The 1907 race – from Peking to Paris


In this blogpost, I will tell you the interesting story about a road trip that took place more than 100 years before the first Wackywheels event. I do think that Wackywheels is a challenging, adventurous and exciting trip, but to be honest, the 1907 race from Peking to Paris was of a totally different level.

Just imagine a time shortly after the first automobiles came in use. Most roads weren’t adapted to this new form of transportation yet and many people in the more remote parts of Asia had never even seen any motorized vehicle in their lives. 

A French newspaper wrote in January 1907 that they were looking for people who would dare to drive all the way from Peking to Paris. It wasn’t meant as a competition or a race, but the five participants made it one soon after departure. They wanted to prove their own adventuring skills as well as the quality of their cars. Especially the latter was far more difficult than expected.

The last place went to Auguste Pons, who was the only one to not make it to the finish at all. He drove a cheap three-wheeler that broke down in the middle of the Gobi desert and couldn’t be fixed anymore. Auguste and his passenger (all drivers had a journalist as a passenger) were lucky to be found by some locals.

The second to fourth place went to the French drivers Victor Collignon and Georges Cormier who both drove a DeDion and stayed the whole trip together. The other car that finished together with them was a Dutch Spyker from the Spyker factory in Amsterdam. This car was driven from Peking to the border of Germany by Charles Godard. On his way, he was stuck for a day and a night in the desert without fuel and later had to transport his car 7,500 kilometers by train and back to find someone at a Russian technological institute to fix it. When he arrived at the German border, he was arrested by the border guards for a lot of different scams. He tricked Spyker into lending him a car, he used useless cheques to pay for parts and petrol and did various other things to prevent that he had to pay a single penny himself for the whole trip. Spyker had sent a replacement driver to drive the last part to Paris where, before entering the city, Godard showed up once more to take back the steering wheel. The organization of the rally called to the police who could take him away so that Godard never made it to the finish line himself, even though his car did.

The first place of the 1907 race went to Prince Scipione Borghese from Italy. He was a born adventurer and the only participant who knew Asia and what he would be up for. He also had the best car, an Italia with a 7-liter engine that gave 35 horsepower. The only downside of his good car was that he had to strip it completely before it could be carried over the mountains of northern China. None of the 5 cars managed to cross those mountains by itself, but the other 4 were a lot lighter so could be pulled without taking them apart. Luckily, the Prince brought his own technician who managed to reassemble the car on the other side of the mountains.

Not only did Borghese win the rally, he even arrived 20 days ahead of the other cars. And to add to this huge difference, he even took a detour from Moscow to St. Petersburg to attend a dinner for which he was invited…

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