The Safari Rally Cars Tuning Escapede


The event started with a proposal put to the Royal East African Automobile Association for a reliability trial to be organised as a celebration of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Planning started in January 1953. The event, called “The East African Coronation Safari”, would have three starts: – Nairobi (Kenya), Morogoro (Tanganyika) and Kampala (Uganda). The rules for the event were simple, they stated :- All the cars were to be in showroom condition – that is nothing could be added to the specification to improve their performance. Entries were to be divided into four classes based on the showroom price of the car. Each class would have it’s own target time for the event, no overall winner was to be declared, entry fee for this historic event was 100 Shillings (£5). The event was timed to finish at the same time the Queen was being crowned in Westminster Abbey. The event ran from 27th May – 1st June 1953.

The event was a flat out blast over the worst roads in East Africa. No rest periods were planned, and no organised servicing was allowed, crews could however carry some spares. The event established a reputation for toughness from the first.

The average speed set for the Volkswagens was 43mph and out of the 56 cars that started only 16 made it back to Nairobi within the time allowance, a further 11 crews struggled in very much later.

The team of Alan Dix & John Larsen driving a 1131cc Split-Window Beetle dropped only 170 penalty points, but the John Manussis/John Boyes Chevrolet was the first car home, dropping 2970 points.

Alan Dix recalling the event in 1968 said they “went off the road, passenger John Larsen’s head hit the windscreen smashing his nose and knocking the unbroken screen onto the car’s bonnet, the front of the car was damaged and was almost undrivable” – Dix wanted to take the injured Larsen to hospital but, he said, “that idea was met with violent protests in almost unbelievable language!” They continued – with the windscreen held in place by the wipers.
alan dix

The winning trend of the VWs continued. The average speed had now gone up to 46mph, but three 2½ hour rest periods had been incorporated into the route. VWs took the first 5 places in their class – it would have been 6, but Brooks & Vest’s car was excluded for a speeding offence.

D P Marwaha & Vic Preston won the event outright from the 11 cars that were penalty free, they being the fastest on the tie-deciding acceleration and braking test. 25 cars finished from 50 starters.

Alan Dix the previous year’s winner came home 3rd in class & VWs won the team award .


A Ford Zodiac won the event overall but VWs again won their class and the team award for the third year in succession. The average speed was now up to 46mph. The domination of the event continued in 1955 when all except one of the finishers in Class “A” were Volkswagens.


This was to be a poor year for Volkswagens, the classes were still organised on the showroom price of the car and for the first time VWs were over the limit of £516 for class “A” and now ran in the up to £735 class. The best that could be achieved was 8th in class “B” For although the car of Frazer & Brochner finished penalty free, they were not quick enough on the tie-deciding blast round Nakuru race circuit.
safari rally
Eric Cecil won the event and class “B”driving a DKW. The 1957 event, the first to have International status, was a good year for the VW crews, now back in class “A” (up to £600). It was a very wet and muddy year, the sort of conditions that the Beetles revelled in. 64 starters left Nairobi on the 19th April and so bad were the conditions that by the time the crews reached the half way stage back in Nairobi, only 25 cars were left running. However 6 of the Beetles were still penalty free – although most of them had been caught in a Tanganyikan police speed trap. The penalty for this was finally dropped after much protesting by the organisers.

The Beetles had been fitted with a “Secret Weapon” to combat the mud – this was in the form of foot rests fitted to the rear bumper mounts and grab handles mounted by the air intake grill.

The second half of the event ground to a halt when an ambulance got stuck on a steep hill 60 miles from Suam Bridge. The first few cars got past the stuck ambulance, then cars got stuck and the whole event ground to a halt – some crews were still stuck the next day!

The VWs ability to find traction where other cars couldn’t, combined with the “Secret Weapon”, meant that most of the Beetles had come through what went down in Safari mythology as Ambulance Hill without losing too much time.
The results showed a win for “Gust” Hofmann and Arthur Burton in their Beetle, with Beetles taking the first 5 places in their class. 64 cars started and only 19 cars got to the finish, of which 6 were VWs. This enabled them to take the Team Prize as well. One pointer to the future was a certain Mr T T Fjastad, who finished 4th in Class. Arthur Burton later took over as Clerk of the Course for the Rally and was to guide the event through some of its most famous times.
safari rally
1958 was another average year for the Volkswagens. Whilst they didn’t win their class, the reliability of the cars meant that they again won the team prize and took 2nd to 5th in class positions. One interesting entry was the Karmann Ghia of K.W.Wigens / D.N.Breed – this was running in the “lion “ class for cars over £850.

The Beetles ran in the “Impala” class for cars priced up to £650. The Impala class had to average the same speed as all the other classes, no overall winner was declared.

1959 was a disastrous year for the Volkswagen by the previous standards. The best that could be achieved was 9th Overall and 2nd in class by R M Patel & Joginder Singh.

The 1960’s brought the event greater status as part of the World Rally Championship and, of course, the influx of the works teams.

There was at that time a belief, that grew into folk law, that any driver who did not live in Africa would never win the Safari. The works teams were out to disprove this myth.

1960 saw Jodinger repeat his previous years 9th Overall, but an added bonus was winning Class “C” for cars of 1001 to 1300cc- the rule about the cash price of the cars had been changed to fall in with the events International status.

Only one other Volkswagen finished, driven by South African-based VW service manager Harry Bausch. He finished 25th out of the 25 finishers.

In 1961 only three VWs finished the event, the best result was Joginder & Jaswant Singh, who finished in 19th place. The reasons why are explained in the next section. John Manussis won with a three-man crew the only time this happened in Safari history – he was driving a Mercedes-Benz 220SE.
For the 1962 event a team of five cars was entered by the Cooper Motor Corporation, the local VW agents and importers of VWs. The experience they had hard won from previous years was used to good effect when preparing the cars and choosing the crews.

The cars were to be driven by the following crews: –

John Manussis & Bill Coleridge

Tommy Fjastad & Bernhard Schmider

J F Banks & T F Bradley

Joginder Singh & Jaswant Singh

Gerd Elvers & L E Baillargeon

All were well versed in Safari conditions, Manussis being a past Safari winner.


Preparations for the 1962 event had started in August 1961, when two technicians came over from the VW factory at Wolfsburg in Germany and carried out a 3000 mile test run trying various modifications.

The crews were sent off to do a reconnaissance of the route and make “pace notes” of difficult corners, poor bridges, obscure road junctions and river crossings. In all a total of 30,000 miles were covered by the crews in the months prior to the event, and page after page of notes taken.

Tommy Fjastad mounted these notes in a roller system fixed in a box, rather like two toilet rolls, so that as the route was followed the notes could be unrolled and read. This avoided having large amount’s of loose paper in the car, and the roll was changed at the half way stage. Denis Jenkinson used a similar device when he navigated Stirling Moss to victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia .

The Safari conditions meant that the event demanded very different driving skills from, say, the Monte Carlo.

The drivers were instructed that if – due to the road conditions (deep mud floods, etc) – they could not get through individually, then they were to rope the cars together, bumper to bumper, in the form of a crocodile. They had discovered on the 1959 event that was the only way to make progress.

From the mass of notes a plan of action was drawn up. It was known that the Beetles would be out paced for speed on the northern loop of the rally and that the second half from Nairobi to Dar-es-Salam would have the deep mud, stones, ditches and general rough going that would better suit the Beetles.

The plan was to drive the first half at a speed that would keep the team in touch with the leading cars and leave the vehicles in a sound enough condition to mount an assault in the second half of the event through the notorious Umbulu section.


In 1961, the debut of the new 34bhp engine, all the VWs had experienced trouble with cracked gear selector housings on the new all syncromesh gearboxes allowing all the oil to leak out of the gear box resulting in retirement for most of the VWs. Jodinger Singh’s car had its gearbox changed twice by the crew, but to no avail.

The trouble was found to be the bonded rubber mountings on the gearbox shearing, allowing the gear box to move excessively causing the casing to crack. This was the result of a change made by the factory in reducing the hardness of the mountings for 1960 onwards. So for the 1962 event the earlier, harder, mountings were fitted, these were also made available to customers as a factory option.

The cars for the 1962 event were 34bhp, 1192cc Beetles, with the new for 1960 all syncromesh gearbox. They were in fact 1961 model year cars, because the Safari took place over Easter and Volkswagen’s 1962 model production started in August.

The cars were specially prepared at Wolfsburg and were based on the cars produced for the German post office, but of course right-hand drive. This is why the cars were all painted in German Post Office grey (Anthracite Grey).

Although the cars had to be near standard mechanically (the East African Safari was only for production cars at this time), several modifications were made at the factory.


1/ Front axle reinforcement – extra supports were fitted from the axle to the frame.

2/ Harder gearbox mounts.

3/ Front skid plate /stone guard.

4/ Extra protection to front gear box mounting.

5/ Protection plates for the jacking points.

6/ Police Specification Electrical system.

7/ Extra engine bay seals

All these were Factory options that could be fitted to any customer’s car.


