Two Maritime men mark 40-year anniversary of fastest drive around the world
HALIFAX -- Many Maritimers might enjoy a nice fall road trip, but 40 years ago, a pair of Nova Scotians completed a drive for the history books.
Friday marks 40 years since Garry Sowerby of Halifax and his friend, Ken Langley of Cape Breton, set a Guinness World Record for the fastest drive around the world.
“We started that trip in Toronto on Sept. 6, 1980, and we finished on Nov. 19 back at the CN Tower, which was only a few years old at the time,” says Sowerby from his Halifax home.
The rule of the planetary road trip was that one driver had to start and finish at the starting point of the trip, and the car had to travel the distance of the equator, which is over 40,000 kilometres, while crossing the imaginary line at some point along the way.
They completed the drive in a 1980 Volvo 245 DL station wagon, known as Red Cloud, in 74 days, 1 hour and 11 minutes.
“Our goal was to do it in 77 days, 7 and 11 were our two lucky numbers, and we’d beat Phileas Fogg at the same time. But the funny thing is, when we got back it was 74 days, 1 hour and 11 minutes. And about three or four months later I thought, ‘I wonder how many hours that was?’ and it was 1,777 hours and 11 minutes, so we got those 7, 11s at the end,” recalls Sowerby.
The pair drove through 20 countries, across four continents, crossing the equator and the Arctic Circle. They covered 43,030 kilometres (26,738 miles).
“We went across Canada, the United States, then Australia, then India and Pakistan -- 23 countries that we crossed through in total.”
Sowerby says some of the highlights include driving through the Australian Outback, dodging animal and human traffic on the battered roads of India and Pakistan, and skirted the Iran-Iraq War, which had just erupted.
“This is a racing suit that we wore, of course we didn’t wear it in the Outback,” explains Sowerby, showing off a black and yellow striped one-piece racing suit.
Sowerby says they were prepared for the elements and any sort of car problems, but the biggest obstacle was the toll the journey took on their physical health.
“What we didn’t expect was the sickness. Ken had some problems with his digestive system and then he got better, but then my throttle leg started to go, because there was no cruise control on the car. So by the time we finished Europe, and flew the car to Texas, I hadn’t been asleep for over 100 hours, and I thought, ‘This is what happen when people lose it.’ But I turned it around and we got it around the world,” he laughs.
The 1980 Volvo "Red Cloud" has been on display at museums in Europe, the United States and Canada, and now resides at the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame Museum in Petitcodiac, N.B.
In 1984, Sowerby and Langley went on to set another Guinness World Record for fastest drive from the bottom of Africa to the top of Europe. Sowerby holds another two Guinness Records.
But does he have any plans for another epic road trip anytime soon?
“I just turned 70 so maybe in 40 years, when I turned 110, we’ll do it all over again,” laughs Sowerby.
For the past 74 days, Sowerby has been reliving the adventure through a series of weekly reports on EastCoastTester.com.