori Fiat 131 Mirafiori 

10. Which cars were launched with: (a) hydra gas suspension and a square steering wheel Austin Allegro (b) the slogan '£795 - anyone who offers you a new car for less must have something missing'? Ford Escort Popular (c) the engine from the VW Phaeton. Bentley GTC

Explorer Beard Day 19


I have a shower


Russian Hotels


Tea making facilities, but no kettle. Fairly typical of inability to join the dots.

Trousers after washing


Perm


What do you expect from a Perm hotel window? Etc etc

Rally Day 18

As Wellington said of the battle of Waterloo, it was a damned close run thing - but, for the first time ever we didn't break down today. Oh sure we could barely get Rhubarb and Custard out of Yekaterinburg this morning, she was on death's door at every junction with a strange flat spot in the revs exactly where you expected the clutch biting point to be. It meant taking off at super high revs with smoke and fire of the devil belching from the exhaust; but strangely all was sweetness and light for the next 250 km until she just died in the usual way and we rolled into a Gazprom petrol station without any power.

After a routine bout of free form swearing (see below) we were considering opening the bonnet but instead counted to 20 and switched fuel pumps. Hey presto the engine came to life and we continued without incident. Does anyone know what is wrong with our car - we are completely baffled.

In other news we are now driving through pine woods instead of silver birch and it is slightly hilly instead of completely flat. I am bored.

Roads here are good to excellent with occasional giant pot holes. For the benefit of our Russian readers the correct English phrases to use when a 'can be seen from space' pot hole appears in front of the car are, "F*ck, C*ck, Sh*t, Bugg*r me and holy f*cking cow"

I had a bag of mini Twix ready to give out to the kids who mob the car but today I couldn't find it. I think Richard may have had a hand in it.

Local support





We cross into Europe


Pop Quiz

1. Match the Chinese names to their meaning:
> (a) Chi Cho (b) Huo Cho and (c) Chi Chi (1) The word for motor car (2) the name of a stuffed giant panda at the natural history museum in London (3) the word for train.
>
> 2. What do the letters in the brand name Fiat stand for?
>
> 3. Name three American cars named after a word for Horse.
>
> 4. Rolls Royce. (a) in what year was Rolls Royce nationalised? (b) the development cost of which aero engine was blamed for the company's collapse (c) what was the company renamed after nationalisation (d) who now owns the Rolls Royce brand name?
>
> 5. Which British Leyland car was styled by Pininfarina?
>
> 6. Where in London is Sierra Drive?
>
> 7. When Mercedes Benz launched its 190 model it was rumoured that Ford bought one to find out how an innovative component worked. What was the component?
>
> 8. Cars are sometimes rebranded around the world. Give the alternative names for the following:
> (a) Oxford
> (b) Rabbit
> (c) Keffer
>
> 9. The following towns had new car plants built for them. Name the cars that the plants initially produced.
> (a) Speke
> (b) Valencia
> (c) Mirafiori
>
> 10. Which cars were launched with: (a) hydra gas suspension and a square steering wheel (b) the slogan '£795 - anyone who offers you a new car for less must have something missing'? (c) the engine from the VW Phaeton.

Drinking game for the Sweeps




Begin forwarded message:

From: <Neil.Lawson-May
To: Jamie Turner
Subject: Drinking game

If you are in the mood here's a drinking game I've written for you.

Below is a short story in seven paragraphs. Hidden in the story are car marques and names, although not always with the correct spelling.

Read the story aloud (try to do the accents and voices if you can). Get the rest of the table to shout out when they spot a hidden name. The last one to shout takes a drink. If at the end of a paragraph you have smuggled a name past them they all take a drink. If you fail to smuggle any names past them you take two drinks.

Answers are at the bottom after the story.

Enjoy


It was already 5:25 and the consul was getting impatient. Where was Adam with those two cv's he needed? He opened the window 4 or 5 inches and the zephyr wind carried the sound of a Jazz singer from the civic square below, he knew the tune - it was 'Dat son 'o mine' by the Chevettes and it took him back to Cambridge and the East Anglia Fens.

