Murray’s initial idea was to enter an S2 Bentley from the early 1960’s, the concept being a leisurely “gentleman’s” drive from Peking to Paris in a motor vehicle that had not previously participated in the event. However an email to Philip Young regarding the suitability of the big Bentley for this rally, and his immediate and detailed response, quickly shot this idea down in flames. Philip’s email reply:
“…The Bentley S2 has not been favoured for Peking Paris in the past because it’s too heavy. However, there is no such thing as an ideal car for this. Weight is though the biggest single enemy you face. Most cars are far too overloaded. Ground clearance is minimal, and you have a big overhang front and back so it’s difficult going up the banks of mountain streams, rivers, or muddy gulleys. You would need a lot of substantial underbody protection, adding to the weight. The engine is heavy, so its working the suspension overtime, the suspension will need to be rebuilt doubling the spring-rate of the springs and having shock absorbers designed to suit the new spring rate, the rears would need to be reinforced also, as the rear of the car now has to keep the long range tank you will build off the ground. A lot of engineering work to consider and this will take a great deal of time…”.
Mercedes 450 SLC
Murray’s love affair with Mercedes started as an 11 year old when his friend’s father drove the two boys to tennis on Saturday mornings in his 1963 220SE, cream with red upholstery and a column gearshift. In the 1960’s it was quite rare to see a Mercedes on the road in Australia. Many years later, Murray bought his first Mercedes, and has been loyal to the marque ever since.
The Mercedes was now the obvious choice as they have such a strong build quality, are blessed with reliable engines, and many different models were successfully rallied in the 1960’s through the 1980’s.
Now which Mercedes to buy for the rally? The decision was quite easy, as the SLC was a highly successful rally car in its day, and they can be picked up very cheaply, being a surprisingly unloved classic. We bought the 450SLC specifically for the Peking to Paris rally. Our search criteria were basically all about finding a car that was well looked after and strong body-wise and mechanically. Adam inspected a number of cars and found one from the Gold Coast in Queensland which satisfied our criteria. The car was a two owner vehicle in very good condition, which has now been transformed into an enduro rally car. The only problem we both had with the car when first purchased was the colour – bright yellow! Changing the colour was our first decision!