London to Mexico Marathon Rally 50th Anniversary +2

This is what the Historic Marathon Rally Group said about this event –

“To celebrate the 50th Anniversary (two years late due to the Covid) the Historic Marathon Rally Group staged a reunion for all the surviving cars, competitors and supporting teams at the British Motor Museum, Gaydon, Warwickshire.

Described as the ‘longest, toughest and most ambitious rally that the world had ever known’ the Gaydon event showcased around 21 surviving World Cup Rally cars, including the winning Ford Escort FEV 1H, car no. 18, which was released by the Ford Heritage organisation, especially for this celebration.

The 1970 World Cup Rally had 17 special stages (Primes) that were “the longest, fastest, highest and most demanding ever laid out”. Together with the multiple border crossings, done back then with relative ease, fuel was available in barrels in outlandish areas to be hand pumped into the vast fuel tanks of hungry rally cars.

South America – over 15 days, there were only 4 official nights’ rest – such long drive-times between a night’s much needed sleep that would be unthinkable in this modern era, and incredible average speeds set for all the open road sections. This truly was a never-to-be-repeated event.

The event was gruelling; with 4,600 miles in Europe and 11,500 miles in South America to be covered, the tight schedules demanded a high pace be maintained in order to make each timing point with the crews also requiring oxygen whilst travelling above 15,000ft in the Andes.

The five days in Europe contained as much competitive motoring as half a dozen normal international rallies. After the warming up section through France, Germany, Austria and Hungary to Sofia – the Bulgarian capital – the curtain rose with a high-speed section from Pec to Titograd. This stage, famous in the history of rallying’s Liege-Sofia-Liege, gave newcomers a taste of the rough and dusty trails of the Yugoslav interior. Another speed section further Westward brought the drivers across Northern Italy to the famous Monza racetrack for their first brief ‘rest’ of eight hours. Then on to the testing hills above San Remo for more snow-ravaged mountain tracks running against the relentless clock.

Seasoned competitors who had been over parts of it on reconnaissance runs agreed that they had never seen anything quite so long, tough and demanding before. Next – a 20-day route to Mexico. The route from Rio to Sao Paulo is the only ‘easy section’ in South America. The two Primes in Brazil have an additional hazard – narrow wooden bridges. One example is 100 yds long with a 3-foot gap between the planks showing the fast-flowing river underneath.

The Primes can vary from 2 – 10 hours in length and up to 16,000 ft – never achieved before. The section in the Peruvian Andes is the most sensational timed stage in the world, much of it just wide enough for one car.

Picture, if you can, dirt track roads strewn with fist-sized stones, winding high through the Andes mountains with treacherous drops of a thousand feet into the valley below. In some places the route went into the snow line – days later the drivers would find themselves in the tropical jungle in the hinterlands of Bolivia. Many of the tortuous ‘Prime’ sections consisted of roads that would cause the average family motorist to turn back. The rally drivers would average close to 50 miles an hour over these roads and tracks.

Out of 106 starters, only 23 reached the finish. Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm in the Ford Escort 1850 FEV 1H brilliantly won the event, with the British Leyland rally team of Brian Culcheth and Johnstone Syer in the Triumph 2.5PI only 1 hrs 18 mins behind after 16,000+ miles – and the third placed Ford Escort of Rauno Aaltonen and Henry Liddon another 21 mins behind that!! In fact, 5 Ford Escort 1850s would finish in the top 8 – a tremendous achievement by the Ford team and this sparked the launch of the Ford Mexico, later in November 1970 (see the Ford Section in the photos below).

Rosemary Smith, Alice Watson & Ginnette DeRoland finished 10th in the Works Maxi taking the Ladies prize, while the other Works Maxi finished 22nd. The Datsun 1600SSS of the Dutch team, Rob Jansson and Jacob Dik finished 21st o/a – nearly 2 days after the first car having had to virtually rebuild the car several times! To reach the finish was a massive achievement with the last car coming in only 56 hours after the first.”

Those are the words, here are some of the cars that were being described. I should say that despite the weather being more like 1st February than 1st May, there was a great turn out both of cars and visitors; the Museum Cafe was doing a roaring trade, especially in warm drinks!


Austin Maxi
Austin Maxi

Austin Maxi. Rear

Austin Maxi. London to Mexico Story Board


Austin1800 "Landcrab"
Austin1800 “Landcrab”

Austin1800 "Landcrab" Rear

Austin 1800

Austin 1800 Rear

Classic Mini Rally Car
No need for a caption, it’s a classic!

Classic Rally Mini. Rear

Mini Cooper Club
Mini Cooper Register
Morris Marina Coupe
Morris Marina Coupe. The Marina was rushed into production by BL in 1971 and it suffered from that “rush” in many ways. When I saw this car I was so attracted by it that I could hardly believe that it was a Marina, albeit a Coupe. Well done that man! Star of the event for me.

Morris Marina Coupe. Rear

Morris Minor 1000
Morris Minor 1000

Morris Minor 1000. Rear.


Citroen DS
Citroen DS

Citroen DS. Rear


Chevrolet Spark
Chevrolet Spark

Chevrolet Spark. Rear


London to Mexico Ford Escort 1850GT
London to Mexico Ford Escort 1850 GT. A replica of Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm’s car, No.18, shown in the background of this and the following photo. H1FEV won the 25th Anniversary World Cup Rally in 1995 driven by the same crew, Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm.

Ford Escort 1850
Ford Escort 1850 GT

Ford Escort 1850. Rear

Ford Escort Mexico
Ford Escort Mexico. Introduced after the Escort’s London to Mexico success.

Ford Escort Mexico. Rear

Wide Wheelarch Ford Escort Mexico
Wide Wheelarch Ford Escort Mexico

Wide Wheelarch Ford Escort Mexico. Rear.

Ford 105E Anglia
Ford 105E Anglia. I couldn’t resist this beautifully presented car.

Ford 105E Anglia


Hillman Hunter
Hillman Hunter. A similar car to this won the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon Rally.

Hillman Hunter. Rear

Hillman Hunter Rally car

Hillman Hunter Rally car. Rear

Hillman Hunter Rally car Holbay Engine


MGB Driven by Jean Denton/Tom Boyce in 1968 London to Sydney Marathon
MGB Driven by Jean Denton/Tom Boyce in 1968 London to Sydney Marathon

MGB Driven by Jean Denton/Tom Boyce in 1968 London to Sydney Marathon. Rear


Saab V4
Saab 96 V4. Although not in “Rally livery”, a Saab 96, with its outstanding Rally performances in the 1960s, deserves to be in this company.

Saab 96 V4. Rear




1967 - 70 Triumph Spitfire Mk.III
1967 – 70 Triumph Spitfire Mk.III

1967 - 70 Triumph Spitfire Mk.III. Rear

Triumph 2500 PI
Triumph 2500 PI

Triumph 2500 PI. Rear

Triumph 2500 PI Story Board

Triumph 2500 PI

Triumph 2500 PI. Rear


Vauxhall Chevette
Vauxhall Chevette

Vauxhall Chevette. Rear


Volvo P122 Amazon
Volvo P122 Amazon

Volvo P122 Amazon. Rear

Volvo 244
Volvo 244

Volvo 244. Rear


There were several Owners Clubs meeting at Gaydon on the same day and of course, I couldn’t resist taking photos of some of their cars –


Chevrolet Corvette Owners Club

Chevrolet Corvette

Chevrolet Corvette. Rear

JDM Impreza Owners Club –

JDM Impreza Owners Club –

JDM Impreza Owners Club –

JDM Impreza Owners Club –


Castrol Ad. for the !970 World Cup Rally.



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