Ah those undergrad days at Cardinal Wolsey College, sharing a room with Morris, "haven't seen him since that alpine golf tournament, what a triumph that was. We must hang out with him and Megan more often (on the other hand had he'd made the discovery that she could be a bit of a princess)."

The phone rang, it was Axel his driver, speaking in a heavy German accent. "Herr Ambassador ich haben ein problem mit traffic. Ve are 500 meters avay but cannot make any more transit. Ve double back and may back again in 20 oder 25 minutes if it does not rain because der vindscreen viper is kaput."

The long case clock between the stuffed heads of the impala and gazelle - he'd been a hunter once - chimed for 5:30. Damnation, at 18:00 he was due at the club - Manfred had promised to give him some daffodil bulbs.

There was a knock at the door - Mo Beele entered wearing a mini skirt. She was the alpha, beta and gamma of womanhood - what a minx! For some reason he thought she came from Bristol but it might have been Plymouth, anyway it was somewhere scenic.

"Here's those Lincoln sausages you asked for," Mo purred like a cougar. He blushed and offered her a seat but she explained she was about to leave. "Thanks for getting the sausages Mo, I've got nothing in the larder. I say you couldn't give me a lift could you - Axel's failed again."  Mo thought for a second and brushed down her skirt."  "Can you get into the back of my Twizzy? Some people thing it's a bit hairy but it's electric you know."  She looked down at his meat packet. "We can squeeze a few bangers in I'm sure."

Cedric gulped. Hang the polo club he thought, and for some reason he started to shake like a leaf.

ANSWERS

It was already BMW525 and the FORD CONSUL was getting HILLMAN IMPatient. Where was OPEL ADAM with those CITROEN 2CV's he needed? He opened the window RENAULT 4 or RENAULT 5 inches and the FORD ZEPHYR wind carried the sound of a HONDA JAZZ SINGER from the HONDA CIVIC square below, he knew the tune - it was 'DATSUN'o mine' by the VAUXHALL CHEVETTEs and it took him back to AUSTIN CAMBRIDGE and the East FORD ANGLIA Fens.

Ah those undergrad days at Cardinal WOLESEY College, sharing a room with MORRIS, "haven't seen him since that RENAULT ALPINE VW GOLF tournament, what a TRIUMPH that was. We FORD MUSTANG out with him and RENAULT MEGANE more often (on the other hand had he'd made the LAND ROVER DISCOVERY that she could be a bit of a AUSTIN PRINCESS)."

The phone rang, it was Axel his driver, speaking in a heavy German accent. "Herr AUSTIN AMBASSADOR ich haben ein problem mit RENAULT TRAFFIK. Ve are FIAT 500 meters avay but cannot make any more FORD TRANSIT. VW back and MAYBACH again in RENAULT 20 oder RENAULT 25 minutes if it does not rain because der vindscreen DODGE VIPER is kaput."

The long case clock between the stuffed heads of the CHEVROLET IMPALA and SINGER GAZELLE - he'd been a HILLMAN HUNTER once - chimed for BMW 530. Damnation, at AUSTIN 1800 he was due at the MINI CLUBMAN fred had promised to give him some DAF DAFFODIL bulbs.

There was a knock at the DORMOBILE entered wearing a MINI skirt. She was the ALFA, LANCIA BETA and LANCIA GAMMA of womanhood - what a HILLMAN MINX! For some reason he thought she came from BRISTOL but it might have been PLYMOUTH, anyway it was somewhere RENAULT SCENIC.

"Here's those LINCOLN sausages you asked for," Mo purred like a COUGAR. He blushed and offered her a SEAT but she explained she was about to leave. "Thanks for getting the sausages Mo, I've got nothing in the LADA. I say you couldn't give me a lift could you - Axel's failed again."  Mo thought for a second and brushed down her skirt."  "Can you get into the back of my TWIZZY? Some people thing it's a bit hairy but it's electric you know."  She looked down at his meat packet. "We can squeeze a few bangers in I'm sure."

NISSAN CEDRIC gulped. Hang the POLO club he thought, and for some reason he started to shake like a NISSAN LEAF.



Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Shirt - after being washed.


You should have seen it before!

