East Africa Safari Rally

1y ago

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In April 1965, Volvo Cars enjoyed success when the Singh Brothers won first place in Kenya’s Safari Rally driving a white, bumper sticker-embellished Volvo PV544.

The Safari Rally is still globally known as one of the toughest rallies in the world and of the 94 cars that set off in the 1965 race, only 21 made it over the finish line.

The story started when Joginder Singh borrowed a Volvo PV544 from Kenyan car importer, Amazon Motors to take part in smaller African rallies. Using his engineering knowledge, he adapted the car after each rally to better suit ever-challenging driving conditions.

It wasn’t until Joginder purchased the car and tested it with his brother and co-driver Jaswant, that eyebrows began to rise. There was stiff competition in the 1965 rally and Volvo had endured a flop performance the year before. The odds weren’t in the Singh brothers’ favour.

Through the driest conditions and thick, sucking mud, the Singh brothers raced on, adopting a special technique for getting unstuck. As Joginder sat at the steering wheel, Jaswant would stand on the rear bumper and, holding onto two handles fitted to the rear of the car, would rock the vehicle to put more pressure on the drive wheels. Genius.

The Singh brothers crossed the finish line on the fifth day of the rally, arriving first place and to an ecstatic, cheering crowd. They had won by the largest margin ever in the rally's history, and from then on, Joginder was affectionately known as ‘The Flying Sikh’.

The white PV544 is still here today with bumper stickers and rear handles intact at the Volvo Museum in Gothenburg. Its reconstruction is thanks to Joginder himself who restored it to its former rally condition using original equipment from 1965. Admiring it now, shiny and polished, you’d never imagine that such a little, tidy car had been on an intrepid adventure and come out on top against all odds.

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