The Nicaraguan police force and mechanical misdemeanors were just two of the challenges faced by a heroic team of three Austin Sevens as they travelled from Buenos Aires to New York from 20 February to 12 June.
Tackling the journey were seasoned Austin enthusiasts Jack Peppiatt and Amanda Peters in their 1933 RP DeLuxe Saloon, River Dukes and Diana Garside in a 1929 Chummy (a wedding present from Diana’s mother) and Stan Price in his 1932 RN Saloon.
The trio would follow the same route as Austin Seven adventurer John Coleman whose book, Coleman’s Drive, had inspired Peppiatt to plan the expedition.
Peppiatt said: “My uncle gave me an Austin Seven at the age of 16, complete with its rear axle on the back seat. He told me that the car was mine, all I had to do was fit the axle.”
Having completed the work and read the book, the plan to tackle Coleman’s 1959 route was firmly etched in Peppiatt’s mind.
“I would meet Coleman some years later and shared with him my plan to retrace his steps and he wholeheartedly approved,” said Peppiatt.
The trip followed the original route of Coleman, who died in 2010, as closely as possible, starting in Argentina and travelling through Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, before catching a ferry to Panama and on to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and, finally, the USA.
“One of the hairiest moments of the trip came after an accident in Nicaragua,” added Peppiat. “A three-inch lip from the road to the verge and a sudden gust of wind caused River to come off the road and brush some farm workers.
“The police arrived and River had to spend the night as a guest of the Nicaraguan constabulary. No one was seriously hurt in the accident, though, and we were soon sent on our way.”
Car trouble was also a factor, although maybe not as much as you would have thought on such a gruelling escapade.
“In all we suffered 10 punctures, while Diana’s Chummy required a new gearbox,” said Peppiatt.
One of biggest problems, though, was broken piston rings, which resulted in an engine rebuild and head polish in Lima thanks to local mechanic Javier Garaycochea.
Peppiatt said: “Without Javier we would have been sunk I think. His contacts and extreme helpfulness saved the day. We have a large vote of thanks to offer him and his workshop staff and contacts – the engine’s still running strong 6000 miles later.”
Diana’s Chummy, Feisty, would require similar work in northern Panama.
The trip has since drummed up international interest, with Peppiatt’s blog receiving more than 30,000 reads.
All of the cars (including Coleman’s original Seven) will be on show at the National Austin 7 Rally at Beaulieu, Hants on 7 July.
Joining them at Beaulieu will be an Austin Seven that’s travelled even further.
Guy Butcher and Eunice Kratky recently completed an 18,000-mile, eight-and-a-half-month journey in a 1928 Chummy. They drove from Baltimore to Alaska and then down to Tierra del Fuego, the tip of South America. Read their story at www.bespk.com.
Photos: Jack Peppiatt