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Ahmedabad to London: Gujarati Family Takes 1950 Vintage Car on a 13500 km Road Trip!

Gujarat's Daman Thakore and his family drove their classic 1950 MG YT on a 13,500 km road trip from Ahmedabad to London spanning 16 countries. Here's a look at their lifechanging journey in the 'Lal Pari'.

Ahmedabad to London: Gujarati Family Takes 1950 Vintage Car on a 13500 km Road Trip!

What do you think was the first thing that an Ahmedabad-based businessman did when he decided to take a road trip? Well, he did what any of us would – put his start and stop locations in Google Maps. 

But here’s the thing. The end location he put was London! And you can only imagine the result Google Maps rendered. 

While many would rethink this brave feat around the globe, Daman Thakore was excited by the prospect. Driving through the breezy spring countryside or through the unforgivingly harsh, scorching deserts, this journey had been what this avid adventurer had dreamt of doing on his 50th birthday. 

And to simply have an adventure and do what few others have attempted before was alluring in its own way. Doing it with ‘Lal Pari’ — a vintage UK-made 1950 MG YT manufactured 73 years ago, a part of his family since 1979 — was the icing on the cake. 

In fact, as Daman interjects, the trip was a treat for Lal Pari (red fairy). “The car was manufactured in a factory in Abingdon, UK, and we planned the trip with that as the final destination in mind. It was a sort of homecoming for her.” 

Driving across continents is tough. But packing for the trip is a tougher feat. Daman’s instructions to his six companions were clear. “Pack three sets of clothes and wear the fourth. But carry plenty of food.”

To the urbane traveller, this would seem insane. But as Daman rightly points out, “Nothing about this trip was normal.”

And so armed with the said duffle bags, and 80 kg of food, the family plodded from horizon to horizon. It took around 11 months of planning for the trip, and test drives around Gujarat to ensure Lal Pari was ready for the long ride that awaited. Fortunately, says Daman, driving licences weren’t a problem as he’d already procured an international license prior to the trip that was valid across countries. Each country they entered had local road tax and insurance charges that they needed to pay.

Finally, the journey across time was set to begin from Mumbai on the Indian Independence Day, 2023. 

Daman Thakore and his family have undertaken an expedition from Ahmedabad to London
Daman Thakore and his family have undertaken an expedition from Ahmedabad to London.
The family made their way through 16 countries in the span of two and a half months
The family made their way through 16 countries in two and a half months.
Lal Pari is a UK-made vintage 1950 MG YT manufactured 73 years ago
Lal Pari is a UK-made vintage 1950 MG YT manufactured 73 years ago.

Breaking down the route, Daman says, “We left from Ahmedabad on 12 August. On 15 August we undertook the sea route from Mumbai to Dubai where we reached on 28 August. Once in Dubai, we hit the road and reached the UK on 26 October. In total, the journey took us 76 days.” 

Putting their faith in the most feasible route suggested by Google Maps, they embarked on their trip. “The Dubai to London route was what we settled on after exploring several different routes, including ones through Russia,” Daman notes. 

Through the time spent in the two and a half months driving through 16 countries, Daman and his family have watched the world through a window, literally and metaphorically. “Landscapes changed, time zones shifted, we watched it all in real-time,” he says gazing off into the distance. 

And I’m sure that he is mentally still in those lands he speaks of so fondly. But how much did this mind-boggling trip cost, you may ask? “Roughly the cost of a Mercedes,” Daman says cheekily.

Around the world in 76 days 

As a child, Daman never saw Lal Pari as a car. “My mother would tell me these stories of how Lal Pari had superpowers and could come to save us whenever we needed. I grew up believing that.” 

“All my favourite memories have been in this car,” Daman adds. These include trips to the zoo when he was younger, family trips when he was older, and eventually his marriage. So, it only seemed right that the car was his companion on this dreamy adventure

Navigating across the world on an impulse and high adrenaline means figuring out where your next lunch is going to be, hoping to find a petrol pump in a remote village where water is gold, and driving towards the next destination with hope, even when the road gets tough. 

But through it all, Lal Pari was very well-behaved. Before embarking on this daring tryst, only the carburettor was changed. 

“Better fuel efficiency and more reliability, you see,” he adds. 

The rest of the car, the engine, the gearbox, and the decor were preserved. 

Every dawn was a new village, every dusk a new countryside, and every day the family would pray to the weather gods to be kind and for any medical emergency to be averted. 

The trip included a ride through Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Slovenia and Croatia
The trip included a ride through Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Slovenia and Croatia.
Daman Thakore recounts the outpouring of the love they received throughout the journey as the best gift
Daman Thakore recounts the outpouring of love they received throughout the journey as the best gift.
Daman Thakore and his family and friends who went on this iconic adventure
Daman Thakore and his family and friends who went on this iconic adventure.