When the cars arrived in Nairobi other modifications were made to suit the local conditions. A white spot was painted on the bonnet so that in the event of an accident a hole could be cut in that spot to get at the petrol filler cap, and rubber clips were used to secure the bonnet and engine cover, instead of the standard catch.

The chrome trim in the drivers eye line was painted black to avoid glare, extra padding was added to the driver’s seat and door, and the spotlights were mounted on the door hinges to keep them clear of the mud. The whole seat was covered in a cloth material, with pockets sewn in the back to take oddments and bottles of Lucosade glucose drink.

The passenger’s seat was also made to recline so that the off-duty crewman could catch some sleep during the quieter moments of the route.

The rear seats were removed and a plywood tray fitted in its place holding spare parts, a panga (a sort of large knife) for chopping down the bush and a spade entrenching tool for digging the car out if it became bogged down.

The rear wings were fitted with 5mm wire rolled into the edges, this was to strengthen the wing and to stop the edges fraying from the impact of stones.

Stone guards were fitted to the headlights to protect the lenses and mud flaps added to keep down flying stones. A sump protection grid was under the engine.

The electrics were waterproofed, and special modifications made to allow the cars to wade through deep water. These included rubber hose extensions where one end was fitted over the exhaust tailpipes and the other end was arranged so that it could be clipped to the grille by the rear window.

This stopped water entering the exhaust when fording deep water and flooding the engine, and a hose was also provided to fit from the carburettor into the interior of the car so that dry air could be fed to the engine. This was to prove very useful later on.


The engines were stripped down, and the rotating parts balanced, the cylinder head ports were opened out and the camshaft changed, the exhaust was cut open and the pipe lengths inside the exhaust were equalised before welding the box back together.

The silencing linings were also removed from the tailpipes to give a better flow for the exhaust gasses, then, after very careful blueprinting and re-assembly the engines were “run-in” for some considerable mileage to get a smooth, free-running engine. This work resulted in a car that was a lot quicker than a standard 1192cc Beetle, 80mph being easily attainable (72mph for a standard car).

Starting from Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, the route was in the form of a figure eight, forming a northern and southern loop. The total distance being 3080 miles, this to be covered in three days and four nights of almost non-stop motoring.

The Rally, on leaving Nairobi, headed north to skirt Mount Kenya. Then it crossed the equator into Uganda, on through the Sebei District and round Mount Elgon to the one hour rest halt at Kampala, then back to Nairobi through the night and following morning to the welcome promise of an afternoon’s rest.

The southern loop took the crews into Tanganyika, the roads ranging in altitude from the heights of Mount Kilimanjaro to sea level at Dar-es-Salam; the final section was north up the coast to Mombassa and finally ending back to Nairobi on Easter Monday.


The cars lined up on the starting ramp on the afternoon of Thursday 19th April. The event started with the departure of car one, a white Renault, followed at one minute intervals by the rest of the field, including, at No 5, Pat Moss driving a Saab.

The Ford Anglia of local crew Shah and Vangla were at No 25. Then the VW team with John Manussis at No 36 driving KHC 913, followed by Banks & Bradley in KHD 304 at No 39, Tommy Fjastad & Bernhard Schmider in KHD 302 at No 40, and the brothers Jodinger and Jaswant Singh in KHD 301 at No 44.

A total of 104 cars set off and raced through the night towards the difficult, steep and twisting tracks round Mount Kenya. Here the cars had an unexpected hazard to contend with. Locals amused themselves by throwing rocks at the rally cars and many competitors suffered damage to windscreens lights and bodywork. This was one aspect of the rally that did not change over the years, drivers are still complaining of children throwing stones to this day!

The pace was now starting to hot up with the big cars like the Mercedes, Ford Zodiac’s and the Australian Falcons using their power to good effect as the roads reached altitudes of up to 9000ft above sea level. The thinner air robbed the smaller engined cars of much needed power even though the VWs would have been fitted with altitude correctors to the carburettor main jet to maintain the correct air/fuel mixture to the engine.

Daylight brought Good Friday – and the rough rocky section round Mount Elgon. Here disaster struck many cars including the leading VW of Manussis, he hit a rock and despite the provision of a stout sump guard, it left him with a fractured sump and no option but to retire – this was sadly to be Manussis’ last Safari.

John Manussis moved to England soon after and died in 1964 aged 47. Manussis still holds the record of being the only driver ever to win the Safari with a three-man crew in 1961. He drove a Mercedes on that occasion and he also held the record for the drive from Nairobi to Nakuru –100 miles in 57mins (105.26mph) – that time in a D-type Jaguar!

Anne Hall, driving a Ford, smashed her radiator and Bill Fritchy, last year’s winner, driving a Mercedes, crashed out of the event. Jodinger Singh hit a washaway and bent the front axle of his VW; later he repaired a hole in the sump using a mixture of mud and soap and went on to finish a creditable second in class and fifth overall.

The remaining cars battled onward towards the rest halt at Kampala. 15 cars failed to make the checkpoint here.

After a 25-minute break the crews set off south, driving through the Friday night and Saturday morning to reach Nairobi with the welcoming prospect of an afternoon’s rest and the publishing of the half distance results.

The results so far showed that a total of 25 cars had retired and that the best placed VW was the Fjastad & Schmider car in eighth place. So at this stage – apart from the demise of Manussis – all was going as planed for the VW team but with over 1500 Safari miles to go anything could still happen.
The Southern leg started on Saturday night and the crews faced a dash through Tanganyika and the roads and tracks skirting Mount Kilimanjaro, then, as an added bonus for the organisers it started to rain as the cars approached the most difficult section at Umbulu.

This section was the death knell of the larger cars as they slipped, slithered and ground to a halt on tracks where the rain and dust had combined to turn the roads into a sea of bottomless black stinking mud that saw cars bogged down to floor level.

At Bashenit the two leading Mercedes stuck fast and, despite strenuous jacking and pushing by their crews, lost any chance of victory. To combat the conditions some competitors even fitted snow chains to the tyres in an attempt to find traction.

The same fate almost befell a VW when tackling the roads through the sisal plantations at Ubenazamizi; it became stuck in 18″ deep ruts, the crew having a hectic hour extricating the car. Most competitors lost time here but the majority of the VWs came through the section unscathed despite using normal tread tyres instead of Town and Country “snow” tyres favoured by many other teams.

The deep treads of the snow tyres did give more grip in the mud, but it was found that due to the superior traction of the VW and the fact that these tyres sapped more power it was decided, before the start, to gamble on not fitting them.

It was a gamble that was however starting to pay dividends, because when the crews reached the coast and the control at Dar-es-Salam. Only 65 cars were still running, and the VW of Tommy Fjastad and Bernhard Schmider was leading the rally by two minutes.

Following the short break at “Dar”, where both cars and crews were replenished, the relentless race against the clock continued, north now, on the last long leg through the night to Mombassa and the dawn of the final day’s motoring on Easter Monday.

Things were getting really nail biting for the leading crews. Pat Moss and Eric Carlsson – driving Saabs with their usual skill, flair and nerve – were determined to catch Fjastad and had a very real chance of doing so. For although the VW should have the advantage over the really rough stuff, as the roads became better approaching Nairobi the Saab would be faster and the two minutes deficit would be possible to claw back.

Erik Carlsson was now leading the rally after a masterly drive through the car-breaking Umbulu section. This was not, however, to last – Carlsson lost a lot of time on the road to Dodoma, first taking a wrong turning and then due to a marked absence of brakes obtained when a rock went through the floor and severed a brake pipe. He was dropping down the field and was in third place at Dar-es-Salam where the SAAB service crew patched up his vehicle.

Erik now put on a brilliant display of driving to close within one minute of Fjastad’s leading Volkswagen when the SAAB succumbed to the harsh treatment meted out by Carlsson when it’s rear suspension collapsed. Carlsson was now out of contention for the lead, but carried on at a reduced speed to support Pat Moss. Lumps of wood held in place by fencing wire and a jack now supported his broken rear suspension. He ended the rally in sixth place, one hour down on time to the winning car.

It was going to be a close run thing, with the odds now in favour of the new leaders Pat Moss & Ann Riley in their Saab 96.


The Safari as it has been said is not like other rallies – as Pat Moss found out to her cost when an Impala jumped out of the bush during the final night of the rally and landed on the front of her Saab smashing the front of her car, breaking the distributor cap, fan belt and bending the pulley. Erik Carlsson lost twenty minutes helping her to undertake emergency repairs, letting the VW of Tommy Fjastad into the lead for the second time.

Time lost on repairs, coupled with poor performance on the braking test at the finish – when Pat misunderstood the importance of the test. This cost her any chance of beating the Fjastad VW and also dropped her into third place behind the Peugeot 404 of Zbigniew “Nick” Nowicki, who was then on the same penalties – but had better times on the tie-deciding designated parts of the route.

Pat did however win the Coupe des Dames – a small consolation for what could have been. The Safari myth that no European-based driver could win the event was still unbroken, and was to remain so until Timo Makinen broke it for once and all in 1974, driving a Ford Escort.

