Range Rover Darien Gap

The British Trans-Americas Expedition - 1971 to 1972
(NB also below: "The Trans-Darien Expedition" 1959-1960 & GM Chevrolet Corvair; "Daring the Darien" 1962)
              1971 Nov. 28. - Anchorage, Alaska                       1972 Jan. 15. - Panama, Rep. de Panama                     1972 Apr. 30. - Bogota, Colombia                        1972 June 10. - Tierra Del Fuego, Chile
   The expedition started on the December 3rd 1971 from Anchorage in Alaska and ended at the southern most tip of Terra del Fuego in Southern America, reached by the June 10th 1972. The two Range Rovers was supplied by Rover Ltd Co and crewed with men from the 17th/21st Lancers. The British Trans-Americas expedition was led by Major John Blashford-Snell, who had Blue Nile and
Red Sea expedition experiences behind him.
   The route was along the 18.000 miles long Pan-American Highway, with 3 months of crossing through the road less part in the Darien Gap isthmus jungle. The Darien Gap or El Tapon - "The Stopper" is a severe and swamping rain forest jungle of 250 miles (400 kilometers). Almost
impossible to cross with any vehicle.
   In this jungle there are no roads, no bridges, no continuous tracks other than those the Indian knows. The whole area is jungle, swamp and rivers, inhabited by a selection of objectionable
mammal, reptile and insects. The expedition was supported with extra men from the British Army,
the Governments of Panama and Colombia, the Natural History Museum, the Scientific Exploration Society and scientists to study flora and fauna. The expedition was supported by generous sponsor companies in Britain and America. Duckhams supplied the oil. Tirfor and Mayflower supplied hand winches and recovery gear. Marks and Spencer gave the clothing, and the food company Heinz supplied the expedition with no less than 3 tonnes with food.
   The Range Rovers with registered number VXC 765K and VXC 868K, were basically standard LHD vehicles intended for export to Switzerland. Actually no parts was strengthened. The only extra protection were heavy duty towing eyes, special bush bars made from 2 front bumpers and petrol tank guard. Engine and transmission, just standard production items, fitted with snorkel exhaust tube possibilities. The Range Rovers had Fairey engine driven capstan winch, extra halogen spot lights, screen pillar swivel lamps, split charge 2 batteries system, 12x16.5in or 7.50x16 Firestone Super
All-Traction swamp tyres and removable wing panels for easier access to them.
   Roll over bar, two spare wheels on the roof, roof rack, cold climate dampers, hydraulic hoses and clutch plate. Heated rear screen with washer and wiper, rev counter, oil pressure and temperature
gauges, two-way wireless radio between the Range Rover's. Single reclining rear seat, built in safe for
passport, money etc in one of the vehicles.
   The two Range Rover's were flown from RAF Lyneham to Anchorage via Greeland in December 1971.
They drew the Alaskan Highway from Anchorage into the Yukon via Whitehorse and Dawson. The average distance a day was 500 miles and the conditions were roads with ice and snow. The travelling company Travelodge was a sponsor and each Travelodge they stayed at were welcoming them with "Travelodge welcomes Trans-Americas".
   In Canada they nearly lost one of the Rover's as they crashed into one stranded lorry on the slippery frozen tarmac. None in the car was hurt, but the Range Rover needed to be repaired. Gavin Thompson and his crew in the other car, hauled the crashed vehicle via an A-bar to Vancouver in the cold weather. Here they had an extra week delay, waiting for repair parts to be sent from England, then they could straighten and rebuild the Range Rover at the local Leyland dealer. On Dec 23rd they reached San Francisco and arrived Los Angeles on the 24th. Through Mexico and Latin America with press meetings and demonstration for General Somoza, which ordered new Range Rovers for him and his brother the President of Nicaragua, until they reached Panama City on Jan 12th.
   In the next days, the rest of the crew arrived and the final preparations where arranged. This year the rain season had been for five weeks longer than normal, leaving the land areas of thick, black, gooey mud. On January 19th they went with the Range Rover's into the jungle. 
   There were a reconnaissance team to decide the best possible route. Then came the main team which cleared the jungle, then 30 horses to carry the pack. And finally the two Range Rover's which both were driven by Gavin Thompson through the jungle. The first Range Rover were guided by Bob Russell from the Royal Engineers, who walked in front of the vehicles for the whole route, 
guiding them the right way to drive or wade over rivers. Sergant Michael Cross walked in front of
the second Range Rover.
   With each of the vehicles, also walked a crew of eight Royal Engineers who were responsible
for the digging, laying ladders, cutting trees, winching etc to keep the Range Rover's moving through
the jungle.
The speed of the expedition was low, some days only a mile was covered, if they were lucky.
The engineers were armed with machetes and power saws, but everywhere the were severe
obstacles like huge trees and ruts.
   The expedition carried with them solid aluminium ladders which could carry the whole weight of
the fully laden Range Rover, but weighted only 100lb each. They were invaluable as bridges in
crossing the different obstacles like gullies, ditches, slopes, trees etc. The ladders were also
used as platforms on the inflatable Avon rafts to cross rivers and other water obstacles. The rafts
were driven by 20 hp Johnson outboard motors or by the vehicles own Fairey capstan winches.