Explorer Beard Day 18


Peking - Paris


From: Richard Price
Date: 28 June 2016 at 23:26:07 GMT+5
To: Neil Lawson-May 
Cc: Paul Rivlin 
Subject: Re: Peking - Paris

Neil

I emailed Paul today about this and that - and I mentioned that I am technically so incompetent that I am unable to make comments on your blogs .

I notice that no now else has either -  but i just wanted you to know that there are a number of us back in Blighty who are following you both and enjoying the ride (but probably happier that you are doing it rather than us ).

Good beard !

Good luck and safe travels 

best 

Richard 

Thanks Richard. There have been several comments but I can't publish them until I get a good internet connection. Keep them coming though. 

Rally Day 17





As far as I know this is a 35 day event that we are half way through, but like everything else here it's not so simple. Apparently if you take rest days into account the half way point is in two days time. Whatever the truth I can say that I'm now pretty exhausted and to be honest I had a low point this morning when yet again the car had the same old problems and we spent an hour by the roadside.

The sweeps were fantastic as ever and this time we changed the points and the plugs and stopped the persistent oil leak. We now have a new theory as to why we keep breaking down, which is that the oil spewing from the filter is getting into the distributor and causing ignition problems. Might be right.

Anyway we abandoned one of the competing theories which was that a vacuum was being created in the fuel tank, and put back the rubber seal on the petrol cap.

I'm sure I'm not spoiling the suspense by saying that the car behaved perfectly until the old problems returned just as we arrived at the hotel. Bugger bugger bugger bugger and bugger.

We are finally out of Siberia - God what a place. 500 years of fighting over who owns it and for what? Silver Birch trees, insects the size of your hands and wet fields - oh and somewhere to exile people. It's minus thirty in winter and plus thirty in summer unless it's torrentially raining which it often does.

Siberia breaks people. We've been delighted by the children we've met in the villages so full of country life and healthy outdoor living. But we've also seen how worked out and exhausted the adults are. Beaten by a hard life on this unrelenting land.

So what was the point of fighting over Siberia? Well, this is not a land to be enjoyed for it's beauty or majesty or wildlife (although mammoth and bears and wolves lived here once). This is land for exploiting. It's a place to grow wheat for Moscow and to dig for iron, copper, coal and to cut timber - all for factories far away. It's a place to hide things, political prisoners, religious non conformists, secret factories and even Lenin's body during WW2.

In another world Siberia could have been one of the world's great ecosystems. But it has been made almost sterile by its terrible 500 year Russian colonisation.

Tomorrow we are back in Europe.

Supporters Club

Samovar on the roof!

VIP treatment

Europe!

We reach Yekaterinburg and cross from Asia into Europe.

Bent the Jack!

Marshalling the Rally

We get overtaken

video

Call of Duty

Some COD maps from real Russian buildings.

Fuel tank

Lots of crews have had severe problems with their fuel tanks. They have aluminium tanks welded at the edges and the welds have given way on the punishing roads.

You are supposed to carry a packet of Starburst sweets to patch a leaking fuel tank. No one has ever asked me for a starburst so I've started to eat them.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Rally Day 17

We've outrun the Silver Birch trees.

Rally Day 17

The old problem returns after less than 10km

This time we replace the points and plugs. Seems to work.

What's happening to Car 22

Car 22 has my business partner Paul Rivlin and Richard Bowser in it. They got left behind in Omsk with a suspected big end failure, which would be terminal.

Here's their update:

Things look a little brighter . The problem is I think a big end shell caused by a broken pin perhaps .

They are repairing the bearing and making a new sleeve . They appear hopeful for tonight .

As I haven't slept much in 24 hours we will either leave early tomorrow and start to catch up or put the car on a trailer to Ekaterinburg and catch a plane train or taxi . So if Our plan works we might catch you tomorrow night

Explorer beard Day 17

Rally Day 16

Here's the missing text that goes with the day 16 pictures

"The floor of the hut was of hard black dirt. Outside the squiggly streets of Tyumen were either mud or dust according to the season. Lining the squiggles were horrid wooden huts. Sometimes wild pigs would rage into town and bite children to death...it was not a setting to sing about".  Irving Berlin - born in Tyumen where the rally has now arrived. 

I can imagine the squiggly streets and wooden huts Berlin describes because the villages along the way are just the same today. 

