Monday, 22 July 2013

The trip of a lifetime sees automotive antiques tackle a 1,800-mile marathon

BEEN racking up some miles in the past week.

Rolls ROyce, Austria, SwitzerlandThis Rolls-Royce 20-Ghost is called the Taj Mahal. What's not to like about this car?
Well, in seven days I've notched up 2,000 and over the next ten I'm going to do another 4,000. Not a normal fortnight.
My trusty choices of travel? The new Ford Transit Custom and BMW's awesome new 1200 Adventure bike.
More about the bike next week.
We transported the BMW and a mountain of gear to Vienna in the back of the van and did the non-stop blast from Calais to Eastern Austria in one day having caught a red-eye Chunnel train.
Not bad value at £90 each way, bearing in mind it takes just 30 minutes to cross La Manche.
And you don't get sea sick. With a quarter of a tonne of BMW's latest and greatest safely tied down in the back we blitzed across Belgium and smashed the full width and breadth of Germany in record time.
The Transit Custom managed more than 500 miles to a tank-full even though we sat on the autobahn at precisely 100mph for hour after hour.
Yes, it's a very fast van - even faced with a big load and an uphill incline. But some of the details rock.
There are about a thousand cup holders and the LED lights in the back are a revelation. Do other vans really just have a single light bulb? The back of the Transit is lit up like Blackpool in the autumn.
The Transit Custom's twin front passenger seats aren't a patch on the multi-adjustable and softly-sprung driver's seat but the trip was a doddle for me and my passenger who brought a cushion to provide some muchneeded comfort.
“We've done five days and just about blitzed all the most interesting and jaw-droppingly scenic parts of Austria.”
DAB radio, cruise control, a leggy sixth gear and car-like sound-absorbing levels made the trip utterly hassle free.
We were in Calais for breakfast and Vienna before last orders. I'm here to follow the amazing Alpine Eagle rally, an event that was designed to test the reliability of cars more than 100 years ago and is now being re-lived by the Rolls-Royce 20-Ghost Club for 2013.
It's nuts.
It starts in Austria and finishes in Austria 14 days later but winds its way up some of the most tortuous alpine passes as it visits Italy, Slovenia and Croatia.
A hundred years ago, in brand-new cars, it must have been tough. But in 100-year-old cars 100 years later the 1,800 mile, mountain-crossing route is a pretty savage test of these six-figure price-tag automotive antiques.
That's why I had to come and see it for myself. We've done five days and just about blitzed all the most interesting and jaw-droppingly scenic parts of Austria.
Tomorrow takes us via the Stelvio Pass to Italy. What's amazed me is the reliability of these 20hp, sixcylinder Rolls-Royces, many of which were made before the First World War.
Yes, when George V was King-Emperor of the British Empire.
And we've still got all the 40-something entries at tonight's finish.
Yes, there may be another ten days to go but after today's 32-degree heat and crippling inclines, I think that's pretty amazing for cars old enough to have been rolling off the production line when the Titanic sank.