So it was a triumphant Tommy Fjastad and Bernhard Schmider who entered Nairobi at the head of the surviving 46 of the 104 cars that started. His VW was placed 1st 0verall, 1st in class C and also won the award for the best Price/Performance Index.

When he was interviewed Tommy Fjastad said that the car was in excellent condition and was ready to go round again, a prophetic remark, as we shall see.

When the dust had settled on the ’62 event the Cooper Motor Corporation – who were the main Importers of VWs into Kenya – took stock of the situation. They had won the rally and had used that to promote the Beetle as “The” car for African conditions, and of course to hopefully help Volkswagen sell more cars worldwide.

One enterprising dealer in the Australian outback even had a fleet of demonstrator Beetles fitted out to look like Rally winning cars, one of which was a replica of KHD 302.

The real KHD 302 was put on the show circuit before being retired to “Workshop Hack” duties, with all the Safari bits still on the car it was a useful tool to have if some one needed to go somewhere in a hurry.

For 1963 all the cars were private entries without “Works” backing from the Cooper Motor Corporation, this was to be the year of the “Magnificent Seven” for out of a entry of 84 cars only 7 finished, but not one VW was among them, Nowiki won driving a Peugeot 404. After the event a statement was issued by Mr D.G.Allen the Managing Director of The Cooper Motor Corporation, it said: –

“This year (1963) we gave no help to the VW entrants competing in the Safari – they were all privately owned and driven. In 1962, when we sponsored a team and won the Safari outright, the cost to the company was over £12,000, plus a considerable loss of workshop time and trade due to a preoccupation with the organisation of service controls, etc., which incidentally also inconvenienced a great many of our customers. We found that at this stage a private company can no longer compete with the works teams such as those from the Ford Motor Company, BMC, etc.”

Given that the cost of a new Beetle in 1963 was about £600 in the UK. That £12,000 to win the Safari equates to close to a Quarter of a Million Pounds today. They were a very small organisation compared with the European Works Teams.

It is understandable why they had to stop; also an added factor was that Kenya was in the throws of Independence with many Europeans opting to leave the country. Times were perhaps not so certain as they had been under colonial rule.

This then brings us to 1964, where Tommy Fjastad comes back into the picture. Tommy was very keen to do the ’64 event and had been promised a drive in a Ford Lincoln-Mercury Comet, a big, heavy, powerful, bright red painted American Sedan. The Comet’s power was to prove useful to Tommy later on in this story, but for the moment, after a practice session on the northern half of the route, where Tommy is alleged to have bent all the cars shock absorbers, he found himself out of the team with only one day left before the official close of entries. Most people would have given up, but Safari drivers are made of sterner stuff, – but where to get a suitable car at such very short notice?

Tommy dashed round to The Cooper Motor Corporation, had they, he said, still got his old Safari winning car KHD 302? Yes they had, Tommy asked to buy the car as it stood which was, you remember, as a workshop hack. A deal was entered into. Tommy paid £300 for the two-year old car, now with 24,000 miles on the clock, and drove it back home where he set to and made the car ready for its second Safari outing. In fact he only had to spend another £50 on the car to get it up to scratch.

So a few days later the old car- now wearing the number 93, stood at the start of it’s second Safari, three other VWs were among the 94 starters they were driven by R B Carlisle & J Paton at No 90, Nirmal Singh Bachu & Pyara Singh Bachu at No 97 and F S Sababady & R Vernon at No 98.

In 1962 the starting order had been determined by engine capacity with the smallest starting first. However for 1964 starting was by ballot, with the lower start numbers having a distinct advantage. Tommy knew, when he saw his high start number, there was little chance of repeating his 1962 win, and concentrated on getting what was probably the oldest and highest mileage car in the event to the finish.

(All the prizes are at the finish! – Roger Clark)


Tommy says that event was reasonably straight forward, at least for the first half. Rear-engined traction took them through the worst of the mud. So well did they go that after Tinderet they passed no less than eight cars that had bogged down, later on through the wet Umbulu section, although they lost time, they also passed nine more cars including two Comets! The first major problem they had was about 70 miles outside Dar-es-Salaam when two locals threw stones at the passing cars. They must have improved their aim with the passage of almost 80 Rally cars because they hit and shattered the VW’s windscreen.

The glass cut both Tommy and his co-driver Jasani’s faces, they pressed on and changed the screen themselves (no service crews) at Dar in only 1 Min 45 Sec, try that for yourself some time!

After Dar-es-Salaam the mud and the weather got steadily worse until eventually the VW came to a spot where there once stood a bridge. The middle of the bridge had collapsed after the early cars had crossed. When Fjastad arrived at the bridge a competitor in a Peugeot had got out a nylon towrope and was unsuccessfully trying to pull a Comet – driven by Viscount “Kim” Manderville across the gap.

The 6 crews still on the wrong side of the river were faced with exclusion or bridge building – they choose to re-build the bridge – after manhandling the Comet across the gap, the Comet’s power on the end of a tow rope was used to “catapult” the remaining cars over the bridge. The VW was the last car across before the bridge collapsed totally stranding the remaining 5 cars and putting them out of the event. The Fjastad & Jasani VW was now running last car on the road.

Later on the cars were stopped again, this time at a swollen river, the organisers gave a time allowance so that competitors could wait to see if the river was going to subside enough to allow the cars to cross. Tommy decided not to wait and, with the VW acting like a submarine, swam its way across the river in 4ft of water. The following two cars, a SAAB and a Datsun, tried to emulate the VW and drowned in the muddy torrent.

The VW was able to ford the river so well because of the crafty modifications made for the ’62 event (described earlier). These consisted of a hole cut into the engine firewall and a length of hose that was in the cars tool kit, this went through the hole and after removing the air cleaner fitted on to the carburettor air intake. This would then draw dry air from inside the passenger compartment.

Two more rubber pipes fitted over the exhaust tailpipes and clipped on to the air intake grille under the rear window, keeping the water out of the exhaust.

The engine bay had extra sealing fitted and the ignition system had also been waterproofed using condoms fitted over the coil and distributor!

The rest of the run back to the finish at Nairobi was in Tommy’s own words “uneventful”!

The results, when they came out, were a revelation – only 21 cars had survived to get to the finish and in class B there was only one finisher out of the 17 starters in the class. That was the class winning VW of Fjastad and Jasani – what happened to the team of Comets?

Well only two Comets finished, over an hour after the lone VW came home. Safari Veterans “Kim” Manderville and Jodinger Singh drove them. It seems that Tommy made the right choice after all!

What happened to KHD 302 is a mystery from here on. Its fate is unknown.


1965 was almost a repeat of the 1964 event, in that it was yet another very wet year. 85 starters left Nairobi to battle with the elements. But only 16 returned, again only one VW finished the event – a very wrecked looking VW 1200 crewed by Mohammed Khan & Balbir Singh.

They repeated Tommy Fjastad’s triumph by winning the class.

It makes the drive more incredible when you realise that this was the last time a 1192cc Beetle would ever get to finish the rally. The reason for the 1200 not being competitive was that the organisers set the time schedule for the event by using last years fastest times and taking a bit off for luck! The old 1200 was just not quick enough any more.

For 1966, Richard Barbour and Mike Doughty had entered one of the newly imported VW 1300 Beetles, there may have been doubts about the new “ball joint” front suspension – was it as good as the old “king and linkpin”? (A debate that still goes on today). In what was another very wet rally, Barbour and Doughty – with only a faulty starter motor to spoil an otherwise trouble free run – splashed their way up to a very credible second place overall by the time the Rally reached Kampala, the finish of the first half of the Rally. So perhaps the Beetle wasn’t dead yet.

Between Kampala and the finish at Nairobi, disaster struck. They hit a rock damaging a track rod and the time needed for repairs dropped them down the field. So out of the 9 cars that finished the VW (with the smallest engine of all the finishers) finally came home in 7th place beating a Ford Cortina GT and a Mercedes 220SE in the process.

What the VW really needed to stay competitive was more power. And it finally got it when, in late 1966, the 1500 Beetle was imported into Kenya.


Fjastad, Khan and Barbour’s giant killing acts had not gone unnoticed, for meanwhile down at the Cooper Motor Corporation some one had a bright idea: –

It was as easy as ABC!

A/ The 1500 were being marketed as the “Hot Beetle”.

B/ The last 4 Safari’s had been mud baths – and Beetles go well in the mud.

C/ If an almost standard private entry1300 could get up to 2nd place, The new 1500 with full backing might be quick enough to win in a wet year (In a dry year it would be very different story.)

A team of 1500 Beetles were prepared for the 1967 Rally, this was to be a full blooded effort just like the ’62 event and a second team of private entry 1300 Beetles were also given help and advice . The cars were to be driven by the best VW drivers available and were allocated as follows.

TEAM No 1. VW 1500 Beetles

No 16. B Bengry & J Bradley

No 22. T Fjastad & B Smith

No 25 R Barbour & M Doughty

No 39 E Ruthmann & C McNaughton

No 59. B Ferguson &/ M Stahl (VW AUSTRALIA) Ferguson was a non-starter

TEAM No 2. VW 1300 Beetles

These were unsponsored Private entries.

