The 2nd Trans-America Challenge 2015

7th - 28th June 2015


Trans America 2015 - Car Collection Day

Singing in the rain

Welcome to Trans America 2015, the second time the ERA has driven this coast-to-coast event across America and the ERA’s second long distance rally of a very busy year. As we’re on the continent of the cowboy, we can say that it’s great to be back in the saddle - so to speak.

Competitors have come from far and wide to rendezvous in Halifax, Nova Scotia and it’s great to see so many old friends and their cars back with us from so many past events, but it’s also lovely to welcome the fifteen or so new crews who have come along to join us for the first time.

The mixture of cars is well up to our usual standards and ranges from a 1927 Bentley Le Mans to a 1977 Triumph Stag, fifty years of worldwide motoring exotica represented on a single start list from the definitely stately, the desirably sophisticated through to the downright spritely. The Canadian Grand Prix is held on Sunday but all of their cars look the same.

Getting to the start is often part of the fun of long distance rallying and even before the flag has dropped we’ve heard some interesting tales; Stephen Partridge for example. Rather than ship “Denise" his venerable Peking to Paris Morris Oxford all the way from New Zealand he’s gone native and has bought a car in the USA and he’s spent the last few weeks working on it, a Ford Galaxie Sunliner, in a lockup garage in Cleveland Ohio. We’re enjoying a fantastic choice of fresh seafood up here on the Atlantic coast which is great because Stephen tells us that he’s heartily sick of the bacon sandwiches he’s been living on while preparing his car.

Philip and Yvonne Haslam and David and Jo Roberts have driven here - from New York -  taking four days to get themselves and their cars all of the way up the East coast and by the looks on their tanned faces they’d enjoyed every minute of it and had seen some pretty good weather to boot.

For those who shipped their cars in the more conventional manner though today’s car collection day has been eagerly anticipated. A mixture of nervousness, excitement and anticipation ran through the bus as we made our way to ‘the compound’ an old gold mine just out of town. The drivers know that their pride and joy is sat ready and waiting form them behind the metaphorically locked doors of the equally metaphoric customs shed. As we’ve reported in the past the bulk of the work, the unloading and form filling had once again been ably handled by Melvyn Palmer of Cars UK, which left only a few minor formalities to be tied up before the keys were handed back to the rightful owners and they were slotted, with crossed fingers and a little trepidation, into the ignition barrel.

For most of the cars what happened next was exactly what should have happened next, but for some of the unlucky ones which didn’t follow the script a full complement of ERA sweep mechanics was on hand to provide a jump start to any whose batteries were a bit flat after the journey. Richard Worts and Nicola Shackleton, the defending champions no less, knew this feeling only too well and had spent the day before looking for a new race battery to replace the one that had given up the ghost.

Peter and Zoe Lovett our Road to Mandalay winners are back with another Porsche - what else - but this one is red and unusually for a Lovett car was misbehaving itself as they tried to pull out of the collection compound. Andy Inskip and Tony Jones diagnosed water in the engine which is odd for an air cooled vehicle but given the torrential nature of the rain in Nova Scotia perhaps not surprising. A bit of light wrenching soon had them on their way.

It hasn't all been plain sailing for some of our other crews though. Paul and Chris Hartfield were meant to be driving a Packard Super 8 sedan but now find themselves in their very own touring category having to 'slum it' in a modern Land Rover Discovery. Engine build problems meant that their Packard just missed the shipping date - this time - but they assure us that it all be sorted for their maiden Peking to Paris run next year.

From the collection compound a set of tulip notes for the 16km journey back to the hotel got the crews safely into scrutineering and signing on in the harbour front hotel where the pastry chef had gone to the trouble of baking us a cake to celebrate our arrival. Thanks very much Marriott Harbourfront and thanks for the fine lobster last night, served whole to each diner, which was as entertaining as it was tasty.

Some other crew and car changes for us to get used to include Clinton Smith and Trevor Finn who usually drive as a team on events such as Vintage Cape Horn and the Flying Scotsman but this time they’ve split the team up and brought their wives along instead so we can look forward to a bit of friendly rivalry between their respective Jaguar E Type and Chevrolet Camaro.

We last saw Mick de Hass on the 2013 Peking to Paris in a red Mercedes 280 SE. This time he has brought his wife Grace along with a different red car. It's another Mercedes but this one is a 230SL. Anthony Verloop, his P2P navigator, is now in charge of his own destiny alongside his wife Sonja in an MGB GT.

Marco Halter and Claudia Engelhardt did the first Trans America in a Camaro, the Classic Safari in a Volvo PV544 but this time they’ve got a 1963 - Ford Falcon Coupe to play with.

Greg and Liz Newton usually reside in a Holden but this time they’re in a sleek and stylish Jaguar E Type. Alan and Tina Beardshaw have an Aston Martin Ulster which they use for The Flying Scotsman, they also have a Sunbeam Alpine which we saw on the Classic Safari. This time they’re in Roland the Rally Car, an Aston Martin DB5.

The flag drops at 8am tomorrow from the Citadel, a fortification dating back to 1749 that sits atop the city of Halifax. Our destination at the end of the first day is Moncton, a rally route journey of some 530km.

Syd Stelvio



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