Land-Rover - Range Rover Expeditions

   On one occasion they had waded the first vehicle over a small river at the evening before.  The second vehicle was to be brought over the next morning. Meanwhile there had been a short, but heavy night rain so the the small river was more fast flowing. They decided to not use the rafts due to the flowing. Gavin was nearly across when the river took the vehicle and pushed them off the course.
   The water went over the bonnet and the engine was rapidly switched off. Now the vehicle was like a dam and the water raised to above the roof height surprisingly fast. After several attempting, the crew managed to fasten a hand driven Tirfor winch to the Range Rover and slowly drew the car out of the wet obstacle. During the drying process where after, there were pumped water out of the cylinders and every oil was changed several times. The Range Rover started and was on the track again !
   The expedition had radio contact with the two bases outside the Darien Gap. The Army Air Corps had Beaver aircraft for supply of petrol, mail, supply materials needed in the jungle. The goods were dropped with parachutes from the plane at places market by smoke signal, flares or balloons in the forest. The overall fuel consumption was approximately 1 mpg and the average distance a day through the Darien Gap were only 2 1/2 mile.
   The Range Rover's suffered from extreme wear of the rear axle differential, because of the far too heavy loads and nearly 45 degrees of slopes, as well as the impact of the oversized swamp tyres. Much of the heavy load was on the roof with the spare tyres, ladders, rafts and equipment gears, only to give even more strain to the rear axle.
   The centre differential could be locked, but with loss of sufficient grip one axle wheel did a fast
spin until grip again was gained, which resulted in even heavier load and wear on the rear axle
differential. The big swamp tyres were used from the beginning, but in the deep mud this selection proved to be a mistake. Masses of mud clung to the wheels with much wheel spin as result and with even bigger impact on the stressed the axles and differential. After 35 miles into the soggy, steamy jungle a rear differential broke and with all the power on the front axle, this unit broke as well. In addition there had been used wrong hypoid gear oil on the axles, which resulted in even harder wear with excessive temperature buildup and even faster axel differential break down, as a result. With one totally broke Range Rover they tried to haul it with the other Range Rover, only to get this vehicle with broken differential, too.
   Gavin Thompson was flown out of the jungle to get in contact with Land-Rover Ltd's transmission expert Geoff Miller to explain what and how the differential broke on the Range Rover's. At Solihull in UK the transmission team build up a Range Rover with the same swamp tyres and weight as in the Darien jungle and drove round and round in the Jungle Track at Solihull, until the differential broke.
The conclusion was that there were too much weight for the differential to cope with when the big tyres had wheel spin in the mud. Geoff Miller and new differentials were flown in to the Darien jungle. He replaced the broken axles and reduced the total weight pr vehicle, as well as redistributed the weight balance. Off went the swamp tyres and on with the normal cross country ones. For the rest of the expedition there were no more differential problem. The whole session had set the expedition 26
days back according to the plan.
   Meanwhile the expedition had bought in a second-hand Land-Rover Series II in Panama and it was used as a pathfinder for tracks through the jungle. The Range Rover's where now back to normal
health again and with extra long day sessions, they were able to proceed against the original time
schedule, despite even worse terrain ahead.
  New trouble hit the expedition when they forced the Devil's Switchback, looked like a saw tooth like terrain with very steep ascents and descents when the small caravan of vehicles proceeded the Pucuru heights against Palo de las Letras at the Panama and Colombian border. The Land-Rover occasion-ally fell in a ravine and two of the invaluable ladders broke. The misrouting in the severe terrain cost them another extra 10 days delay. 
   On April 9th, a special event occur when the expedition hit the Colombian border, they found the wrecks of the Chevrolet Corvairs from the American expedition in 1962 ! The mission with the Chevrolet-led expedition named "Daring the Darien" was to drive 3 Corvairs to the border of South America, and the boundary stone at the border between Panama and Colombia marks the beginning of South America.
   The enormous Great Atrato Swamp and river was the last part of the Darien Gap obstacle to overcome and is nearly 60 miles wide. The whole area is as big as Wales. Heading south and then east. This part were mainly forced by rafts. The Atrato svamp lake was weed-choked and machetes and grapnels failed to work. Only solution was to use the the power chain saws to make the
obstructions clear and blast a way through the weeds by using a lot of  dynamite.
   On April the 23rd the expedition reached the river bank which were more of big sponge like
islands of floating vegetation, than firm terra, near Barrangquilito. The soft ground were just able to
support the weight of the Range Rover's. It was here that the next leg of the Pan-American
Highway through South America begins again, after 96 unforgettable days in the 250 mile jungle
of Darien Gap. The British Army and three Rover vehicles had conquered the "El Tapon".
   On rough and dirty roads they drow down to Medellin. At the British Leyland agent in Bogota, the Range Rove's got a much needed attend and thoroughly service.
On May the 13th the expedition started up again further south. The rest of the expedition crew had went home to UK again after a well done expedition. Compared to the severe obstacle of Darien Gap the roads to the Terra del Fuego were more uneventful.  
   In Quito, Ecuador and Lima, Peru, there were new stops to maintain and service the cars. In Santiago, Chile was new press conference held before they went further to Osorno. On the fast desert roads in Chile they were able to hold a speed of 90-100 mph and covering 800 miles in a day. On four days in Chile the Range Rover's covered 2375 miles! That compared to the speed in the Darien Gap jungle of average 2.5 miles a day!
   The expedition had started in winter condition in Alaska and were now hitting winter again. Snow drifts blocked the planned road in Patagonia, so another route via bad roads had to be done. The expedition hit their end at Ushuaia Cape Horn at June 10th.
   The mission of The British Trans-Americas Expedition was completed !

