Let’s roll back 50 years to 1968. A plan is being hatched for an epic endurance rally from London to Sydney. A rally that was set to become one of the most famous endurance rallies’ in history and would pave the way for a series of new events. Let’s roll back 50 years to 1968. A plan is being hatched for an epic endurance rally from London to Sydney. A rally that was set to become one of the most famous endurance rallies’ in history and would pave the way for a series of new events.
On November 24, 1968, more than 250 people from 19 nations set off on a 10,000-mile endurance rally from London to Sydney. Crossing 10 countries, competitors encountered officious border guards, gangs of rock-throwing children, treacherous driving conditions, collisions, breakdowns, injuries, wayward dogs, livestock, camels and kangaroos, millions of spectators crowding the roads and even bandits. Among the professional drivers were a large number of enthusiastic amateurs, many of whom had never raced in their lives.After a stop off in Bombay, there was a 9-day sea crossing to Australia. Once in Perth, Australia, the rally re-started on the 14 December with a 3,000-mile trek through the outback. Finishing in Sydney, on the 31 December.
All marathon rallies shared one thing, the need to drive for days non-stop at speed on roads, many of which were unsuitable for cars. The 1968 London to Sydney Rally was conceived in 1967 by Sir Max Aitken, Tommy Sopwith and Jocelyn Stevens over a dinner to “raise the country’s spirits” at a time of despondency where the devaluation of the pound was making life tough in the UK – especially for those involved with the British Motor Industry. The event would be sponsored by the Daily Express who would be the media conduit to this championing of national pride.
Starting from Crystal Palace on November 24th, the route took them 7,000 miles across Europe and the Middle East then down to Bombay in India for a nine-day sea crossing to Fremantle in Australia. Then followed a 2,600-mile-high speed blast across Australia to finish at Warwick Farm Raceway just outside Sydney on the 18th December.
The teams had everything thrown at them. Blocked roads, snow, desert the risk of bandits and for the private entrants, including the Duckhams team, the need to maintain and repair the cars themselves!
Cars entered were a varied selection from the BMC 1800 ‘Landcrab’, Hillman Hunter (winner) Ford Cortina, one early Escort, Citroens, Vauxhall, Rover, Porsche, and even a Moskvitch and a pre-war Bentley!
Of the 100 cars entered, there were 98 actual starters and 55 official finishers. The final results for the top three were:
1) Andrew Cowan / Brian Coyle – Hillman Hunter
2) Paddy Hopkirk / Tony Nash / Alec Poole – BMC 1800
3) Ian Vaughan / Bob Forsyth / Jack Ellis – Ford Falcon GT
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this incredible event, a group of enthusiasts lead by Ted Taylor and Andrew Bradbury from the Historic Marathon rally group, assembled as many of the cars and personalities as possible for a reunion and celebration at the British Motor Heritage Centre at Gaydon in Warwickshire. Our PR Manager Wayne Scott, was master of ceremonies for the event and interviewed a number of celebrities linked to the event in the intimate surroundings of the motor museum such as Paddy Hopkirk, Alec Poole, Brian Culcheth, Mike Wood and so many others as can be seen in this highlights video from the museum: