Many of the details of car selection are determined by the rules of the Classic Rally Association which sponsors the Around the World in 80 Days and London to Peking 2000. The general categories for the London to Peking 2000 Marathon are the following:
Our first impulse was to drive our 1971 Aston Martin DBS. We could picture ourselves hugging the curves of narrow, winding portions of scenic country roads in Europe and speeding across the vast empty straightaways of the Taklamakan desert in China.
Our first query to the Classic Rally Association in London, which is sponsoring the London to Peking, asked if they believed the car suitable. Their immediate faxed reply was clear and concise. The Aston was too new and "too fragile". They suggested something more "agricultural". We had never before heard that term applied to an automobile, but it was thus that our selection process began.
Suggestions came from all sides. Great amount of attention was paid to the possible purchase of an American car since we are one of the few teams from the United States entered in the rally. The age of the car was another huge decision. Did we want to recreate the "Great Race" vintage experience? We could choose anything from the earliest years of the 20th century all the way up to 1968. Should we go for the comfort and space of a Jeep or Land Rover? A sedan, a coupe, or a convertible? The style of a Jaguar? The romance of a Cord? The strength and dependability of a Mercedes? The choices at first seemed infinite. Price eliminated some possibilities, practicality others.
Of great importance was to choose a car which would qualify for some races and rallies in the future. The California, Arizona, and Colorado “milles”, each one a thousand mile race, might well prove irresistible. Even La Carrera Panamericana might be a possibility, although the video given to us by a friend was daunting! 1957 is the year that is the “cutoff” for most of these and other races, so that became one of our goals.
The ability of the car to finish the race was the primary consideration. Gradually, the strength, dependability, comfort, and style of the Mercedes seemed to best fit both the requirements of the trip and our personal desires.
The actual choice was made easier by our instant attraction to the "Spirit of 2000" the first time we saw it in Palm Springs. The idea of a convertible was intriguing - leaving the Tower Bridge in London,driving through the vineyards of France and along the Bosporus into Istanbul, and, yes, into Peking, with the top down, was appealing to both of us.
We found the car tucked away inside the "Exotic Motor Cars" garage. The two tone cream and Oxblood (Chinese Red) exterior color with the tan leather interior and dark brown canvas top seemed just right. The body was in good condition, and the burl wood interior trim outstanding. The 1957 220S has always been considered one of the classic models produced by Mercedes Benz. Finally, it seemed a good omen that it was a 1957 model. That was the year we were married. We just happened to find the car on our anniversary, March 22. Fate?!
It was a definite bonus that that the car was a whole car; no parts were missing, and it was driveable! We did a test drive the morning we found the car. We took it up the steepest hill in the immediate surrounding area, which turned out to be the road which leads to the Palm Springs Aerial Tram. The smooth ride and power of the car in each gear seemed more than acceptable.
We were convinced the Mercedes would be the right choice, but in light of the Classic Rally Association’s response to our first query, we decided to be sure this car would be acceptable to them as the sponsors of the race.
Our next fax to London received an immediate response: ...yes...excellent...a very "robust" car. That was all we needed. Our purchase was completed at once.
Then began the preparation of the car for the rally, another story!