No 40 M Khan & H Reuter

No 57 C Walles & C Dickson

No 68 S Desai & G Turner

No 74 N Singh Bachu & P Singh Bachu

No 78 P Choda & G Choda

Other VWs in the event were:

No 84 A Singh Gill & T Singh Sembi (VW 1300)

No 88 G Barbour & D Brooksbank (VW 1500)

No 92 J Bhamra & D Parker (VW 1300)


The Safari was historically for Group 1 cars – this does not allow any major modifications to the cars – but in 1967, for the first time in the Safari’s history, Group 1, 2 and 3 cars were allowed to run in the ’67 event. To tune the 1500 Beetles to Group 2 specification Coopers turned to Scania Vabis and Okrasa in Europe for help.


The crank, flywheel, clutch and connecting rods were balanced to within 0.4 gram.

Pistons from a 1500S Notchback were fitted to give 8.5 to 1 compression ratio, these were lightened by machining off the pistons skirts, the flywheel was lightened by 3.5 lbs. and the cylinder heads were gas-flowed and the combustion chambers balanced. Standard valve gear was used.

The camshaft was from Okrasa, most likely an Okrasa Rally grind; this gave 254 degrees duration 8-mm lift and 19-55-54-20 timing. The carburettor was the 30 PICT with the venturi bored out to 26.5mm. The pre-heater pipes to the manifold and the hot air pipes to the air filter were blocked, and the Carburettor insulated to help stop vapour locks


For 1966, Richard Barbour and Mike Doughty had entered one of the newly imported VW 1300 Beetles, there may have been doubts about the new “ball joint” front suspension – was it as good as the old “king and linkpin”? (A debate that still goes on today). In what was another very wet rally, Barbour and Doughty – with only a faulty starter motor to spoil an otherwise trouble free run – splashed their way up to a very credible second place overall by the time the Rally reached Kampala, the finish of the first half of the Rally. So perhaps the Beetle wasn’t dead yet.

Between Kampala and the finish at Nairobi, disaster struck. They hit a rock damaging a track rod and the time needed for repairs dropped them down the field. So out of the 9 cars that finished the VW (with the smallest engine of all the finishers) finally came home in 7th place beating a Ford Cortina GT and a Mercedes 220SE in the process.

What the VW really needed to stay competitive was more power. And it finally got it when, in late 1966, the 1500 Beetle was imported into Kenya.


Fjastad, Khan and Barbour’s giant killing acts had not gone unnoticed, for meanwhile down at the Cooper Motor Corporation some one had a bright idea: –

It was as easy as ABC!

A/ The 1500 were being marketed as the “Hot Beetle”.

B/ The last 4 Safari’s had been mud baths – and Beetles go well in the mud.

C/ If an almost standard private entry1300 could get up to 2nd place, The new 1500 with full backing might be quick enough to win in a wet year (In a dry year it would be very different story.)

A team of 1500 Beetles were prepared for the 1967 Rally, this was to be a full blooded effort just like the ’62 event and a second team of private entry 1300 Beetles were also given help and advice . The cars were to be driven by the best VW drivers available and were allocated as follows.

TEAM No 1. VW 1500 Beetles

No 16. B Bengry & J Bradley

No 22. T Fjastad & B Smith

No 25 R Barbour & M Doughty

No 39 E Ruthmann & C McNaughton

No 59. B Ferguson &/ M Stahl (VW AUSTRALIA) Ferguson was a non-starter

TEAM No 2. VW 1300 Beetles

These were unsponsored Private entries.

No 40 M Khan & H Reuter

No 57 C Walles & C Dickson

No 68 S Desai & G Turner

No 74 N Singh Bachu & P Singh Bachu

No 78 P Choda & G Choda

Other VWs in the event were:

No 84 A Singh Gill & T Singh Sembi (VW 1300)

No 88 G Barbour & D Brooksbank (VW 1500)

No 92 J Bhamra & D Parker (VW 1300)


The Safari was historically for Group 1 cars – this does not allow any major modifications to the cars – but in 1967, for the first time in the Safari’s history, Group 1, 2 and 3 cars were allowed to run in the ’67 event. To tune the 1500 Beetles to Group 2 specification Coopers turned to Scania Vabis and Okrasa in Europe for help.


The crank, flywheel, clutch and connecting rods were balanced to within 0.4 gram.

Pistons from a 1500S Notchback were fitted to give 8.5 to 1 compression ratio, these were lightened by machining off the pistons skirts, the flywheel was lightened by 3.5 lbs. and the cylinder heads were gas-flowed and the combustion chambers balanced. Standard valve gear was used.

The camshaft was from Okrasa, most likely an Okrasa Rally grind; this gave 254 degrees duration 8-mm lift and 19-55-54-20 timing. The carburettor was the 30 PICT with the venturi bored out to 26.5mm. The pre-heater pipes to the manifold and the hot air pipes to the air filter were blocked, and the Carburettor insulated to help stop vapour locks………

The Safari Rally Cars Tuning Escapede 2



This had protection plates fitted to the spare wheel well and to the jacking points, a roll cage was made locally from 2″ X 3¼” square tube. The engine was protected with a sumpguard – made from the leaf springs of a Land Rover, attached to the rear bumper hangers and to the forks by the front gear box mounting. This gave good protection, but still let air flow round the sump. Problems with overheating had been found with a fully enclosing guard – even with this leaf spring guard, oil temperatures were in the 120°C region.


It is difficult to be exact about power output but, working from other tuners data, I would estimate around 55/60 bhp at sea level (where the cars were good for over 90mph), but because most of the Safari Rally is run at a height of 6000ft above sea level, the thin air gives a power loss of about 18%, so the usual maximum was 87mph.

Speeds of over 50 mph were available in second gear, and up to 77-78 in third. This equates to a maximum engine speed of 6000rpm; maximum power was at 4300 RPM.

The rear torsion bars were thicker than standard, and Bilstein dampers were used, not Koni as in previous years. The “Z” bar fitted to the rear suspension was modified to come into action sooner than normal.

Disc brakes were a standard fitment on the 1500, the first Beetle to have them. Most of the cars had the braking system modified with a pressure limiter fitted into the front brake line. This stopped the front wheels locking before the rears came into action.


Major car manufacturers were taking the event very seriously. The Ford team, for example, had entered 2 Mkl Lotus-Cortinas and 6 MkII Cortina GTs and they had 36 mechanics mounting service points for their star drivers Roger Clark, Peter Hughes and Bengt Soderstrom.

Finnish Rally Ace Rauno Aaltonen was driving a BMC Mini Cooper but he retired early on when his carburettor air filters filled up with dust and damaged the engine.

The rally started from Jamhuri Park on the outskirts of Nairobi with Soderstrom in one of the new Mkll Cortinas streaking into the lead, his car kicking up vast clouds of dust in its wake.

Bengt Soderstrom was making the most of his number one starting position, for following cars had to drive through clouds of choking dust. Overtaking in these conditions almost becomes a lottery, where faster cars had to drive almost blind through the dust when overtaking slower cars.

The 1967 Rally was later to prove to be the driest Safari on record; this was not good news for the VW crews who needed the mud and the rain that the cars revelled in and in the dry conditions the Fords and the Peugeots were just too fast – they were reputed to be at least 20mph faster than the Beetles.

It is not surprising that under these conditions accidents happened, Tommy Fjastad’s car plunged 100ft down an embankment after he ran out of road near Bura whilst trying to overtake a slower car in the dust – the Beetle was wrecked. The car subsequently caught fire and the petrol tank exploded. Fortunately, both Tommy and his passenger Bev Smith were thrown clear and escaped with relatively minor injuries – it could so easily have been a lot worse.

The dust also had another effect on the Beetles. The cars had been fitted with modified engine bay sealing – extra sealing strips were fitted between the engine and the body to keep mud and water out of the engine. But this did not keep out all the dust – vast quantities of the choking stuff was sucked into the engine bay of the cars by the cooling fans, coating the engine with a thick layer of dust, causing the engines to loose power and overheat.

The torrid conditions were having a marked effect on the usually reliable Beetles. All the Beetles except Bill Bengry’s car had been fitted with electric fuel pumps. As Bill tackled the very rough Nakuru section he came upon Richard Barbour whose car had stalled due to vapour locking caused by the terrific heat given out from his overheating engine, Richard got his car restarted but lost valuable time in the process.

About 20 miles after the next control, Bill’s car stopped when his mechanical fuel pump packed in. He replaced it with a new pump from the spares carried on board the car, but this gave up the ghost 100 miles later when the heat from the engine warped the valves in the pump.

Bill says that at this stage the engine was so hot it was almost impossible to touch anything, they made one good pump from the remains of the two dead ones and went on their way. Only to retire later when a rock damaged the oil strainer plate, the loss of oil causing a big end to go, and that was the end of his rally.

This was particularly cruel luck as he was at that time the leading VW and almost home, the worst of the rally behind him.

