Sharon’s ODT article

Below is the original copy of a article written by Sharon, which was published in the June 26, Otago Daily Times newspaper .


CAPTION: Neville Jordan (left), of Wellington, and Bruce McIlroy, of Ashburton, rest from participating in the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge, alongside Mr Jordan’s 1922 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost near Vilnius, Lithuania, at the weekend.

PICTURE: Kel Fowler


By Sharon Fowler

After three years of preparation and 35 days on the road, New Zealanders Neville Jordan and Bruce McIlroy should complete the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge this Saturday [June 30].

The transcontinental rally had been gruelling and had demanded much stamina and courage, Mr Jordan said near Vilnius, Lithuania, at the weekend. “What I’m looking forward to, is being able to say ‘we did it’.”  By the time they reached Vilnius, Mr Jordan, of Wellington, and Mr McIlroy, of Ashburton, had driven 9,500km of the almost-13,000km timed, competitive event in Mr Jordan’s 1922 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.

It had been hard work for cars and people, Mr Jordan said. The two men had sometimes slept as little as four hours a night, and six hours was a luxury. Their accommodation had ranged from tents in the Gobi Desert of Central Asia, to a top hotel in Lithuania.

As of the weekend, the New Zealanders were second in their Pioneer category and were part of a Silver Ghost team which was winning the category as a team. It was the pair’s first time on the rally, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary. One hundred and thirty vintage cars had left Beijing, formerly Peking, on May 27. Some had broken down and were running again but not competing, he said. He thought about 70 cars remained in the competition.

During the journey, the landscape had included flat, agricultural land in China; the starkness of the Gobi Desert; the beauty of northern Mongolia, and the mountains then lush steppes of Siberia, he said. Their first night of four in tents in the desert, a sandstorm struck. Sand filled every nook and cranny and they wore goggles while sleeping. The following morning, it rained: “All the sand turned to cement.”

The 85-year-old Silver Ghost had performed well. The main problem had been breaking a spring on rough tracks in Mongolia. The men had found a welder to fix it in the capital, Ulaanbaatar. The welder used only sunglasses to protect his face, and a helper wearing cotton gloves held a plug with live wires as an extension cord. “It was a scene from Dante’s Inferno”, Mr Jordan said. “But the workmanship was superb.”

People’s reactions to the vintage cars passing through their cities and countryside had varied as much as the scenery. The Chinese had been friendly and curious, and loved touching the car’s metal and the Wellingtonian’s arms, probably because the Chinese lacked hair on their arms. The New Zealanders saw hardly anyone in the Gobi Desert. In Ulaanbaatar, some people wanted to experiment with the Silver Ghost’s door handles, while others tried to jump on the back of the moving vehicle.

In Siberia, many family groups wanted their photograph taken with the car, and also wanted to feel the solidity of its metal.  Police showed interest in the vintage car in the Russian capital, Moscow, he said.  The police stopped the travellers a few times, asking to inspect the car’s engine.

The Silver Ghost is named “7KG”, which is its chassis number. Businessman Robert McDougall, of Christchurch, transported the car new from the United Kingdom to New Zealand in 1922. Mr Jordan said it had been re-bodied but other than that, was the original car. He believed it was the most original vehicle in the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge.

A variety of vintage cars was parked near Vilnius at the weekend, some dusty from the long journey. Some of their drivers seemed still keen, others exhausted. Countries represented included Australia, Finland, the United Kingdom, USA and Uruguay. Another New Zealand entry was that of Harold McNair and Anne Thomson, of Hamilton, driving a 1930 Delage D8S.

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