About the Book

Ian Neuss, who has owned his 1920 Dodge Tourer since he was at High School, decided that he wanted to drive the fully restored Dodge from Australia to Finland, to visit his old friends from the Outokumpu Mining Company, a Finnish company, and his employer of twenty years in Australia. He persuaded an old work colleague, Bill Amann, who also owns a couple of vintage cars, to bring one of them on the expedition.

An initial crew of five friends, all retired except Bill, set out in April 2014, with the cars, including a veteran back-up Toyota Land Cruiser, shipped to Bangkok, then driven through Thailand, Laos, then the Silk Roads route through China, Kyrgyzstan to Kazakhstan, where they were stored over the northern winter, departing the following May through Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Russia to Finland. The ten countries between Thailand and Finland were all once our Cold War communist enemies.

Although the travelling crew never exceeded six, a total of ten variously flew in and out, swapping for certain legs of the journey. We were on the road for a total of six months, covering about 20,000 kilometres.

The cars, especially Bill’s Whippet, had many mechanical problems and Bill’s considerable mechanical skill was regularly supplemented by enthusiastic local support along the way. There was never a threat or attempt at extortion. The convoy was welcomed and celebrated all along the way. The crew’s politics crossed the left-right spectrum but we were all were blown away by the decency and hospitality we received everywhere.

We kept a blog for the benefit of families and friends at home, and this was soon being hit from all over the world, especially Russia as we made our way through there over five weeks. Near the end we agreed that the trip had become more than a Big Boys Toys tour and there was a story worth telling about civility and common humanity we experienced over many encounters. We could even possibly make a small contribution to international peace and understanding.

BTW our alliteratively cute expedition and book title turned out to be geographically ignorant, as our Finnish hosts pointed out to us. Finland is NOT on the Baltic Sea.

Pete made it through Chinese Customs. The $ 30 per kg excess charge in Perth had been picked up by a grumbling Bill but at Chengdu there was no more fuss than could be expected if you tried to carry a suitcase full of ancient metal car parts through airport customs in any part of the world.

Bill was now ready for serious testing of options for reliable Whippet performance. You see, while Ian’s Dodge represents a loving rejuvenation over many years, with a brand-new paint job and careful testing of every component, by now it was clear that Bill’s Whippet represented, to Bill, a collection of mechanical components that were replaceable, repairable, interchangeable, renewable, re-arrangeable, by-passable, adjustable, bendable, straightenable, disposable, glueable, invertible or re-machinable, all hanging behind a well-worn Willys Overland badge, over the leaping Whippet logo on the grille


A vintage Silk Road journey

Two vintage cars, a few old mates, and the journey of a lifetime – Bondi to the Baltic is a fascinating story told through photos and the distillation of blogs and diary entries by some foolhardy, adventurous blokes

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Our Russian
hitch hiker

Read what Sergey …………………………a young Russian out to see his country says about meeting and travelling with a couple of vintage cars going the same way as him and how he gets us out of trouble.

It turned out that the Kazakh authorities weren’t satisfied with the car papers. They wanted originals, registration papers, and a tax file number. Ian and Bill had a contact man working on it. He took them to the tax office to pay a ‘fine’. After a four-hour wait, the office was closing and, again, the papers weren’t ‘right’. And there was no procedure for payment. Come back tomorrow.

The next day was Gerry’s birthday. On this day the previous year, we had struck our only uncomfortable hotel in China, at Lugu Lake. Maybe Gerry’s birthday was jinxed?

Back to the Tax office and another long wait. They eventually decided that it wasn’t possible to pay a fine; instead they required registration fees, about $ 20,000 for each car! Their concern was that cheap cars are smuggled in from Kyrgyzstan. Cheap cars? Horace, Ian’s beautiful 1920 Dodge? Bill’s Whippet maybe but not Horace.

Plan B, someone suggested, was to………………………………

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