“Of course, we had our fair share of bad weather,” says Daman. “But we improvised.” He recalls the early days of the trip when the weather was warm and half-sleeve t-shirts were the norm for the group. “But as we drove through Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Slovenia and Croatia, it began getting cold. When we reached Switzerland, France, Italy and the UK, it was raining!” 

So, what did the family do? 

“We wore our raincoats and continued driving,” laughs Daman. “We knew it wasn’t going to be sunshine and rainbows all the time,” he adds. And so the family of seven, Daman, his wife, his 75-year-old father, his 21-year-old daughter, a photographer friend, and an uncle, drove to the edge of the world with a support vehicle behind that held the luggage. 

Suitcases of memories  

Uncertainty seemed to be the theme of every day. But no one was complaining. Recalling a nerve-wracking episode they had when they crossed the Turkey border, Daman shares how they were set to reach their pre-booked stay in the morning, but reached at 3:30 am. 

“The designated guy wasn’t answering. We couldn’t manage to book any new place. So, we drove around in the car until we managed to find somewhere to stay!” 

A gamble with fate is what the trip was. “Throughout the journey, the only thing we were sure about was our direction,” Daman adds. 

But even in the face of changing climes and uncertain destinations, Daman says the incredible love they received from people served as their compass. People’s fondness for India shone through, Daman recalls when Mr Omidvar (a gentleman they met in Tehran) sang the Indian national anthem — which he had learnt on his trip to India in 1953 — to perfection. The group recalls watching with goosebumps. Daman was fascinated when he told the group about his own expedition in 1953 where he rode around the world on a motorbike. 

The warmth towards India and Indians was the best part of the journey, Daman shares
The warmth towards India and Indians was the best part of the journey, Daman shares.
Heartwarming experiences awaited the family from people of all nationalities
Heartwarming experiences awaited the family from people of all nationalities.
The iconic adventure was flagged off from Mumbai on 15 August 2023
The iconic adventure was flagged off from Mumbai on 15 August 2023.

“Here I was with gadgets, Google Maps, a phone, technology and the latest roads. But this man had done it at a time when none of this existed,” he says.

The love for India only became more evident as the group neared their destination. “In Bulgaria, we stopped for engine oil at a small village which is home to one of the most orthodox churches in the world. A woman in her fifties asked us to accept the fuel for free. The fact that we were Indians got us this favour.”

As the woman explained, her love for India had led her to memorise the Bhagwad Gita and the Ramayana. She was well-versed in Sanskrit and was a fan of Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan. “And you’ll be surprised to know she had never been to India,” emphasises Daman. 

“The country has goodwill across the world,” he adds. 

And kindness never left the family’s side. 

When in the UK, Daman recounts how a man named Anil helped him through a sticky spot. “My car had broken down and it was very expensive to hire a pickup truck there. I had visited Anil for a few car-related things the previous day and as soon as the car broke down, I asked him if he could send someone to help.” 

Not only did Anil drive 600 miles to help but did not charge a penny for it. “Yesterday when you drove Lal Pari to my garage, you brought a smile to my son’s face. I cannot charge you,” was Anil’s excuse. 

But what’s more fascinating is the number of people Daman met through this incredible journey that they undertook – fifty thousand people and counting! And when he finally reached the destination, the exhilaration was visible. 

Lal Pari encountered all sorts of weather on this adventurous voyage
Lal Pari encountered all sorts of weather on this adventurous voyage.
A support vehicle tagged behind Lal Pari the entire journey and it was loaded with all the luggage the family had packed for the trip
A support vehicle tagged behind Lal Pari the entire journey and it was loaded with all the luggage the family had packed for the trip.

“In fact, the start of the journey was equally emotional. It was something I’d been dreaming of for the longest time and to get out in Dubai and onto the road was amazing,” he says. 

It was during the documentation process and obtaining a carnet de passage (passport for the car that enables it to travel across countries) that they learnt that they were one of the first Indians to undertake an expedition of this kind. 

“Doing the trip with my family added to the magic,” Daman says. “There was so much joy when we accomplished it, and a feeling of gratitude to be able to do what many may have dreamt of.”

That being said, he adds that the magic of travel evokes a unanimous feeling. It is ingrained in our DNA. 

“Whether it was Vasco da Gama exploring the world, or you and I, travel is intrinsic to our existence,” he adds. Today, Lal Pari is back in Daman’s garage in their Ahmedabad home after the long and telling adventure she’s been on. I don’t know if it’s just my imagination but it seems like Lal Pari is shining a little bit brighter, ready for the next exciting adventure. 

(Edited by Padmashree Pande; All photo credits are attributed to Vinay Panjwani)

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