Daphne, one of the 2CVs owned by 2CV Adventures, has proved herself to be a world beater and has three notable records to her name – crossing the Amazon, crossing the Andes and crossing from the Atlantic to the Pacific in just 30 days!
The unlikely story began in the Himalayas of India when Reg Toohey, an endurance rally specialist, was musing over a Kingfisher with photographer Jaime Turner about what would be the ideal camera car for a rally he wanted to do across the Amazon
in South America.
The Rally in question was our Great Amazon Adventure, a 6,5000km event from Paramaribo in Suriname to Lima in Peru. The rally went through French Guiana and Brazil to complete the quartet of countries.
The musing turned to Citroens and particularly the 2CV which was deemed a worthy challenger for the title. All they had to do was find one that was suitably prepared. Reg had participated in the 2CV Adventures Morocco Rally a few years before so after a quick call to Toby Kilner of 2CV Adventures, a deal was struck.
But, it was the 11th hour and the car needed to be prepared for the event in just three days. From the 16 cars in the stable Daphne was chosen as it was Reg’s car on the Morocco rally and he had a particular affection for it. The suspension was stripped and refurbished, steering was checked, engine rebuilt, gearbox rebuilt and in a flurry of elbow grease and late nights the car was delivered to the shipper with hours to spare before it was due to be loaded onto the ship.
Three weeks later Reg and Jaimie arrived in Suriname which is on the Atlantic coast of South America to take charge of Daphne and begin the drive to Lima. There were nine other vehicles on the rally, ranging from a squad of Land Cruisers, a 1923 Vauxhall 23/60, a 1938 Chevrolet Fangio Coupe, a 1933 Lagonda and a 1939 Willys Overlander – all more suitable for the type of terrain ahead.
The 2016 Great Amazon Adventure was only the second time it had been run. It has its own special difficulties including dirt roads, pot holes, gravel tracks, rickety wooded bridges, mountain passes up to 4,900metres high and a series of ferries and barges. Not to mention tropical rainstorms, temperatures up to 38 degrees, high humidity and long days on the road.
On October 8th the flag was dropped on the event and the rally left Paramaribo to head into the interior of Suriname for their first taste of the rainforest. Bizarrely, although Suriname is an ex-Dutch colony, they drive on the left as we do in the UK. This made Daphne very much at home. The next day Daphne and her pals crossed the Maroni River into French Guiana which, equally bizarrely, is in the EU! It is a French Overseas Territory and thus enjoys the benefits of being in the EU – it even uses the Euro, has French supermarkets with goods at French prices (including the wines – Reg actually brought 15 bottles of quality French wine for 50 euros!), has French road signs, French customs etc etc. Petit France but in South America.
Here the rally stopped in Kourou, famous for Devil’s Island (Papillion!) and the European Space Agency. Daphne then crossed into Brazil and made her way to the Amazon River itself at Macapa. On the 590kms drive into Macapa Daphne had appeared to be running short of breath despite still being at sea level. The fault was traced to a loose spark plug lead and quickly rectified – gaffer tape of course. But, it was becoming apparent that to truly fulfil its role as a camera car it had to get ahead of the rest of the cars as catching participants in their Toyota Land cruisers was out of the question.
Reg and Jaime also found the going was pretty slow on some of the rough roads and ahead of them
was nearly 3000kms of dirt of varying quality!
Would she make it?
At this point Reg was concerned at the slow pace and revised his schedule to leave by 05:30 every morning to give them a two hour start over the rest of the field Photography would have to be done around that
schedule. “The thing is,” said Reg, “Jaime is an artist when it comes to photography so he likes to set up shots and get the perfect angle, light and exposure. This cuts into our driving time so we both had to compromise as I was determined to complete the rally and get Daphne to Lima in one piece.”
The next couple of days were easier as the rally boarded Bruno, Amazon River ferry, as there are no roads from the town of Macapa to Santarem where the roads begin again, soon joining the Trans Amazonica Highway. Highway is name only as for long section it is dirt or gravel and no more than two cars’ width.
