“Once one of Britain’s most popular and reliable small cars, the few surviving specimens of the Morris Minor are now lovingly preserved and retained for Sunday outings. Colin Moles and Michael Hoffman however, decided to raise the stakes for this ubiquitous little saloon and drive theirs 9,462 miles from Marble Arch to Peking. Their 1962 four-door model was bought second hand for £75. Stripped down to a bare body, the shell was strengthened, completely rebuilt and repainted. With the help of many commercial sponsors, the car was fitted with engine, wheels, seats and electrics. The suspension was upgraded and a roll bar and sump guard fitted.
The most gruelling part of the preparation for the trip was the one and a half year campaign to raise the £15,000 entry fee. Endless letters and visits to potential sponsors eventually paid off however, and the intrepid two joined around 100 other entrants at the start of the challenge organised by Voyages Jules Verne. The route took them across borders normally closed and areas previously forbidden to Westerners.
The car stood up well to the rigours of unmade roads, and the only major problem occurred when the clutch failed in Bukhara and the team had to endure clutchless gear changes for a week before a replacement could be flown out. The epic journey came to a successful conclusion when the faithful old ‘Moggie’ drove into Tiananmen Square on 29 May. Colin, who lives at Millfield, Margaretting Road, described the trip afterwards as ‘one of the world’s most exciting drives.'”