                                                                                                                                              The huge swamp tyres that broke down the Range Rover differentials
                                                                                                                                              and extra cut-out on the additional front and rear wings in this dramatic
                                                                                                                                              scene. Note the exhaust pipe snorkel.
                  1972 May 18. - Quito, Ecuador                                    1972 May 24. - Lima, Peru                                     1972 May 29. - Antofagata, Chile 

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The legendary expedition Range Rovers - VXC 765K and VXC 868K 
- the VXC 868K at Gaydon Motor Museum in UK
VXC 868K - still in unrestored condition at Gaydon    Exhibited among other historic British vehicles    Impressive look "British Trans-Americas Expedition" 
   Original fascia binnacle and steering wheel         Additional instruments and switches for auxiliaries   Communcation radio between the groups in the jungle           
  Solid rollbar to protect if roll-over happened           Extra seat from Rover P6 with 4-point safety belt      Anthenna wire to get contact in the wilderness
Extra solid storage box and rest-bench during long distances. Note the water tank behind driver's seat. Extra storage facility and armrest to the right of the seat
Extra light arrangement at A-post     Four-point Britax safety belts       The rest-bench and water tank      Rear wiper motor arrangement     Solid step-bars on the rear door
Strong bush-bar extremly valuable in the jungle      The capstan winch were used every day in Darien    "Tierra del Fuego" the end-point of the expedition
Original "by Land Rover" badge to show the origin    The solid step-bars for easy access to roof-rack        Details of the exhaust snorkel-tube fixings 
  Suffix A scuttle badge and "Union Jack" flag        The Range Rovers had two set of rear wings;            Details of the interchangeable rear wing fixings
                                                                           one for normal tyres and one with extra cut-outs
                                                                           for swamp tyres
The expeditions sponsors:                                     Sponsors:                                                            Sponsors:
- Simoniz                                                             - Rover, British Leyland                                         - Halfords
- Fairey Winches
- Borg & Beck
- Heinz
- Britax
- Formula One
- Schrader 
Sponsors:                                                            Sponsors:                                                            Sponsors:
- Viyella (clothing)                                                - Holst                                                                 - Apaseal
                                                                          - Fred Deeley Ltd, Vancouver, Canada                   - TraveLodge
                                                                            (the BLMC dealer rebuilt the crashed RR)            - Jacob's
                                                                                                                                                    - Lucas
                                                                                                                                                    - Gent of Leicester, Siren
Sponsors:                                                            Sponsors:                                                            Sponsors:
- Duckham (Upper D-post)                                    - Champion                                                          - Ultramar
- N (?) 
- Tirfor (hand-driven winches)

- the VXC 765K at Dunsfold DLR in Surrey, UK
 The VXC 765K Range Rover. Picture is borrowed from Dunsfold DLR
  The Range Rover VXC 765K belongs to the Dunsfold DLR collection in Surrey, UK and
is the other Range Rover that completed the British Trans-Americas Expedition in 1972.
  Both of the vehicles were extensively modified by Land Rover to cope with the extreme
conditions through the expedition. Extra solid roof rack for carrying the aluminium bridging
ladders and pontoon rafts, capstan winch, double bumper at the front, extra reat seat, and
additional stowage for assorted equipments.
  The VXC 765K suffered from severe car accident with a lorry in Canada and were rebuilt
there. Both vehicles were fitted with agressive and huge swamp tyres, which caused
excessive differential breakage in the jungle.
  This vehicle was rebuilt in 1974 by the workshop at Land Rover and in 1994 by David Cooper
on behalf of the Dunsfold Collection.

The British Trans-Americas Expedition 1971-72 - Literature
1972 The Darien Breakthrough           1974 Russell Braddon                1974 John Blashford-Snell         1974 John Blashford-Snell          1994 John Blashford-Snell
 Official Expedition Brochure          The Hundred Days of Darien            Where the Trials Run Out          Where the Trials Run Out   Something Lost Behind the Ranges
              Link to brochure:                        William Collins Son & Co Ltd, London                   The Travel Book Club                                Hutchinson, London                    Harper Collins Publishers, London
          1972 844/9.72                           ISBN 0002161508                           London, 1975                         ISBN 0091213606                     ISBN 0002550342           
                   From the book of R. Braddon:                                   From the book of J. Blashford-Snell:                          From the biography of J B S:


 The British Trans-Americas Expedition 1971-72 - Adverts
       1972 Range Rover                1972 Range Rover                1972 Range Rover         
           Darien Gap                      Darien Gap Jungle   How the RR conquered the Darien Gap
      Link to advertisement:                 Link to advertisement:                 Link to advertisement:          
  Range Rover Darien Gap           Range Rover Darien        1972 "The Hellish Obstacle"   
 Automotive Product Group               1972 Burman Steering                      1972 Halfords         1972 Porter Co 
    1972 Trans-Americas                         Trans-American                Coffee makers and jacks  Thermoid Clutch
      Link to advertisement:                        Link to advertisement:                       Link to advertisement:     Link to advertisement:         
    1972 AP Darien Gap                 1972 Burman Steering                        1972 Halfords          1972 Porter Co