George Barbour, in one of the privately-entered cars, was going well until close to Korogwe when he fell foul of some local “pranksters” who thought it would be a good idea to put large rocks in the road on a blind bend – just to see what happened. George hit a large rock damaging a front wheel and smashing the brake disc and calliper. This was later put right, but it had caused other damage that subsequently put him out of the rally. Some things never change – the same fate almost overtaking Carlos Sainz on the RAC Rally in 1994.

The other two 1500 Beetles, driven by Richard Barbour & Mike Doughty and Ernst Ruthmann & Chris McNaughton, finished in good mechanical order – ut well down the field. The best result was 19th 0verall.

The drivers of the 1300 Beetles did very well to finish at all, they were loosing time into every control and were lucky to avoid being excluded for lateness.


It was apparent that the Okrasa Group 2 modifications for the 1500 that had worked in the somewhat cooler northern climate were not suitable for the Safari’s tropical conditions. The 1300, with less power and the same cooling system, did not seem to suffer to the same extent.

To be fair, if the weather had been the same as the previous four years – that is, very wet and muddy – all the Beetles would have fared a lot better.

The Cooper Motor Corporation knew this when they entered the rally and gambled on the weather staying wet, it was a gamble they lost. Who knows what may have happened if the weather had been wet, and the Beetles had done better?

This then really was the end. Coopers pulled the plug on financing entries and it was apparent that the Beetle had had its day on the Safari. I can find no record of a 1500S Notchback or a 1600 Fastback finishing the event.

After 1967 no VW Beetle ever again finished a Safari Rally. Not so Tommy Fjastad, he popped up again in 1969 when Messrs Fjastad and Salt brought home an Audi Super 90 into 12th place out of 31 finishers and a well deserved class win – you can’t, as they say, keep a good man down.
Results of the VWs in the 1967 Safari Rally:


Position Drivers Car
19th R Barbour & M Doughty VW 1500 Beetle
25th E Ruthmann & C McNaughton VW 1500 Beetle
41st N S Bachu & P S Bachu VW 1300 Beetle
43rd C Walles & C Dickson VW 1300 Beetle
47th A S Gill & T S Sembi VW 1300 Beetle

Reason Drivers Car
Holed sump at Meru W Bengry & J Bradley VW 1500 Beetle
Crashed & caught fire T Fjastad & B Smith VW 1500 Beetle
Failed to reach Arusha M S Khan & H Reuter VW 1300 Beetle
Bent front suspension G Barbour & W Miller VW 1500 Beetle
Retired at Mombassa J Bhamra & D Parker VW 1300 Beetle


Destination Monte Peter Harper
Tricks of the Rally Game Gunnar Palm & Herbert Volker
Safari Fever Nick Brittan
Safer Motoring Magazine

Various Issues
VW Motoring
– 1995

Various Issues 1994
Tuning Volkswagens Peter Noad
VW Beetle in Motorsport Peter Noad

Joginder Singh A.K.A The Flying Sikh A.K.A Simba Ya Kenya


If anyone in East Africa achieved the status of a national hero through motor rallying, it was undoubtedly Joginder Singh. He was not only the first Asian driver ever to win an international rally but also the first man to win the Safari three times. His tally of 19 finishes in 22 Safari starts is unique: a record of consistency in ‘the world’s toughest rally’ that will probably never be beaten.
Sardar Joginder Singh Bhachu was born on 9th February 1932 at Kericho in Kenyan in the western highlands. His father Sardar Battan Singh came to Kenya in the 1920’s from Village Kandola Kalan, near NurMahal in the district of Jullundur, Punjab. His mother’s name was Sardarni Swaran Kaur. Joginder Singh was the eldest of eight sons and two sisters and was educated at a boarding school at Nairobi. But engineering was already in his blood as he was able to drive an old 1930s Chevrolet by the time he was 13.
He worked as a spanner boy in his father’s garage and later moved onto work with larger motor companies and in 1958 became the first patrolman for the Royal East African Automobile Association armed with a fearsome 650cc BSA motorcycle and sidecar. Upto the age of 26 he had no experience of motor sport. His father was a fast car driver, perhaps some of that had rubbed off on his son but it was probably Joginder Singh’s mechanical sympathy and meticulous car preparation that were to have the biggest influence on his future rally career.
1965 1970 & 1975 Kenyan Rally Champion:
1966 1967 1969 1970 & 1975
Motor Sportsman of Year:
1970 & 1976
Won over 60 East African Championship
Rallies in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Southern Cross Australia:
5th (1970) 4th (1973) 2nd (1974)
overall in Mitubishi
Acropolis Rally Greece:
9th (1966) overall in Volvo


The PV went from strength to strength, winning our own RAC rally, in probably the fastest Volvo driver Tom Trana’s hands in 1963 and 1964. It was a bit outdated, as a rally car by then but in the correct hands was still a winner on rough, tough, loose surface events. The best PV story of all I think is of Joginder and his brother Jaswant Singh’s 1965 East Coronation Safari win. Volvo had taken four cars to Kenya in 1964 for tracks. It was accepted as the hardest event in the calendar. The cars arrived too late that year and could not be tested under African conditions and for a variety of reasons they all failed to finish. Volvo did not take all the cars back to Sweden with them but left one for Joginder Singh to rally in Africa for the rest of the year. During this time he modified the PV and strengthened it where necessary and lowered the axle ratio. The car had covered 42,000 miles mostly under rally conditions. Joginder’s intention was to enter the 1965 Safari Rally. The story has a fairy tale ending, they won by 100 minutes. You can perhaps imagine the headlines in the papers – “Safari won in a second hand car.” Joginder won again, but not in a Volvo, in 1974 and 1976 just to show that the driver had a fair bit to do with the result. Any of you lucky enough to attend a PV Register meeting a few years ago at the Shuttle worth Trust in Bedfordshire would have been able to see Joginder and his beloved PV (KHT 184) now immaculate in its original white paint.
I just wonder if any of the old works cars are still in existence and just what modifications the factory used in those no holds barred Group 6 events like the Alpine and Liege. The 1961 Homologation papers show four wheel disc brakes as well as the Joginder Singh inspired four damper front suspension set up. Did they ever use two twin choke Weber or Solex carburetors as offered by the Volvo R Sport in any events? It would not surprise me and I would love to know. I list below the production records and model changes – these taken and other material from Andrew Whyte s book the “Volvo 1800 and Family.”