The very rough sections of dirt road took its toll on the shock absorbers. The front mounting brackets broke on the way to Jacarecanga which is about as far away from civilisation as you can get. However, due to this remoteness the local mechanics are used to repairing rather than replacing parts and did an extremely professional job by bracing and welding the original brackets.
Small towns in this remote area have grown up around artisan gold mining operations and are slowly becoming better organised and more law abiding. Jacarecanga is one such town that has very basic hotels with limited restaurant facilities.
That night the skies darkened and the flashes of lightning in the distance started to get closer and closer but the storm didn’t break over us. This meant that the dirt road to Apui was going to be dusty again, although as there was now very little traffic along this road the driving was easier.
It was a short drive to Apui – even for Daphne – and everyone arrived there by early afternoon, just in time for that storm to break overhead. Now everyone realised what Rainforest really means. The rain thundered down halting all work on the cars.
Toby had come onto the rally as chief mechanic but was leaving in a couple of days due to a prior commitment so he was keen to service it before he left as well as show his colleague Iain Freestone what to do.
The next day was a long drive on rain soaked dirt roads to Porto Velho, the half way point of the rally. Despite the difficult conditions Reg and Daphne made it successfully in, although another bout of welding was required on the chassis. The rear mount on one of the shock absorbers had torn away from the chassis and the repair shops in Porto Velho were not keen to try and weld the galvanised chassis of the 2CV.
“After trying three mechanical repair shops,” added Reg, “the penny dropped and I thought let’s try a boat trailer manufacturer as their trailers are made from galvanised steel. It was going to be a tricky repair as the rubber fuel line from the tank ran down the rail we were welding to. This did not worry our boat welder and the repair was fixed in less than five minutes with a bucket of water on standby and us taking cover!”
Three days later the cars crossed into Peru in the midst of another great storm and made their way to Puerto Maldonado.
From this point on the terrain changed from dirt roads and lowland rainforest to the Andes which meant living above 3,500kms for the next week. The 2CV coped with the altitude up to 3,000metres but above this it was a struggle. As with all cars there was a drop off in performance at altitude but when you only have 22hp and you lose a few horses you really notice it. Reg had to get a run at each hill and be sure to keep the revs up “as losing momentum was like a death in the family”. Trying to hold second gear on the hill climbs above 3000metres meant taking some blind hairpin turns at speed. Reg had to try and keep Daphne above 40kph to avoid being stuck in first gear for the remainder of the mountain climb.
The first stop in the Andes was Cusco which included a trip by train to Machu Picchu – a must for anyone visiting Peru. The next day to Colca Canyon was billed as the hardest of the journey which wasn’t helped by some roads on the route being closed by another local rally. The subsequent detours added about three hours to the journey with most cars arriving at the hotel in the dark.
“We were going really well until the closed road section,” said Reg. “At which point I decided that the detour was too long for us, and I did not want to be above 3,500m on unknown roads in the dark so the safe option was to go to Puno.”
Daphne and Reg re-joined the rally in Colca Canyon. They then went on the main road to Arequipa and waited for the rally to meet up with them the next day.
The climb out of Cola Canyon was a highlight with a climb to 4,900metres in 26km. Reg had spent the previous afternoon ensuring Daphne had every chance of making it by cleaning the plugs and replacing the air and fuel filters. He was a little worried at the start as it took two attempts to get up the steep hotel driveway!
By getting a good run at the mountain and shifting into second gear at 54kph he was able to hold second gear for all but the last 3km of the climb. A fantastic effort for such a small car. He joined about 120 trucks all heading down to Arequipa. Daphne held her own magnificently even passing 15 trucks in one go. The reaction from the truckies was superb with the air horns blasting and thumbs up all the way.
From Arequipa the rally stopped at Nasca, home of the ancient Nasca Lines. By now Daphne was back at sea level and purring along. With no more dramas Daphne, Reg and Jaime made a triumphant arrival in Lima to rounds of applause from the rest of the participants.
For more information on the rally visit www.bespokerallies.com/great-amazon-adventure-2017/
and for more information on 2CV Adventures go to www.2CVadventures.co.uk