Here is the story of Bart Benschop’s Gipsy adventure
In the early 1960’s I drove a LWB Gipsy with my wife from Holland to India and by boat to Singapore followed by a journey through Malaya, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and back to Singapore. Then by boat to Fremantle and drove across to Melbourne.
This Gipsy was a tropical version with double roof, a high performance radiator fan and oil cooler, it had two petrol tanks for long distance travel and we made provisions for waterproofing the ignition and electrics and venting gearboxes and axles high up. We carried tools and some spare parts and a spare battery. We had cloth seats.
We modified the air cleaner intake to get air high up. The vehicle was a LWB hardtop petrol.
We made arrangements to sleep in the back. We cooked on a German Army petrol stove which came with a small hand pump to extract petrol from the fuel tank. We had a small refrigerator and we cooked in a pressure cooker to keep the dust out. This pressure cooker was also our clothes washing machine. Soiled clothes, water and detergent and a drive did wonders getting dirty clothes clean. A washing line in the back for drying.
After a tour through Eastern and Southern Europe to Turkey.
After going around Turkey we went to Syria and Jordan. Because of political unrest we crossed the Syrian Desert by compass and old British Army maps to Iraq. We first went to Northern Iraq and then down to Kuwait. Back to Iraq and crossed the Shatt Al Arab near Basrah on “Jeepable” roads. This meant crossing swamps driving on felled date palm trunks lengthwise.
This After Abadan we crossed the mountains to Shiraz which meant all day long in first low 4wd mostly at slightly faster than walking speed. We went around Iran, crossed the Salt Dessert and the remote mountains along the Caspian Sea. It started to rain and rain and rain and we travelled for days with the wheels under water on a dirt track. In Afghanistan I had a Malaria attack in Herat. I was nursed by an American engineer who was building roads there. Along the Russian border we bought Russian petrol which meant to retune the engine. We crossed the mountains to Baluchistan.
On the way we came across the Pakistan High Commissioner to Afghanistan with his driver in an ancient broken down Rolls Royce. We towed them over the mountains on a rocky steep dirt track which was very slow going.
We reached the border late at night and were welcomed by a Pakistani Scottish Regiment in kilts and bagpipes. We had a problem leaving because of their hospitality.
In Quetta we met a Dutch priest who taught at a high school.
He had just come back from Holland. He was so poor, that he hitch-hiked all the way from Quetta to Holland and back staying at Roman Catholic churches along the way.
It was winter with extreme cold. We took the radiator cooling fan off and blocked the airflow to the radiator to keep the engine warm.
When we went down the mountains to the dessert below we started early with the temperature around minus 15 degrees, while in the dessert below it was close to plus 30. after the desert we crossed the Indus valley to Mohenjo Daro driving on little slippery dykes with two wheels near the crown and two wheels just above the rice fields under water. After Karachi all the way up to Kashmir and Jamnu where we had a break.
We crossed into India and travelled around. In Delhi we camped in the grounds of Government House as guests of the Indian Army. Our car was washed every day.
On a National Highway in Hyderabad we drove on a bridge while it collapsed into the river.
Amazingly the car and we were not damaged. A large number of people including Police and Army pulled us out. The Commissioner of Police apologised for this mishap.
We boarded an old British steam ship SS Muhammadi for our voyage to Singapore.
The car was lifted onto the deck. The lifting cable parted and the car fell upright a few meters down on the deck only causing minor damage. I personally tied down.
During our voyage we ran into a tropical typhoon where some ten thousand people drowned. We went right through the centre where it was pitch dark and wind still. It was not possible to look over the waves standing on top of the bridge.
We were the only cabin passengers with some thirteen hundred Indian coolies below deck. We had fish curry from mess tins for breakfast. The Captain never left his cabin leaving the First Officer in Charge. The ship was steered using the two engines.
I went down the engine room to have a look how they managed.
There was no panic. Coal was loaded into the engine by hand using buckets.
The situation in the passenger holds were indescribable.
In Penang harbor the Captain went ashore while the First Officer and I raided the
Whiskey store. We drank Whiskey from beer glasses and became so drunk that we became quite sober again.
In Singapore we contacted the BMC agents who allowed me to repair our vehicle in their workshop which was not a difficult job.
We went to the Dutch Embassy who suggested that we contact the Tiger (Heineken) Brewery. We were welcomed by the Manager who unbeknown to me was a study friend of my father. A bit later we were introduced to the Chief Engineer who was my cousin who had recently been transferred to Singapore.
After our trip through Malaya, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia we returned to Singapore and boarded a Danish ship to Fremantle.
It took us less than one day to find a job in Melbourne. We drove across the Nullarbor to Melbourne.
We crossed borders and entered Australia on a Carnet en Douane which allowed us to drive for a couple of years in Australia. Eventually I contacted Customs who allowed us to import the car as “scrap iron”. We had travelled over one and a half year and covered some seventy thousand kilometers mostly over very poor roads, tracks and cross country. We had no breakdowns. We sold our car to a prospector who had it for years after us.
I have had several Land rovers and other 4wd’s, but Gipsy’s are marvelous vehicles. Very simple, robust and very capable. They are a joy to drive.
I learned to drive on tractors and Jeeps and to navigate while sailing on the North Sea as a child.
In the Dutch Army during my compulsory military service during the cold war learned to navigate and gained more off road skills both in Holland and in France both using Jeeps and DAF trucks.
Before this trip I went on bicycle around Europe from Holland to Norway to Greece.
This was followed by my travelling around the Near East and crossing the Saudi Desert and the Sahara by car on my own.
Our Gipsy was a LHD with Flexitor suspension and heavy duty shock absorbers. We used Michelin 750 x 16 XY tyres with tubes on over width rims. We carried one spare.
We carried spare engine oil, gear oil and Glycol antifreeze.
We did the whole journey on the same tyres which were not finished at the end of our journey.
Looking back I would probably have selected leaf springs rigid axles and a Diesel engine.
We sold our Gipsy while in the outback of NSW on the other side of our continent from where I live now. The last time I heard about it was after about twenty years.