joginders beetle
joginder singh
Twenty-one years after the first rally was run to mark the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, the East African Safari Rally remains unique-an amalgam of gruelling conditions and lOOkph average speeds through ideal, sparsely-populated country unrivalled elsewhere in the world.
True, it now has its competitors. In Africa, the Ethiopian Highland Rally and the Moroccan Rally duplicate some of the features of the Safari; they may, indeed, siphon off a few of the would-be entrants from the East African event. They can never match its unique character.
Motoring News has called it “the most exacting test for man and machine yet devised in the world of rallying.” And world automobile manufacturers from Detroit to Japan have been quick to note that success in the Safari is inevitably reflected in a rise in the sales graphs of a market far wider than just East Africa.
How did it all start ? Kenyans have long taken an interest in motor sport, and fifty years ago the Royal East African Automobile Association had 1,000 members (83-2% of all car owners in 1921). The Association-now the AA of East Africa and responsible for the management of the Safari-had been founded in 1919 by L.D.Galton-Fenzi.
Galton-Fenzi pioneered the Nairobi-Mombasa route driving a 1926 Riley. The trip took 15 days, and from Voi to Mackinnon Road a track had to be hacked from the bush. He carried out other surveys; Nairobi to Dodoma and on to what was Nyasaland and in 1931 across Africa to Lagos, through the Sahara to London.
In 1936, a road race through the core of Africa from Nairobi to Johannesburg was staged, 2,715 miles of route that had been largely pioneered by Galton-Fenzi. In a forward to the route notes and maps for that race, he noted, “the marvellous strides made in recent years as regards road construction and road maintenance.” It was a fortnight’s drive from Cape Town to Nairobi.
The connection between those early days and the present East African Safari Rally is tenuous, but real. In 1950 two Nairobi businessmen, Neil and Donald Vincent, had set a new record for the Nairobi -Cape Town-Nairobi run. Later approached by their cousin Eric Cecil, at that time chairman of the competitions committee of the REAAA, to race at Langa Langa they were unenthusiastic.
The Langa Langa (present-day Gilgil) track utilised the perimeter roads of a World War II military camp, providing a testing 3-3 mile circuit. Cecil was preoccupied with boosting interest in the track, but the Vincents were non-committal. Instead, it is recorded, they made the alternative suggestion that a long-distance drive such as they had undertaken the previous year presented a greater challenge than going round and round a track.
So the idea of the Safari was born. Cecil recalls that he thought initially in terms of a road race around Lake Victoria, a proposition shelved when it was realised that seasonal flooding in parts of northern Tanzania rendered this impracticable.
Eventually various schemes and suggestions jelled. The Safari, to be run over roads in the three East African states of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, became a reality in 1953. It was staged over the holidays that marked the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Regulations were as brief and simple as possible. There were only eight controls-compared to the 57 control points in the 18th Safari of 1970-and there was no provision for rest en route. Classification of the strictly standard production saloon cars was by showroom price rather than engine capacity.
safari rally
Right from the start, the organisers had their paid members in mind and were out to prove just what value the new car buyer was getting for his money. Not even strengthening of the vital suspension that inevitably took a tremendous pounding on the East African roads of two decades ago was allowed.
The changes in the intervening years have been considerable. The team of four Ford Escort RS 1600s which won the manufacturers’ team award in the 1972 Safari were fitted with heavy-duty suspension, long-range fuel tanks, full underbody protection against pos-sible severe damage by rocks and competition brakes.
Each car was fitted with “roo bars” in the event of possible collision with wild animals and the now compulsory roll bars. The Ford service manager put the preparation cost of each car at £8,000 and a fleet of service vehicles and co-ordinating service plane may have added £20,000 to the bill.
joginder singh
But the 1953 method of classification by showroom price was retained right up until 1959, with the internationally recognised categorisation by engine capacity being introduced the following year. A price/performance index was calculated from 1961, although in recent years this lost much of its credibility and has since lapsed.
That inaugural year, and in fact for several years thereafter, no advertising was allowed on the cars as compared with the present day regulations which emphatically state: “Advertising on competing cars is specifically encouraged.” A colourful form of sponsorship made necessary to offset the increased cost of the Safari over the years.
Of the eventual 57 starters in that first Coronation Safari-the nomenclature was changed in 1960 to East African Safari and five years later to the present title of East African Safari Rally-some 28 were trade entries, although probably a considerable percentage of the so-called “private” entries also had trade backing. The entry fee was only Sh. 100 per car, which has since escalated to Sh. 1,500 for normal entries and double that for late inclusions.
Three separate starting points eventually proved necessary for the first Safari, plans to rail Tanzanian entrants’ cars to Kampala for a single mass start having proved abortive. This “Monte Carlo” type start to the rally was retained for the next year’s event, but thereafter Nairobi was the start-finish point until 1970.
From 1963, the Governments of the other independent East African states were reluctant to allow Kenya to cream-off the considerable benefits that accrued from starting the Safari each year, and Tanzania in particular made persistent efforts to induce the organisers to start the rally from Dar es Salaam.
In 1969, matters came to a head, and the Tanzania Government ruled that the rally would not be allowed to enter Tanzanian territory. A route taking in only Kenya and Uganda was devised, with Nairobi the starting point. Next year the Safari start and finish was moved to Kampala.
Meanwhile, a reconciliation between the organisers and the Tanzanian Government had been brought about, and although the Safari reverted in 1971 to the traditional Nairobi start, the following year it was the turn of Dar es Salaam.
It now appears likely that the starting point of the rally will rotate between the three East African capitals, although for 1973-the year of the Safari’s majority-Nairobi has again been selected as the start-finish venue. For organisational reasons, the route does not include Uganda.
42 of the 57 starters in 1953 opted to set off from Nairobi, with eight chosing Kampala and seven Morogoro. Unlike current Safari starts, from a ramp at two minute intervals, there was a mass start from each of the three centres. Conditions throughout were atrociously wet and muddy. “Typical” Safari weather!
Few competitors had the time or foresight to carry out a reconnaissance of the route, a now essential feature with the modern navigator of the genre of Henry Liddon, Chris Bates and Bev Smith compiling copious, detailed notes of every aspect of the route.
But even in that first Safari it was obvious that one crew was capitalising on a pre-rally recce and detailed preparation of their Chevrolet-John Manussis and John Boyes. They motored confidently to the finish for a Class D win.
Manussis, one of the Safari’s great characters, had to wait until 1961 to register the outright victory he sought for so many years. Utterly nerveless, he is on record as once telling Lucille Cardwell when she expressed a wish to get out of his car: “Lucy, if you
jump out now you will surely be killed. If you stay with me you have a 50-50 chance!”
Incredibly, Alan Dix-later to become Managing Director of Volkswagen Great Britain-and his co-driver J.W. Larsen motored their Volkswagen into the Nairobi finish just 17 minutes behind schedule and first of 10 finishers to reach the capital.A further 17 crews to reach Voi 200 miles from Nairobi were also classed as finishers. Volkswagens won the manufacturers’ team prize.
Intrigued by the challenge of this novel event, there were 50 starters the next year from Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Kampala, covering much the same route as in 1953. That had been a road race. The organisers introduced a compulsory rest stop in 1954 and drastically reduced the required average speed schedules to 36 mph for Class A and progressively one mile an hour more for the next three classes.
Not suprisingly, 28 crews (of which three were later disqualified) finished within the time allowed, half of this number without incurring a single penalty point. The organisers devised an acceleration/ braking test as a tie breaker. Eventually this took place outside the Nairobi City Hall following a heavy rain storm, having been moved from the Nairobi show-ground (now Jamhuri Park).
Ironically, the Vincent brothers who put up the best performance and two other crews were dis-qualified for exceeding the 30 mph speed limit in the built-up area of Nairobi. Vie Preston and D.P. Marwaha (Volkswagen), third in this thoroughly unsatisfactory test, were declared the winners.
Next year’s event was run under FIA rules and a RAC permit. Compulsory rest stops were increased to four, the distance to 2,510 miles and the number of controls en route to 11. Penalty points were imposed on final scrutineering of the vehicle at the finish, as they still are for minor faults today.
Vie Preston and D.P. Marwaha won the Safari outright, this time in a Ford Zephyr. Their second overall and third class victory. They were first of 28 finishers from 58 starters, and once again the ubiquitous Volkswagens won the manufacturers’ team award for the third successive year.
78 cars, the highest number of finishers in any Safari completed the 1956 rally, a dry, dusty affair with the 13 finishers who had “cleaned” the route without a single penalty point undergoing a track test over one lap of the Nakuru Park circuit to decide the issue.
This was the second and last time that an extraneous test had to be used to adjudge the outcome of the Safari. The Nakuru track test, to a predeter-mined formula, favoured the smaller cars as did the tight circuit where the long-wheel based cars were handicapped when cornering.
Eric Cecil and Tony Vickers’ lap time in a DKW for 1 min 45-6 sec (the vastly more experienced race driver Jim Heather-Hayes in a Mercedes 220A was 5-1 sec faster) gave them overall victory, and Simca won the manufacturers’ award, the first French marque to do so.
Run under a FIA permit, the 3,300 mile 1957 Safari was the first to achieve international status. But as in previous years there was not a single overseas competitor and the rally was still very much a parochial affair. “Gus” Hofmann and A.A.N. Burton took the premier spot and spearheaded the Volkswagens to the manufacturers’ team prize for the fourth time. There were 19 finishers, with the rally being held for the first time (and traditionally since) over the Easter Holiday.
A threatened boycott by the motor trade before the start, a furore mid-way over the imposition of penalty points when 45 cars were caught in two speed traps at Tanga and the decimation of the survivors on the 92-mile stretch from Mbale to Suam River Bridge on the second leg made this an unhappy Safari for organisers and competitors alike.