 Other known expeditions:
1960: The Trans-Darien Expedition
                                                                                                                                                                 Illustration from the 1961 Land-Rover sales brochure
                                                                                                   Link to brochure:  
                                                                                    1961 609/D Land-Rover brochure
   In 1958, Richard E. Bevir, a former SAS man from UK  had written a letter to the International Road
Federation in Washington D.C. about the possibility to drive some kind of a vehicle from North America to the South. The answer was that it is completely impossible for any vehicle to "drive" through the road less Darien area of 300 miles from south of the Panama Channel, more exact Chepo through the jungle down to Quibdo, Colombia. The Darien area was also called El Tapon - 'The Stopper' and had
a gruesome history of murder, treachery and diseases.
   So, in 1959 Mr Bevir and his friend Terrence Whitfield a mechanical engineers from Sydney, Australia,  planned what came to be, "The Trans-Darien Expedition". They choosed the British built Land-Rover 88 Station wagon. The only vehicle rugged and light enough to be able to manage  such expedition. The Land Rover was rigged with room for extra jerry cans, a solid winch connected
to the power outlet in front of the engine, plus a sturdy roll bar. This turned out to be very necessary preparations.
   October 16th 1959, the fully laden Land-Rover started the expedition from Toronto in Canada
heading for Chepo in Panama. In Costa Rica, 100 miles south of San Jose they had to manage a
road less 135-mile Costa Rica "gap" and Richard and Terry were the first to handle a vehicle through this road less part of the Pan-American Highway in the rain season in December 1959. This was just
a foretaste of things to come longer south.
   On the Christmas Eve 1959 they arrived Panama City after a very fatiguing journey through the                   Severe winching in the Panamanien Darien Jungle in 1960
jungle and damaged roads in the rainy season. In Panama Richard and Terry contacted the
Darien Sub-Committee, an international group of engineers working with the forbidden task of
exploring a route for the future Pan-American Highway.
  There has been an American dream to have the possibility to take the car and drive the American
Continent from the Polar Circle in Alaska to the Polar Circle in Chile. As early as in 1925 the first
Pan American Highway Congress met in Buenos Aires and the nations of Americas devoted their
vision, their engineering skills and the money to complete the Pan American Highway. One of the
mission were to pioneer the plans for a highway through Darién.
Still today (2010) the Pan-American Highway is still a vision.
    In 1960 the Highway ended from north at Chepo in Panama and began again 506 miles longer
south at Quibdo in Colombia. The Darien or Isthmus of Panama is packed with incredibly dense
jungle vegetation, steep hills and uncountable river obstacles.
   The Pan American Highway Congress' Sub-Committee sponsered the expedition throught the forbidden Darien with a ANGRC/9 ("Angry nine") radio transmitter, food and gasoline. The U.S. Army built them a winch anchor after the experiences in "Costa Rica gap" to use in muddy and swampy areas and Richard and Terry were invited to participate Armys "Jungle Warfare Training Center".
   So when they were at the end of the preparations, the Sub-committee had contact with an other group, also planning for a expedition through Darien using a Jeep Pickup. So these two groups
joined together in the "Trans-Darien Expedition". The Jeep were driven by Amado Araúz, the
expedition's cartographer and historian and his wife Dr. Reina Torres de Araúz, one of Panama's    Trans-Darien Expedition route at Darien in 1960 ended Palo de las Letras
