Australian Francis Birtles became the first person to make a west-east crossing of the Australian continent by car; a car mostly make of wood with a one cylinder engine.
His equally tenacious Russian contemporary Andrei Nagel battled against temperatures down to -20C and deep snowdrifts to be the first contestant to cross the Monaco Rally finish line in his Russian built sports car, having started 3257km away in Saint Petersburg eight days earlier.
Not only does 2012 mark the 100th anniversary of these two epic motoring journeys, it also marks the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Russia.
To celebrate the friendship and growing cooperation and economic ties between the two countries, as well as commemorate the remarkable exploits of their greatest automotive adventurists we will drive an antique car from Melbourne, Australia to Moscow, Russia via Africa arriving in 2012. Just like Birtles and Nagel’s ‘impossible’ 1912 journeys ours is also a first. We believe a pre-World War One made car, or even pre-World War Two, has never before been driven from Australia to Russia (or vice-versa) via Africa.
The journey also has a number of other aims. We hope to:
• Stimulate public interest in preserving our motoring heritage.
• Introduce the appreciation of antique automobiles to a new generation as well as raise awareness of early 20th century automotive adventures, which included notable examples by women. In 1909, at a time when women where not encouraged to drive cars, 22 year old Alice Ramsey became the first woman to drive across the United States of America, taking 59 days to cover the 6000km.
• Inform a wider audience of the 70th anniversary of Australia-Russia diplomatic relations.
• Inspire young people to pursue any dreams or ambitions they may have.
Departure from Melbourne will be on the 21st of October 2011 from Motorclassica at the beautiful Royal Exhibition Building. Motorclassica ( 21-23 October 2011) is the Australian International Concours d' Elegance and Classic Motor Show, which brings together more than $100 million of the world's most rare and desirable cars. Arrival in Moscow will be on the 16th June 2012. June 16th is the date on which first known contact took place between Australia and Russia in 1807.
The coordinator and main driver of this challenge is Constantine Mandylas. Having spent time in over 30 countries, many of which are rarely visited by Australians, Constantine is no stranger to adventure and the difficulties travelling in a foreign land can bring. Nor is a stranger to old car journeys having driven a Russian made 1961 Moskvitch 407 from Kharkov, Ukraine to Corfu, Greece via Romania and Bulgaria in 2007. A member of a number of car clubs in Australia and overseas, he has had a life long interest in antique cars. His ability to drive trucks and experience as a chauffeur should help him deal with the countless hours of driving and less than perfect road conditions which lay ahead. He also possesses a Bachelor's Degree in Criminology but hopes his knowledge from this will not be called upon.
Andrei Nagel (with the moustache) and Vadim Mikhailov seated in their Russo-Balt S24-55 sports car on the morning of the 13th of January 1912 in Saint Petersburg prior to setting off for Monaco. In front of the car stand their wives. Note the chain on the rear wheel, the absence of a front windscreen, the flags of Russia and Monaco, and that the vehicle is right-hand-drive.