This month, I have mostly been reading…
Think of some classic competition cars from the Sixties. From spindly Formula 1 cars to classic Jaguars and Galaxies on the saloon car circuit, to the Ferraris and GT40s at Le Mans, to the slingshots and muscle cars on the drag strips. Now think about BMC 1800s, Hillman Hunters, Rover P6s, Volvo estates and the Citroen DS.
Those are the sorts of cars that competed in The 1968 London To Sydney Marathon, which also happens to be the title of the book I’ve been reading this month. In November 1968, almost 100 cars crewed by a mix of professionals and amateurs set off from Crystal Palace on a 10,000-mile endurance rally through Europe to Bombay, via the Iron Curtain, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, then onto a ship for Perth, then across Australia to Sydney.
A proper adventure, with European Autoroutes, the Khyber and Lataband mountain passes and the Aussie outback to contend with. Author Connor has spoken to many of the competitors
and teams, and compiled their reminiscences and anecdotes about the rally. Coupled with excerpts from newspaper accounts at the time, and peppered with mostly black-and-white
photographs, it paints a superb picture of what was a rather British adventure before the even more life-threatening Paris-Dakar rallies came along and upped the ante. It’s a superb read, and must have been a real blast of an event. Speaking of a rather British adventure, that’s the only thing that bugged me about the book. It’s a Brit, writing about an event that went from Britain to a British colony, featuring mostly British competitors, yet Connor had to go to America to find a publisher? And it’s written in American!
Bloody tires and liters and whatnot. Still, it doesn’t detract from an excellent and entertaining history. The 1968 London To Sydney Marathon is written by Robert Connor and published by McFarland & Company Inc.