distinguisehed anthropologists to study Indians. Dr. Reina also participated the                                      (Source: National Geographic, March 1961)
"British Trans-Americas Expedition", 11 years later in 1971-72, with the Range Rovers.
   Kip Ross, from National Geographic, participated from Panama. Otis Imboden, Tennesee,
a jungle expert and cameraman, Ilse Abshagen, Germany, correspondent for European newspapers and Wiry Eugenio Ávila, together with nine Panamanien woodsmen with matchetes, axes and a
power-saw, and guides ready to chop out the track for the next few months, also sponsered by the Sub-Committee, counted the Trans-Darien Expedition members.
   Feb. 3rd 1960, the extended "Trans-Darien Expedition" now both scientific and international
left Panama City of Chepo heading for the Darien Gap. Right south of Chepo hitted the rusty
sign: "End of the Pan-American Highway - here begins the Darien Gap". The jungle was like a
green wall. From the very beginning they had to use the winch nearly all them time. The ground
was so slippery and wet.
   March 3rd 1960, they reached the River Ipeti, 67 miles in the jungle. Allready 35 log bridges
were built. Here they asked for more supplies transported by canoes. At river Ipeti the Indians
ordered the expedition to come to their village to have full-scale tribal conference on what they
doing and where they go further. As the expedition were halfway in their territory, they were
allowed to go on with the expedition.
   The woodsmen chopped the tracks, bridges built over small ravines and small streams. Ahead of
the vehicles outriders walked and held an eye after sharp thorns and hidden holes.                              One of the many provisional bridges that had to be built in the jungle
   At one occation at a ravine forcing there had been built a skeleton bridge of palm logs and when  
the Jeep, at first, were at the middle of the bridge, the logs began to sag and the Jeep tipped
slowly over and down in the ditch. No one was injured and the Jeep could be winched up again.
   During the April the expedition had been able to manage 105 hard miles. In the beginning of May near the new rain season they were no longer sure their position. According to the Indian guides they should have crossed the River Cue by long and they were lost. The radio generator had fallen off the Jeep and for 5 days Terry tried to fix the generator and he did!
   In the village Yaviza and other village at Darien, there had never been a vehicle before, so there were big commotion and people swarmed around the cars. To cross the river Chucunaque and Tuira a flat-bottomed barge were used. After two months since the expedition left Chepo they reached El Real and were welcomed by 800 peoples. El Real had for three centuries been used as a transshipment port for gold from the goldmines around to be shipped to Panama City. Several raids had many times vounded the city El Real and their citizens.
    South of El Real the terrain started fairly OK, but then they reach the ridges. The land rose and the rainwater had cut out deep ravines. The expedition had short daily distances because every inch of jungle were an obstacle and some of the ridges were of 65 degrees steep downhill or
upwards upp to 600 feet high. The winches and steel cable were used to surmount the ridges.
These maneuvers were quite dangerous, often hanging the weights of the cars in the cable wires
directly over the men.
   Not a long distance from the border between Panama and Colombia, measured in air line only
a few miles there was a serious incident. First they had winched the Jeep up a steep ridge and the
Land-Rover was on the way up, hanging in the steel cables and Terry behind the steering wheel.      In the very steep terrain near the border, winching were used constantly
