Great Race Team ■
Royal Tour Caddy ■
2007 Peking to Paris
2010 Peking to Paris
2010 Peking to
Local Product makes its way around
the world one dusty mile at a time.
Fifth Avenue Antique Auto Parts
located in Clay Center is well known in the antique automotive
circles for their participation in the Great American Race (a
4500 mile race across the United States) and their work with the
movie studios. Now that list is getting a little longer with
their involvement in the Peking to Paris Car Rally.
History of the Rally
In 1907 the first-ever trans-Continental
motor-rally between Peking and Paris became an epic challenge
between a Prince and a Pauper – Prince Borghese had the best
funded entry and carefully researched the conditions of setting
out on a journey where the first 5,000 miles saw no roads, at
all, so, no maps and no garages. His chief rival was a
fairgrounds worker who until he read news of the race in a Paris
newspaper, Le Matin, picked up blowing in the wind, had never
even sat in a motorcar, so had no idea how to drive one.
Five cars set out from Peking, four made it to
Paris to a tumultuous welcome and world-wide fame – they had set
out to prove that man and machine could now go anywhere, they
hoped it would make borders between countries redundant. They
had left Peking with no passports – these had been confiscated
by Chinese authorities, who suspected they were spies, and had
no interest in seeing the success of the motorcar having just
invested in shares in the trans-Siberian railway.
The second Peking to Paris was not held until the
summer of 1997, when on the 90th anniversary, the first-ever
rally for classic and vintage cars was created to cross China,
and the first-ever rally to cross Tibet. Entrants camped at the
foot of Mount Everest, and cracked open the border between Tibet
The border at Friendship Bridge between Tibet and
Nepal had been closed for 40 years since it was slammed shut by
Chairman Mao – the 90th Anniversary Peking to Paris negotiated
the re-opening, it remains open today, the cars drove into India
and Pakistan, and were the first rally to cross Iran since the
1977 London to Sydney Marathon.
Lloyd Dahman of Chestnut Hill Mass entered the
2010 Peking to Paris Race with his 49 Cadillac. As Lloyd
I sought Randy out based on his reputation for
knowing how to prepare antique cars for a rally like this. The
word among the antique car rally people is that Randy knows what
he is doing and the specialty parts he builds for these cars
will exceed your expectations. I researched Randy and his
company further and found out he was successful in the 2007
Peking to Paris Race…I knew I had found my man.
“ Even though the choice of our Cadillac sitting
in the parking lot of the Hotel Shangri-La in Beijing may have
appeared to have been a poor one, its 7 inch thick frame
nonetheless allowed all of its tender bits and pieces such as
the muffler to be tucked up out of harm’s way. The Cadillac’s
suspension was simple and of the same robust design used on
other much heavier Cadillac models that year. The overhead valve
V-8 engine, new that year, was truly under-stressed as
demonstrated by the fact that later in the 1950′s, Cadillac
extracted nearly double the horsepower from essentially the same
However, there were some things we just had to
live with: principally the car’s weight, and its overall size,
as well as drum brakes that faded at the end of most timed
These are the “good” roads. The black
(at far left) is actually a car. Notice all of the
different paths to avoid the road hazards.
Day two offered Day two offered up one of the many,
water crossings to come. The truck was there just in
case and got quire a workout.
To put things in perspective as to how difficult
the route really was…we encountered the first of many water
crossings on day two.
“The second day was extremely difficult day for
everyone – rally organizers, competitors and equipment. Dozens
of cars suffered varying degrees of damage and even one of the
organization 4x4s had to be towed. Apparently the roads had
recently suffered extensive damage and with such vast areas to
cover, I doubt they ever actually repair them, which means you
are on your own to figure out a path that does not lead to
Lloyd and his partner kept a daily diary and
posted updates on their website (www.pressonregardless.com)
of their progress. Following is a typical
“We stayed last night at Abant lake and when we
arrived it was totally fogged in but this morning, while it was
not clear, we could see what the place had to offer – and it was
Oh yes, if you read the official itinerary, this
is a “rest and transit day”. That means there is no timing but
we still have to drive 352 kms but don’t have any start or
finish time and we made the most of it.
The pictures don’t come close to showing the mud
we had collected (and might still be carrying in the far corners
of the undercarriage. I would estimate we were about 100 pounds
lighter after the wash.
Prior to getting on the motorway, we stopped for
gas. I guess we bought enough (at $12 / gallon) to justify a car
wash – or should I say pressure wash.
◄The poor guy had to go
over the car four times to get the mud off and, even then, we
still had some in the remote corners.
