Thursday, January 13, 2011

Good dirty fun

Watching the Dakar Rally highlights on TV each night has partly inspired this posting. In my diecast cabinet there are a few French cars from the 60s and 70s that thoroughly enjoyed a bit of good, dirty rallying fun, and did pretty well, too. Here are some of them.

The Citroen DS21, which was the moral winner of the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon.
Just 98 miles from the finishing line in Sydney, drivers Ogier and Bianchi were so far in front
they were uncatchable (if nothing went wrong). On a stretch of road that was supposed to be
closed to the public, the Citroen had a head-on collision with a Mini (reputedly driven
by two off-duty policemen). The Citroen was wrecked and Bianchi badly injured. Paddy
Hopkirk, who was coming second, arrived on the scene in his Austin 1800 and threw
away his chance of winning the event by turning around and going for help. That left
Andrew Cowan, in a Hillman Hunter, the winner. But that DS21 became part of Citroen
legend, one of the greatest Citroen feats ever. This model (1:43 by Atlas) is parked near
Uluru (Ayer's Rock) in Central Australia, but the London-to-Sydney route didn't actually
go through here. I just like the look of Uluru as a backdrop for my DS21. 

This 1:43 Norev model is the Peugeot 404 Injection which Bert Shankland drove to victory in
the 1967 East African Safari Rally. Bert, a Peugeot dealer from Tanzania, was the man to beat
in those days. He won the 1966 rally, which was very wet, and the 67 rally, which was very
dry and dusty. In 1968 his car blew a connecting rod 150 miles from the finish, while he was
insecond place, rapidly reeling in eventual winner Nowicki in, you guessed it, a Peugeot 404.
There's a great quote from the Aussie Frogs website where I found all this good info, about
the 1968 finish. "On the ramp at Nairobi the (second-placed) Huth Ford Lotus Cortina was a
mess. Its door pillars were cracked. Its windscreen was held in place with rope. It had no
clutch, and it failed a brake test. In contrast the Nowicki Peugeot looked all ready to go
around again." The Peugeot teams always went for toughness as a priority, while the
faster cars invariably seemed to break.

This is the Peugeot 504 which came in 9th place in the 1976 East African Safari Rally, the
one where Mitsubishi scooped the pool with a 1-2-3 finish in their Lancers. The first Peugeot
504 home was driven by that man Bert Shankland who came in fifth. The car pictured here
(a 1:43 model byAltaya) parked outside a Masai village in Kenya, was driven by Jean-Pierre
Nicolas and Jean-Claude Lefebvre. Just finishing was a great achievement. Of the 65 teams
which started, just 14 finished the 4950km rally in Kenya. Nicolas and Lefebvre went on to
win the 1978 Safari Rally in a Peugeot 504 V6 Coupe.

At this stage of proceedings, let's have a look at those 404s and 504s in action, in Africa. Good dirty fun indeed!

But wait, there's one more! Move forward a few years, to 1979, and the first-ever Paris-Dakar Rally, an interesting car with a great Paris-Dakar story to tell.

Here's the home-modified Peugeot 404 Pickup driven by mechanic/car builder Marc Andre and
his co-driver Philippe Puyfoulhoux. Powered by a 2-litre Peugeot 504 engine and modified to
include a larger cab (that included504 seats), the Pickup took 1000 hours of work to look
this good. (I'veplaced this 1:43 model by Norev on a rocky hillside in the Atlas Mountains).
How did it go? Brilliant and bad, I'm afraid. The bad news is that sand got in via the timing
pulley, and they had to pull out. The brilliant news is that they repaired the engine and
continued directly to the finish at Dakar. Once there (ahead of all the competitors still in
the race) they entered Dakar legend on the final day, at the last stage of the rally on the
beach. Thierry Sabine, the event organiser, asked Marc Andre to open the track and warn
the public that the competitors were coming soon, and of course the crowd lining the
finish, including press photographers, went wild, thinking the 404 Pickup had won! I found
out all about this car at a French website (use your Google translator) and forum, which
includes several pix of this 404 in the 1979 Dakar. You can find it here.


  1. Another great write-up. The Dakar coverage here in the U.S. is atrocious. And this year, they've completely ignored the trucks.

  2. Hope this helps. Our local multicultural Australian TV station, SBS, does good updates each night. You can watch them online here:

    And they like trucks as much as you and I do!