Ian Neuss had spent a couple decades as Australian Exploration Manager for Outokumpou, a Finnish
company specialising in minerals exploration, mining and mining equipment. On retirement, while busy with the restoration of his 1920 Dodge, his old Finnish manager and friend, Kari Airas, had
questioned what he planned to do with it when he had finished. Ian suggested that he might just drive it to Finland for a visit. Kari then told him about Finland’s national hero, Baron Gustav
Mannerheim, who in 1906, as an Intelligence Officer in the Russian Imperial Army, had travelled on horseback from Russian Turkestan (now Uzbekistan) to Peking (Beijing). If Ian was serious he could
retrace the Baron’s trip in reverse, and Kari offered to organise an official welcome and a parade of Dodges down Mannerheim Avenue in Helsinki.
So Ian put together an expedition crew, a key member being his old exploration mate, Bill Amann, a skilled bush mechanic and owner of a couple of vintage cars, including a Dodge. Bill was a bit precious about his Dodge so brought along his newly purchased, but definitely not fully restored, Whippet.
Given a maximum cruising speed of about 50 kph, the team decided to split the journey into two legs, through Thailand, Laos, China and Kyrgyzstan to Kazakhstan in the first year, then a northern Winter break followed by a Spring/Summer trek through Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Russia to Finland. They would follow the ancient Silk Roads, and take in the ancient wine and brandy history of the southern Caucasus. The route also happened to traverse most of the old Cold War enemy territories of China and what was once the Soviet Union.
They loaded swags and camping equipment, intending to rough it where possible. They also set up a blog, just to keep friends and family informed of their adventure. The blog eventually attracted over 60,000 hits from all over the world with thousands of followers in Russia as they made their way across that country.