Richard and I stopped at a village shop that sold everything from bread to clothes amnd vodka and we bought some ice cream. We stayed around to watch our fellow competitors come through and shared our packet of mini Twix with the locals who came to watch. Richard found a fellow motorbike enthusiast who was keen for him to take his bike for a ride. 

The countryside here is unrelentingly dull. If you fell asleep in the car and woke up two, three or four hours later you couldn't be sure that you weren't being driven around in a circle. Richard and I have played several rounds of eye spy - something beginning with SB. The answer is always Silver Birch. When the landscape isn't silver birch there are dystopian industrial wastelands that belong in Call of Duty.


Another day of nearly 700 km and I thought I was going to be able to say that for the first time ever that we didn't break down. But it wasn't to be. The old fuel problem returned and we spent time at the roadside. 

Looks like we will have to flush the petrol tanks out and change the fuel pump filters but we can't do that until the next rest day. In the meantime we soldier on. 








Apologies

This is the first time I've had proper internet access since the rally start and I've now looked at the blog and I see that what I write gets muddled up and parts don't even arrive in transmission.

I can't correct it on the move. Hope it makes enough sense that you can follow along.

From now on I'll write shorter and more often.

Rally Day 16

"The floor of the hut was of hard black dirt. Outside the squiggly streets of Tyumen were either mud or dust according to the season. Lining the squiggles were horrid wooden huts. Sometimes wild pigs would rage into town and bite children to death...it was not a setting to sing about". Irving Berlin - born in Tyumen where the rally has now arrived.

I can imagine the squiggly streets and wooden huts Berlin describes because the villages along the way are just the same today.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Pop Quiz Correction

Sorry pop quizzers.

Mistake in the first para. Should have read 'Six matches in the knockout stages of major tournaments'. Not 'Six matches in major tournaments'

Pop Quiz

Richard is very excited about the England v Iceland Euro 2016 match tonight but he only scored 2 points in today's pop quiz:

Since 1966 England have won only six matches in leading tournaments. Those matches were:

1986 World Cup round of 16
1990 World Cup Round of 16
1990 World Cup quarter final
1996 Euros quarter final
2002 World Cup round of 16

One point for each of:
- Name the opposing team
- Name the score line
- Name the England Goal Scorers (except penalty scorers if any)

20 points are available.

Explorer Beard Day 16

New comment on Rally Day 14.


From: Алексей Филиппов
Date: 26 June 2016 at 18:45:58 GMT+6
To: n.lawsonmay@btinternet.com
Subject: New comment on Rally Day 14.

I'll kill ALex for his long tongue! And jokes!

Because of these jokes, Russian is not surprising bloated steoriatipam about drinking. We do approve these steriotipy. =)

But by the way, in the evening of Saturday, we're really drunk, discussing everything that happened in this amazing day.

Thank you for your confidence in us, communication, cool car and souvenirs (the bank's oil - the most valuable).

Good luck to you. I hope you enjoyed in Novosibirsk.

With best wishes and Alexey Filippov team APEX service.


Fuel Issues

Dear Richard

Hope this reaches you and helps.  

From: Paul Markland
Subject: Fuel Issues
Date: 26 June 2016 at 20:29:03 BST
To: Richard Nicholl

Richard

I am not sure you will get this but I have not been able to leave a comment on your blog.

Reading your blog with great interest, you appear to be getting there even if it is with quite a few problems.  On your ongoing fuel issue, I note you have overhauled the whole system but did this include draining and flushing both tanks.  If you did pick up bad fuel in the early days then it will just not go away unless you drain flush and refill tanks.

I you are forced to drive on 7 or less cylinders then take the spark plug out of the offending cylinder as this will prevent further damage.  The cylinder will not suck fuel in as it will not get suction with the plug out.  I had to do this in 2001 when I did 3000 miles on 5 cylinders.

Keep at it, the car is strong and I am sure you can make it, just don’t push too hard.

Best of luck

Paul Markland

Previous owner of Rhubarb and Custard



Rally Day 15



Here's what it looks like after a night in Novosibirsk:



Not bad eh?