The sealing of vital components had been introduced in 1957, and the next year’s provisional results were not confirmed until November following a protest to the RAC when the seals on the front suspension of the class-leading Ford Anglia and Ford Zephyr were found to be broken.
Initially penalised 2,000 and 1,000 points respectively, this decision was rescinded following an appeal to the Stewards who concluded that the seals had not been deliberately tampered with. Whereupon, the Mercedes and Volkswagen entrants lodged a counter protest.. A special tribunal re-imposed the penalties, but the RAC arbitrators ruled the seals were inherently technically weak and confirmed the Anglia and Zephyr in their class wins.
Although noteworthy for the inclusion of the first-ever overseas entries and the first all-African crews, 1958 was indubitably a non-vintage year, for although there were 54 finishers no overall winner was declared for the first and last time in the history of the Safari: E. M. Temple-Boreham/M. P. Armstrong (Auto Union) won the Leopard Class with 150 penalty points, an identical score with Lion Class leaders A.R. and K.M. Kopperud (Zephyr) around whom the great seals protest had raged. Volkswagen won the manufacturers’ team award for the fifth time.
Overseas interest continued for the 1959 event, won by Jack Ellis with his step-son Bill Fritschy as co-driver in a Mercedes 219, first of three outright victories for Mercedes. They repeated this feat the following year for the “double”, Fritschy failed to achieve a unique three-in-a-row in 1961 by just five minutes.
As it is, no-one has yet won the Safari three times, although Vie Preston/D.P. Marwaha (1954/55), “Nick” Nowicki/Paddy Cliff (1963*68), Bert Shank-land/Chris Rothwell (1966/67) and Edgar Herrmann/ Hans Schuller (1970/71) are other crews to have achieved the double.
Taking no chances on a repeat of the 1958 rumpus over seals, the organisers in 1959 not only redrafted the regulations but supplemented the seals with a special yellow, radio-active paint. A Geiger counter reading taken on application was checked after the rally making the replacement of components without detection virtually impossible.
Overseas interest in the 1959 rally was considerable with (as detailed elsewhere) the British motoring Press strongly represented in Tommy Wisdom, a member of the winning Ford team in 1961, Court-enay Edwards and Peter Gamier of Autocar. Richard Bensted Smith, later editor of Motor, drove the following year with Peter Hughes for a class win.The Safari was filmed for British television in 1960, and BBC, ITV and Visnews have provided subsequent coverage. Upward of 100 overseas journalists now cover the event for newspapers, motoring magazines, radio and television around the world.
The Ellis/Fritschy combination triumphed again in 1960, one of the wettest Safaris on record. Wide-spread flooding in Tanzania necessitated changes of route even before the start. Ford won the manufact-urers’ team award for the second successive year, and included in the winning team were Coupe des Dames winners Lucille Cardwell and Anne Hall in a Ford Zephyr.
The 1962 Safari ushered in the Pat Moss-Eric Carlsson era; two of the record 33 overseas drivers competing in the tenth rally of the series. East African fans took them enthusiastically to their hearts. Pat Moss came within an ace of an outright win at her first attempt, but Kiambu coffee farmer Tommy Fjastad and B. Schmider came through for yet another Volkswagen success.
In 1963, the Safari’s reputation was further en-hanced when included for the first time as a qualifying rally in the RAC manufacturers’ world rally champion-ship. It was a year notable, too, for the first Japanese factory entered cars-in the years ahead to play such a decisive role in the rally.
Freak weather conditions again tested the elasticity of the Safari organisation to the full, with only seven of the 84 starters struggling back to the finish. Polish-born, long-time Kenya resident “Nick” Nowicki and Paddy Cliff were the outright winners in a Peugeot 404, and were to underscore their mastery of these muddy marathons when they won the 1968 Safari, again first of seven finishers from a field of 91.
Second were Peter Hughes and Billy Young in a Ford Anglia, a disappointment they erased from their memories the following year with outright victory in the 1964 rally driving a Ford Cortina GT. Team-wise, that year proved another Ford benefit, with the Cortina’s securing the manufacturers’ award.
Brothers Joginder and Jaswant Singh made Safari history in 1965 when they motored their second-hand Volvo PV 544 into first place overall, and became the first all-Asian crew to achieve an international rally success. They had a tremendous welcome from a huge partisan crowd, having drawn first place and main-taining premier spot virtually all the way to the finish.
The mass start of the first year had given way in 1954 to the interval start, with the smaller cars the first away. The starting order was reversed in 1958 and the next year, and in 1960 the organisers ex-perimented with an unrestricted ballot for starting positions irrespective of size or class.
This was varied from 1961 to 1963, when a ballot was held for starting order in the individual classes with the smaller cars starting first. The next year this was further changed by the addition of a ballot for starting order between the classes.The straight all-in ballot came back into favour in1965 for two years, but then in 1967 the seeded start (into groups depending on competition success in the preceding year, experience and competence) was introduced. This has been retained up-to-date. A ballot is held for order of start within the groups. The record of the “Flying Sikh” in the Safari is outstanding. Born in Kericho, Joginder was in 1965 the East African rally champion, winning outright the Uganda Rally and Tanzania 1000 as well as the Safari. Entered in every Safari since 1959, he has failed to finish only once, in 1972.
Tanzanians Bert Shankland and Chris Rothwell in 1966 were the first non-Kenya based crew ever to win the Safari, taking first position overall in a Peugeot 404. This was no flash-in-the-pan success, as they demonstrated the following year, giving this French marque its third win in five years.
But Fords won the manufacturers’ team award both years, and Soderstrom and Palm in a Cortina Lotus made all the running in the 1967 Safari, looking for the first 2,000 miles as if they would achieve the history-making feat of being the first overseas crew to win. Luck was against them.
President Kenyatta flagged away the first cars of the 1968 rally, with Nowicki and Cliff first of the “Unsinkable Seven” to make it back to the Nairobi finish. As the cars headed north into the night, the rains broke some six weeks earlier than usual and turned the route into one of the toughest and most hazardous ever.
The weather had taken an early toll within 150 miles of the start, with 18 cars enmired on the approaches to the Mau Escarpment in atrocious conditions. Cars continued to drop out or were time-barred. Only seven of the 21 cars which started on the southern leg survived. No manufacturers’ team finished.
Conversely, dust was the major hazard of the mile-a-minute 1969 rally. Jock Aird, a Nakuru farming contractor, and Robin Hillyar won in a Ford 20M after Soderstrom and Palm had again looked to be heading for that elusive overseas victory until a broken differential put them out. Bunching was introduced, adding greatly to the control and spectator appeal of the event.
But an acrimonious dispute arose at the finish. It was found on scrutineering that the winning car differed in material particulars (namely that the exhaust valves were three millimetres larger) from details given in the homologation sheets.
Runners up Joginder Singh and Bharat Bhardwaj protested to the Safari Stewards who, however, noted that there was a satisfactory explanation and that a clerical error by Ford of Cologne was responsible. An appeal to the RAG was contemplated as a challenge to the validity of the Stewards’ decision, but was not proceeded with.
It was a frustrating Safari for Vic Preston and Bob Gerrish. Eliminated in 1968 by their failure to obtain the relevant stamp at a control, they were within 600 miles of the finish in the 1969 event when outright victory slipped from their grasp yet again. Twice, in 1966 and 1967, this formidable duo had been second overall.
Atrocious conditions characterised the 1970 rally, with speeds of more than 100 mph called for on some sections. For the first time, the Safari started and finished outside Kenya, at Kampala.
For Malindi hotelier Edgar Herrmann eight years of endeavour were rewarded when he took first place overall driving a Datsun 1600SSS with Hans Schuller after what the East African Standard called “an immaculate drive which must rank as one of the greatest in Safari history.”
However, the rally was marred by the unfortunate death of a former Ugandan Army captain David Ndahura who was driving with Ismail Sebbi. He was swept away and drowned when his Peugeot 404 was marooned on the flooded Tiva Bridge near Kitui in the Kenya section of the rally.
But fatalities in the Safari, despite the speed and ruggedness of the country through which it is run, have proved gratifyingly few. The first occured in 1957 when Somakraj and Charlie Safi failed to negotiate a corner leading up to the Ruvu River bridge in Tanzania and plunged into the flooded river and drowned.
In 1971, Nairobi University lecturer Cyrus Kamundia of Nyeri was killed while on a pre-Safari recce with co-driver G. Gichuru in Tanzania, and the preceding year a Japanese service crewman died in a crash before the Safari. The tragic exceptions to an unusually fatality-free rally.
Safety belts were made compulsory in 1962, and the roll bar in more recent years. Both have con-tributed to preventing serious injury on many occasions, as has the strength of the modern all-steel body. For “prangs” in the Safari have been numerous.
A record entry of 118 cars made 1971 another milestone in the history of the Safari, which covered an all-time high of 6,400 km. Overseas and African entries were also the highest on record. Again it was Herrmann and Schuller, this time paired in the potent Datsun 240Z, who gained outright victory.
Bjorn Waldegaard and Sobieslaw Zasada were ahead of the field as the cars headed into Uganda, and with three-quarters of the rally run, Waldegaard had a 23 minute lead and looked set to break the jinx on overseas drivers.
But he crashed his Porsche trying to overtake his team-mate Zasada, who was only 200 miles from the finish when his Porsche developed intermittent engine trouble which the Stuttgart mechanics were unable to correct and he gradually dropped back through the field for eventual fifth place overall.
So near yet so far. . . the inevitable overseas victory which had eluded allcomers for so long was eventually achieved in 1972. Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm raced their Ford Escort RS1600 into the Dar es Salaam finish for an historic overall win and another manufacturers’ team prize for the British marque.
For the first time the Safari started and finished in the Tanzanian capital, the first cars being nagged away by President Julius Nyerere. 18 of the 83 starters finished, with Anne Taieth and Sylvia King Coupe des Dames winners in a Datsun 1600-the first all-women crew to complete the Safari since 1968.
The Safari stands alone as the sole international example of its kind, the most difficult rally in the world. An almost parochial affair at the start, it has matured over two decades into one of the great motoring events on the world calendar. Truly, the Safari has come of age.

The Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic Rally 2013 Photo Gallery


Ian Duncan And Amaar Slatch Are The 2013 East African Safari classic Rally Champions


When Stig Blomqvist (Porsche 911) and Ian Duncan (Ford Capri V8) started the last day of the East African Safari Classic Rally this morning, they were separated by just nine seconds with Duncan possessing the miniscule advantage. On the first competitive section – a run back through the Taita Hills – almost incredibly these two drivers set equal fastest time with the stopwatch unable to separate them. Thus the gap remained nine seconds in the Kenyan driver’s favour.
But on the second section, the tide of fortune turned once again and this time it was in Blomqvist’s favour as he beat Duncan by forty-seven seconds and thus led the rally by thirty-eight seconds with just one competitive section before reaching the finish ramp at the Whitesands Hotel in Mombasa.
However, there was one major twist of fate still remaining in this extraordinary endurance rally for classic cars when Blomqvist punctured on the very last section and lost four minutes and the lead. Thus Ian Duncan and Amaar Slatch win the Safari Classic for the second time in four years to lift once again the hearts of their faithful Kenyan supporters. After this ongoing battle of seconds Duncan’s overall lead was 3 minutes 14 seconds over the Swedish crew. For Blomqvist, who said before the rally that he never had much luck on the Safari, this was a bitter blow when it looked as if Dame Fortune was finally going to smile on him in Africa.
A Porsche won the last Safari Classic in 2011 and this time the German marque almost filled half the entry list. Indeed, seven of them finished in the top ten places with only Duncan’s Ford Capri, Steve Perez’s Datsun 260Z and John Lloyd’s Ford Escort Mk2 to keep them company. In some ways, Duncan’s victory could be said to be a double victory for Africa since the Capri that he was driving was originally manufactured for Ford in South Africa.
Third place went to Belgians, Gérard Marcy and Stéphané Prevot driving – like Blomqvist and Parmander – a Tuthill prepared Porsche 911. Their was an unchallenged run to the podium and a complete justification of their intention, announced before the start, that they would be proceeding at their own pace. Just behind them, a strong charge from Onkar Rai and Baldev Chager in a Porsche 911 was held off by the Amigos Team Datsun 260Z of Steve Perez and John Millington with the British pair showing their mettle by beating the flying Kenyans on the last stage by over a minute and a half to preserve their fourth place overall.
Kenyan father-and-son crew, David and Alex Horsey, took sixth place in another Tuthill prepared Porsche 911 with Safari Rally lover John Lloyd in seventh in a Viking Ford Escort Mk2 with co-driver Gavin Laurence. The remainder of the top ten places were occupied by Porsche 911s with Gregoire de Mevius and Alain Guehennec setting themselves a steady pace on the last day of this eventful rally and taking eighth place in a BMA Porsche 911. Kenyan crew Manvir Baryan and Jaswinder Chana claimed ninth place with the Belgian crew of Patrick Van Heurck and Alain Lopez rounding up the overall top ten in a Tuthill Porsche 911.
The battle for victory of this nine-day epic rally has kept everyone holding their breath but the stamina and skill of all the crews must be celebrated. This year the East African Safari Classic crown remains in Kenya but there is no doubt that it will be just as hotly contested in two years time.

East African Safari Classic Rally 2013 Day 8 – The two man struggle continues


In the endurance struggle that is the East African Safari Classic Rally, with just one day and three competitive sections to go, the point is normally reached when one would expect to find competitors separated by whole fractions of an hour and looking to conserve their positions in the classification not to mention preserving their cars. For many competitors, this is the case but, up front, the situation is that the two leaders are separated by seconds and are still going for victory ‘hammer and tongs’.
Stig Blomqvist left Naivasha this morning in his Tuthill Porsche 911 with a scanty lead of fifty-nine seconds over Ian Duncan in his Ford Capri V8 and promptly made his mark by setting a fastest time on the first competitive section that was three minutes and three seconds faster than his pursuer who suffered a puncture.
But then Blomqvist’s luck took a downturn and he sustained a puncture and lost four minutes and eight seconds to Duncan who promptly moved back into the front with a lead of six seconds over the Swedish, ex-World Rally Champion. On the third and last competitive section of the day, it was Duncan who again had the advantage and extended his lead – by another three seconds to a total of nine seconds.
Behind these two, there have been few changes. The Horseys had been looking to make progress themselves on the man ahead of them, Steve Perez in the Amigos Datsun 260Z who had started the day more than six minutes ahead of them. However they are still over three minutes behind Perez and another Kenyan crew Rai and Chager have made up some time and are now only 16 seconds behind them.
By virtue of a sterling performance on the first section, Gregoire de Mevius put his BMA Porsche 911 back into the top ten by gobbling up the thirteen seconds that he lagged behind Phillipe van Heurck also Porsche mounted. He then led van Heurck by more then two and half minutes. He repeated the performance on the second section going two and half minutes quicker than Kenyan, Manvir Baryan in a Porsche 911 to grab ninth place overall, albeit by a mere five seconds. At the end of the day, he was promoted to eighth by Geoff Bell’s misfortunes in his Datsun 260Z who broke his differential on the third section. However de Mevius stands little hope of advancing further without major trouble striking those ahead of him since he lies almost twenty-three minutes behind John Lloyd in his Viking Autosport Ford Escort Mk2 in seventh place.
Fridayis the last day of competition and see the remaining crews tackle three stages all very similar to the three that started this rally eight days ago last Thursday. These three sections total one hundred and ninety kilometres and there will be several prayers being offered up tonight by the surviving crews : freedom from mechanical problems, no punctures and a good clean run back to the Whitesands Hotel outside Mombasa. But all eyes will be on Duncan and Blomqvist as they struggle for victory in Ford Capri and Porsche 911 respectively.

East African Safari Classic Rally 2013 Day 7 – A shorter day but not necessarily sweeter


There is rarely an uneventful day on East African Safari Classic Rally and today was no exception, despite being shorter than planned due to cancellation of two out of four of the competitive sections. In the first section Ian Duncan in his Ford Capri kept his lead from Stig Blomqvist in a Race4Health Tuthill prepared Porsche 911 but it was diminished to only 56 seconds due to a puncture. With the lead back in sight, the Swedish crew then managed to take nearly two minutes off Duncan in the last section to give them an overall lead of 59 seconds. Amazingly for an event like this, it is still only a matter of seconds between these two crews.
The first very sandy section of the day proved better for some than others. Gregoire de Mevius set fastest time on this section in a BMA Porsche 911 and Blomqvist set second fastest. Kenyan crew Onkar Rai and Baldev Chager in a Porsche 911 set third fastest time on the 32km section and moved ahead of John Lloyd’s Viking Ford Escort into sixth position overall. Gérard Marcy kept his third overall position in a Porsche 911, over 18 minutes behind the top two crews whilst Steve Perez remained in fourth in his Amigos Datsun 260Z another 23 minutes behind Marcy. His team-mate Geoff Bell who had set fastest times on the last two of sections of yesterday suffered the same misfortune as Ian Duncan with a puncture but that happened much closer to the end of the section and he managed to set fifth fastest time.
After the first section the Kenyan father and son crew David and Alex Horsey were in fifth place overall in their Porsche 911 with Alex at the wheel losing a few seconds to Perez. They were still suffering power problems but these were fixed before the next section. Philippe Vandromme suffered two major problems: a distributor failure and a driveshaft problem in the section, losing about fifteen minutes in the section and also losing his eighth overall position to Bell. Vandromme also incurred a 1 hour 30 minute road penalty.
This first section deteriorated as the cars passed through, with deep powdery sand and ruts causing a lot of cars to get stuck, either temporarily or permanently. Therefore it was decided to cancel the second run of this section later in the day. With the second section of the day from Suswa also cancelled this meant a much shorter competitive day than envisioned with only 116 km competitive sections compared to the planned 194 km.
There was a long wait before the 84 km Soysambu section that runs behind Lake Elementaita which had a variety of challenges for the East African Safari Classic crews, including numerous river crossings. With less than a minute to Duncan, Blomqvist clearly had the lead in his sights, setting second fastest time on this section, 1 minute 55 seconds faster than Duncan which allowed him to take the overall lead by 59 seconds. The Swedish touring car driver Richard Göransson clocked another fastest time on this section in a Race4Health Tuthill prepared Porsche 911 and was clearly getting into the Safari swing of things.
Marcy remained in third overall place, behind Duncan by over 22 minutes. Perez set sixth fastest time on the last section, remaining in fourth place, although co-driver Carl Millington describe the last section as a “Welsh night rally without the maps and no landmarks!” He is more than 20 minutes behind Marcy. Indeed the Horseys had a few navigational problems in the last section, allowing Perez to gain some time over them, but they stay in fifth place overall. Kenyan crew Rai and Chager suffered a puncture in the last section but still managed to move ahead of Lloyd’s Ford Escort. Bell also suffered a puncture on the last section but has managed to pull up to eighth place after Vandromme’s problems during the day. In ninth place is the Kenyan crew of Baryan and Chana in a Porsche 911 but over 23 minutes behind Bell, whilst the Belgian crew of van Heurck and Lopez have moved into the top ten in their Porsche 911 with Gregoire de Mevius close behind them in a BMA Porsche 911.
Later in the day crews running further down the field hit difficulties with the river crossings in the second section and there was quite a gathering with several cars requiring help and many having to wait for over half an hour. One of the sad stories of the day was the retirement of Marzio Kravos and Renzo Bernardi in their Ferrari 308. On the first section of the day their engine failed. They were able to confirm this by the fact that metal parts from the interior of the engine were coming out of the exhaust. With no truck-full of spare engines they have decided to finish the rally in Naivasha.
Tomorrowthe cars leave to start the long haul back towards Mombasa. There are three sections, the first of which is a 50 km re-run in the opposite direction through the Meyer’s farm section and a 70 km section out from Isinya to the Mombasa road. The final section of the day is another run though part of the Taita hills – this one a mere 30 km.