Of 107 cars that started the 2010 race all but
nine made it to the celebrations in Place de la Concorde. TV
film of the epic drive has been seen in more than 80 different
countries. In New Zealand, the Peking to Paris rally became part
of the school curriculum for children who followed the
adventures of the mad motorists as part of their geography
Just as in the original race there are no roads
in the Gobi Desert. Today’s entrants are led by GPS and line of
sight. You have to pick your own route by dodging giant potholes
(created by the wind and blowing sand) that can literally
swallow whole cars, and staying out of the huge ruts created by
the Russian truck trains. Then there is the blowing sand that
clouds your vision, and the lack of any permanent landmarks. And
that is just the beginning of the hazards. There are the water
crossings (some quite deep), and the wandering sheep to deal
with, along with Kamikaze motorbike and car drivers in the
cities. All in all it is quite an adventure.
If things look a little dusty they are. Lloyd loaded over 900
checkpoints into the GPS to be sure they always were on track.
“No summary of this event would be complete
without some comments on the organization and execution of the
event itself. Personally, I think few people would have any
understanding of the complexities involved in producing as
challenging and extensive event as the Peking to Paris Motor
We visited eleven countries, most with their own
political structure and issues – we crossed eight borders each
having their own processes and procedures– there were over one
hundred competitive cars and almost twenty organization vehicles
– two hundred plus competitors (all with Type A personalities)
and almost fifty organization staff – spent seven days camping
on the Gobi Desert and stayed in a variety of hotels (some quite
luxurious and others, well who could forget the sanatorium in
Turkmenistan) – destroyed some cars, trucked others and gained
replacements from multiple sources – somehow, everyone was
accounted for when we reached Paris…. “
-- Lloyd Dahman
The Fifth Avenue involvement….
Randy’s involvement with the cross county antique
car rally type races goes back to 1989. He used the
cross-country races like the Great American Race ( a 4500 mile
race across the United States) as a marketing tool to prove the
reliability of his new invention, a 6-volt alternator, which did
not exist up to that point.
Since then his continued involvement
led to the development of more than 40 specialized products that
make all antique cars reliable enough to be driven most anywhere
the owners decide to drive them.
Fifth Avenue’s alternator, installed on the 49
Cadillac. It never looked this clean & shiny again!
Upon his return from the race and after a much,
needed rest, Lloyd called Randy to say thanks for a job well
done and followed up with this letter….
You can chalk up another successful Peking to
Paris Endurance Rally for one of your alternators and cooling
fans. They both functioned flawlessly for all 37 days and 9,000
miles through some of the toughest conditions imaginable. When
we picked up the 1949 Cadillac from the warehouse
outside Beijing, the battery was flat because someone had left
the ignition key on during shipment from Los Angeles.
A quick battery jump got us started and after 40
minutes driving in horrendous traffic the battery showed a
voltage indicating more than half charged. We never looked
back, and never worried about electrical problems even though we
were running several computers and sometimes headlights,
windshield wipers, and the heater blower motor. I have attached
I am also returning the alternator, dust and
all, by mail for your display. It has traveled around the
world. We shipped the car from Boston to Los Angeles where it
was put in a container for China. After surviving the drive to
Paris, it made its way back by ship to Boston via Rotterdam. I
am slowly removing the mud, dust and dirt from the car in
preparation for our next adventure. Thank you for providing
another alternator to take its place. Wherever we will be
going, I have every confidence that it will be with a fully
There were 107 entrants in the 2010 race with the
oldest vehicle a 1907 Itala 40. Lloyd
and his Cadillac finished first in his class and second overall.
“It is very satisfying when something you have
invented and manufacture ends up on an antique car that travels
thru some of the most difficult conditions one could imagine,
and survives. Who would think of driving a sixty-year old car
across the Gobi desert, forging water crossings, slipping and
sliding up muddy, mountain passes, dodging sheep and crazy third
world drivers...all in the name of fun. It makes the rest of the
projects I work on seem pretty boring…”
A day off in Turkey allows time for some
much needed maintenance.
Lloyd’s final thoughts…
“Looking back on our Peking to Paris adventure, a
few specific thoughts come to mind. Obviously, the spectacular
scenery, which rolled by one kilometer at a time, far outweighed
the aggravation of border crossings, suspension eating roads,
and the not insignificant dangers that we encountered.
Persevering through one country at a time gave us a unique
perspective on the social and economic forces at work in each as
well as the prospect of oil and gas revenues and the presence or
absence of water.
However, given my particular fascination with
things mechanical, I also saw the whole trip as a constant
battle of our machines for survival. The goal of driving into
the Place Vendome under our own power pulled us unrelentingly
onward. I was particularly fascinated by the problems some
machines had while others made seemingly effortless progress.
Some cars failed early, even before the start, others spent a
large percentage of the 14,000 kilometers on flat bed trucks,
and still others limped in, or were towed into camp and hotel
parking lots, only to be hammered upon and made semi-operable by
their crews and, more often by the incredible support mechanics.
Finally, there were a few cars that required only
semi-routine maintenance, leaving their drivers and co-drivers
time for restorative beers, showers and blissful rest. “ I am
forever thankful ours fell into that category.