The Aston Martin has had an upgrade as well and is now sporting it's Aston Lada badge



Today the rally headed across the Russian Steppes, possibly the most boring place on the planet. It's hundreds of miles of flat grassland interspersed with silver birch trees. There are no cows, pigs, sheep, or chickens to be seen. Indeed no farmers, labourers or farm machinery. There are no villages - only grubby towns on the rail line with huge grain silos where the summer wheat crop is sent on to Moscow.

If you lived in the steppes you would never go for a walk because there is no where to walk to. There's no point in cycling because everywhere looks the same. A family outing would be to another wheat field or silver birch grove. It's an impossible place. Driving it is a nightmare. The road is dead straight and never ends. Or it ends at Omsk where it might as well never end. Omsk was once a place for exiles and prisoners. Dostoyevsky was sent here and wrote:

Once again we've created a late night for the sweeps. It started this morning in Novosibirsk or rather Rhubarb and Custard didn't start. The fuel problem that's dogged us the whole way has erupted again. This time a faulty fuel pump was diagnosed but we have two so we managed to get going on the second one but we stopped again on the long road to Omsk - we actually got it going ourselves by switching to the supposedly broken fuel pump, all very mysterious. Now we were running late but - joy of joys - road closures meant that the rally was cancelled for the day and timing didn't matter.

A third fuel breakdown was witnessed by the sweeps (who also saw us getting it going again). It was agreed that we had better have a proper look at the whole fuel system. This involved taking out the fuel filters (again), blowing air through the fuel lines and rebuilding the carburettors. The top theory for our problem is Mongolian bacteria is living in our fuel tank. Let's see if the sweeps' hard work has solved the problem.




I had planned to write something about Siberia's history over the past 500 years as the Russians fought for control against the remains of the Mongol Empire in the form of the Golden Hoard and the Tartars. As we know, the Russians eventually won and their secret weapon was the Cossacks who acted as crack troops and adopted a 'Victory at all costs' approach. When I came to think about it I wasn't sure what a Cossack was but it seems they are Ukrainians who didn't want to be in servitude to the Poles and instead sided with the Russian Czar. This turned out to be a rough deal as one of the terms of their deal was that all Cossack men served 20 years in the Russian army.

Having subdued Siberia, the Czar promptly turned it into a camp for political exiles.

But I don't have time to give you a history lesson as I have much to report on the Rally.

First the Capri is back. Here's what it looked like after the roll:

Explorer Beard Day 15



Saturday, 25 June 2016

Explorer Beard Day 14


Rally Day 14



And God knows we needed help. Either side of us were cars 82 and 105, a BMW 2002 and Datsun 240Z. Both were washed before arrival which apart from making them look better made them easier to work on. Their crews obviously knew their way around a garage and professionally and instinctively used the ramp and power tools. All their kit was beautifully packaged and labelled and some even had the PtoP logo on it. They popped off suspensions, manufactured parts, cleaned their tools and interior and drove off while we still inspecting the fuel filters (again).

Alex, who rides dirt bikes and likes to drink, took me off to some kind of motoring Aladdin's cave to buy oil:



We also bought a Lada badge to stick on Car 95 - the DB5 that now has Lada suspension. The guys in the Lada shop thought this was very funny and gave me a special price.

Back in the workshop Alexy's girlfriend had called him home - 'why was he messing about with cars on a Saturday?' - or something like that. But the work continued. Track rod ends, wheel bearings and oil were all changed.








What are you doing this evening I asked the team? "Drinking", was the reply. That's Russia for you.

Eventually we were finished. Alex turned the key on the Buick and it ran like a dream. Big hugs all round. We signed our empty can of Halfords Classic Motor Oil. I signed Alex's dirt bike. They refused money but we pressed some Scotch and cash on them to help the evening go well.

After a full day in the workshop I was shattered - how do these guys do it? Many thanks all of you if you are reading this.

I gave the Lada badge to Jamie Turner. Let's see what happens.

Today is a rest day - some bloody rest!

We needed to find a garage to get Rhubarb and Custard running smoothly. To their credit the PtoP organisers have somehow linked up with local workshops and we were very courteously led to Apex Service Garage where Alexy, Alex and their team of friends, onlookers and car nuts helped us with the car.