Suddenly a pulley pin snapped and the Land-Rover turned over and tumbled over and over down
70 feet long slope with Terry inside the vehicle. At the bottom the Land-Rover laid at the side and
after a minute the door opened and Terry crawled out of the car apparently without injury. What
had saved him was the safety straps on the drivers seat and the roll bar. When he tried the starter,
the engine fired up again. Amazing!
   After this incident Terry got also malaria and were sick for 4 days. Malaria in the warm rain
forest is no pleasant experience. They wrapped Terry in his the sleeping bag and strapped him
to the front seat. Now the rain season had started again and the whole expedition was soaked
to skin for the next 6 weeks. Because of the rain the mosquitos were really eager after blood.
   Finally at May 13th 1960, they hitted Palo de las Letras and the border between Panama and
Colombia. The border is marked with a concrete monument.
overland from North to South America, as the Jeep only started from Panama. 
   The mission of the expedition were to go to Palo de las Letras and the ceremony were held
with festivities.  
   They had 5 miles before reaching River Cacarica where they had planned to build rafts and
float the vehicles and the expedition members and supplies 40 miles thrugh the Atrato waterway
system. By using the waterway they could reach Quibdo in Colombia where the Pan-American
Highway started again.
   In 3 days they were at the river Cacaricas banks, but needed one extra week to get suitable
balsa logs to build the rafts. To assemble the rafts took another week. Two of the crew member
had to be sent to hospital in Quibdo by canoe, because of jungle exhaustion and malaria. 
   With the vehicles and the supply on the rafts and ready for floating away the rain had stopped
only to be stucked on the rocks in the river at a rapid. They had to wait for 2 days before the
rain began again. Now they floated almost out of control over the next 12 miles over 40 sets of
rapids and 2 hours in whirlpools.
   Then again hindered by a huge obstacle of rocks, waterplants and weeds. Anoter 19 miles                     The Trans-Darien at the border between Panama and Colombia
had to be hacked out to bypass the river.                                                                          
   Now it was Richard turn to get malaria.
   June 17th 1960, the expedition reached Quibdo, Colombia with a welcome like heroes.
A week later they arrived Bogota capital of Colombia and then the official end of their journey.
The Land-Rover was really battered, almost to the unrecognizeable. The windshield cracked,
the roof rack torned off and the body dented and scarred, but the Land-Rover still purred
   From Chepo via Palo de las Letras to Ouibdo the expedition had: 
- 134 days to take the 310 miles distance, less than 3 miles a day avarage
- 180 creecks and rivers crossed
- 125 palm log bridges built
-    3 rafts built
-  90 punctures
- combat malaria, dysentery and jungle exhaustion
- mainly diet of rice, bananas, monkey and lizard
  The whole expedition were also managed in the light of that one day the motorists could
drive fast and comfortable on the future Pan-American Highway through Darien.                         Rafted Land-Rover "parked" overnight in a backwater in Atrato watersystem
   Still today only a dream.........
- National Geographic, March 1961
- Autocar, December 1961
- Popular Mechanics, August 1961
  National Geographic            Popular Mechanics                  The Autocar                             Richard Bevir and Terrence Whitfield before the Trans-Darien Expedition
       March 1961                         August 1961                      December 1st 1961
 "We Drove Panama's           "We Built Our Own Road         "Linking the Americas"
        Darién Gap"                  Trough the Darien Gap"
       by Kip Ross                     by Richard E. Bevir                 by Richard E. Bevir

