Thanks very much to John Hemsley for sending us this article about the 1970 World Cup Rally Peugeot 504 car 6.
Car No 6 became a mobile write-off following a simultaneous collision with a landslide and lorry in Colombia, but still managed to qualify as a finisher by clocking in to Buonaventura. The car made it to Costa Rica where it finally expired having consumed eighty four pints of gearbox oil (running a total loss system!)
From Lima we crossed the Northern Peruvian Desert into Ecuador and on into Columbia. Those competitors who reached the port of Buenaventura qualified as finishers in the Rally, as there is no road from Bogota north to Panama and the cars had to be carried by ship. Driving down a mountainside through the jungle, some two hundred miles from the finish,we rounded a corner in drizzling rain at dawn to find a landslide actually in progress. This was in the process of blocking the road with huge boulders, augmented by a large articulated lorry carrying out complicated avoiding manoeuvres on the wrong side of the road. After that, events happened with great rapidity as, in a last desperate attempt to dive underneath the trailer, we came to a dramatic halt underneath a pile of ironmongery. The BBC would have envied the sound effects! I clambered out through the hole where the windscreen had been and hauled Wally out from under the wreckage. He was looking a little battered with blood pouring down his face, and tottered off to the verge of the road to pick pieces of glass out of his shoulder, whilst I went back to inspect the wreckage. It didn’t look too promising: the roof at the front end of the car was squashed down to the level of the bonnet which had disappeared altogether. The front of the car had been completely demolished and all the electrical relays were squashed and emitting dangerous-looking sparks as the wiring was short-circuited by the crushed metalwork. The front left-hand suspension had been folded right back under the passenger seat and the battery had been thrown through the windscreen. There didn’t seem to be any glass left in the front of the car, and quite a lot of the body had disappeared as well. It was bad. Nevertheless we got two wire hawsers out from the back of the car and tied them round the front and rear sub-frames respectively, attaching each end to a couple of lorries which were then started up to pull in different directions. With a certain amount of grinding metalwork the car straightened itself from its rather bowed posture. Another hawser round the front suspension strut straightened that out to some semblance of vertical normality. This was better, but we had no steering wheel and still two hundred miles to go to qualify. Time was running out. Nevertheless with the aid of a hammer kindly loaned to us by a Russian Service Crew, and some perfunctory first aid on a rather second-hand looking co-driver, we managed to get going again, steering with the spokes of what remained of the wheel and refilling our highly modified cooling system at frequent intervals from jungle streams along the route. We crawled into Buenaventura with this mobile write-off in time to qualify as finishers, and then set about beating the car into a slightly more conventional Peugeot shape so as to be able to continue when we arrived at Panama. A piece of railway line was arc-welded into the side of the car to support the front section, and the tops of the Macpherson telescopic struts were joined by two parallel metal bars to hold the track constant. The frame was so distorted that it was impossible to open the doors that were left, so we had to climb in and out of the windows. A nineteen-inch steering wheel requisitioned from a local lorry completed our repairs and we were all set for Mexico.
A two-day boat trip allowed us to recover from our fairly hefty headaches and we left Panama City with high hopes of arriving in Mexico in time. Unfortunately having struggled on some eight hundred miles into Costa Rica our gearbox finally let us down again, and having used twenty-one gallons of oil in a four-pint capacity gearbox to cover two hundred kilometres, we finally exhausted what must have been the total supply of gear oil in Costa Rica and seized the forward bearing of the prop shaft; at which point everything came to a juddering halt. Both of us had been very keen to arrive in Mexico on all four wheels. However it was not to be and we had had a most enjoyable run, officially qualified as finishers, and had the unforgettable experience of seeing so many countries in a Continent which one is rarely privileged to visit.