The Himalayan Challenge saw a total of 40 pre-1976 cars enter the 21-day endurance rally, including a bunch of Bentleys, Porsches, Mercs and more
Forty vintage cars take on The Himalayan Challenge
SSEEING A BENTLEY DRIVE BY IS A RARE occasion. Seeing a vintage Bentley akin to what the ‘Bentley Boys’ drove is a somewhat of an exceptional sight. The odds of seeing six of these beauties of vintages between 1925 & 1929 traversing the North Western Indian Himalayas are exceedingly improbable.
Conversely, folks in Manali town were in for a once in a lifetime treat when these prized marques along with other vintage & classic automobiles welcomed arrivals in the last week of September 2018. Unprecedented rains had wreaked havoc on 23 & 24 September, forever changing the landscape of Himachal. Prevailing diabolical road conditions were certain to provide many an anxious moment to even the most intrepid of drivers. Evening of 23rd brought these drenched & weary souls to our Castle, The Himalayan in the Kullu valley. After a few stiff Gin & Tonics by a log fire, moods were elevated & the day’s remains discussed.
Notwithstanding the continuous deluge the following day, teams made good use of a makeshift tarptent we had set up for mending their automobiles. Roads littered with boulders the size of an average house & trickles expanding into turbulent rivers had left battle scars on most of the carriages.
Considering the extensive damage to the roads at Manali & north towards Spiti, the route designer & clerk of the course decided that the Kaza leg be omitted & the rally head south onto Shimla instead. The sole lifeline connecting Manali to the rest of the world was the aging suspension bridge over the Beas River at Raison. The flight involved was some whiteknuckle driving through a sharp switchback leading down to the British built bridge, which in itself was a tight squeeze for most of the cars.
UK based ERA (The Endurance Rally Association) were the organisers of The Himalayan Challenge 2018 beginning in Delhi on September 21 & finishing in Agra on October 11.
The 21-day competitive endurance rally was open to pre-1976 cars with a total of 40 entries, the oldest being a 1925 Bentley 3-4½, one of the six WO Bentleys that participated. Only three of these managed to finish the gruelling event. Rest of the line-up comprised of a couple of 1931 Chryslers, a 1932 Rockne Six 75, several Mercedes-Benz classics, a 1960 Morgan Plus 4, three Porsche 911s, few Volvos, a lone 1965 Ford Mustang, a 1966 Saab 96 V4, a 1968 Triumph TR250, a couple of 1971 Datsun 240Zs and a 1973 Citroen DS20 among others.
The 4444km rally concluded with the spectacular Taj as the backdrop. Car 31, a 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280S took the overall winner trophy.
Contestants unequivocally agreed that they had come for adventure & the route did not fail to deliver. The challenge was open only to veteran rallyists with a majority of them having competed in the Peking to Paris rally. Almost all of them were in agreement that the brutal conditions made for the toughest rally they had ever participated in & they will certainly not want to repeat The Himalayan Challenge. ⌧
Nishat Mohi is Keeper of the Keys at The Himalayan castle resort in Manali (www.thehimalayan.com)
THE ODDS OF SEEING THESE BEAUTIES TRAVERSING NORTH WESTERN INDIAN HIMALAYAS ARE EXCEEDINGLY IMPROBABLE
61: Older gen Datsun Z’s were known to be bulletproof 2: 1966 Saab 96 V4 3: A lot of preparation was required to tackle the terrain 4: Landslides, roads caving in, a common site up top 5: 1929 Bentley 4½ Le Mans 6: 1960 - Morgan Plus 4