1962: Daring the Darien Expedition - Chevrolet Corvairs
     The Chevrolet Corvair was a modern car with air-cooled engine                        In 1990, the wrecks of the Chevrolet Corvairs still existed at the expedition's ending point

YouTube Video

   In 1962 - GM - General Motors led an expedition "Daring the Darien" across the Darien
Gap with 3 golden Chevrolet Corvairs, supported and a fuel truck as a serious expedition
as well as a great PR-stunt for the Corvair model.
   The Corvair model were both an advanced new car with a flat 6-cylinder boxer engine in
the back of the car, drive on the rear wheel via an advanced swing-axel, and the Corvair was
a very hated vehicle because of the many serious accidents there were with Chevrolet Corvairs.
   Ralph Nader led an consumer safety organization looking at the American Car Industry
and he wrote a book in 1965 "Unsafe at any speed", which is often characterized the book about the Corvair, but only one chapter is about the Corvair.
   To defend the market's perception of the Chevrolet Corvair, GM did several PR actions like
this expedition through Darien in 1962.
   The Corvairs had a very impressive suspension system and because the engine were at the rear above the driving wheels, it managed the water well and it did not get stucked so easily as ordinary 2-wheel drive cars with engine in front and driving wheels at rear. The expedition Corvairs were prepared with water proof electrical system, but they had only drive on the rear wheels and they were not equipped with a winch.
   The fuel supply truck had both 4-wheel drive and a rigid winch. Because of the huge size
and the heavy weight, the truck was a big challenge to get through the jungle.

YouTube Video

   Local woodmen chopped driveable tracks in the jungle and made bridges over ditches
with tree logs.
   The films at the right shows in an impressive way much of the tremendous hardships there
is to cross the jungle in Darien Gap area. The Corvair expedition headed the border between
Panama and Colombia at Palo de las Letras.
   The battered Corvair vehicles with only a few 1000-miles on the odometer were left in the
jungle and the British Trans-Americas Expedition found the Corvairs at their expedition in 1972.
   In Russell Braddons book "The Hundred Days of Darien" from the British expedition of 1972
one picture shows when they re-discovered the Corvairs near the Panamanien/Colombian border.
   Again in 1990, the Corvairs were again pictured as shown above of a group of American Jeep enthusiasts. 
   Please enjoy these fantastic films......

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Subpages (1): Darien Breakthrough