Ben Coombs and Laura Reddin took a Porsche 944 through Europe into Africa, faced challenges of mortal danger and still crawled into Cape Town relatively unscathed in a sports car!
British engineer, Ben Coombs has been driving around in his Porsche 944 for five years which he got in 2002 and decided do something extraordinary with the classic car-drive it down to the southern tip of Africa, into Cape Town from England, travelling over 21,000 Kilometers with nothing more than a couple of modifications to the Porsche. Ben wanted to have a special journey before he sold off the car and that is what he and his friend Laura Reddin set about to do.
The Porsche 944 has a 2.5L engine mated to a five speed manual gearbox and 320000 kilometers on the wheels before it embarked on the epic journey. The modifications for the treacherous African roads? A suspension raise of 50mm and a makeshift roof tent made of plywood. But before the start of the journey the Porsche had catastrophic engine failure which had to be fixed by taking the engine from a scrapped 944 that Coombs had purchased and they were able to set off successfully.
Coombs engineering degree came in handy as he was able to fix minor issues with the car on the go. They drove through Europe and into Turkey before reaching the border to Syria, past that and into Jordan they ferried their way into Egypt and started the African leg of the journey. Crossing the Great Pyramids the duo still has 16,000 kilometers to go. They were venturing into the first hurdle of the journey, the Nubian desert in Sudan which has unmade dirt tracks weaving through the emptiness for 500 kilometers.
The German made Porsche showed its true build quality when it crossed the desert unscathed even with temperatures crossing 40-degrees regularly save for the exhaust which did not do any damage to the workings of the car. Then came the greener parts of Africa as they made their way through Ethiopia and reached Kenya, where a more unnatural hurdle awaited. The disputed areas of bordering regions of Kenya and Somalia which were peppered with violence. Remembering the stretch Ben states, “It’s 500 km of really bad roads where it is understood you just do not stop. Let alone break down,” a convoy and massive battering of the Porsche led them to Marsabit where extensive repairs had to be made.
In Nanyuki, on the equator and 8000 kilometers from Cape Town they ended the perilous part of the journey and made inroads into Uganda and Tanzania where Laura’s passport was stolen. The Porsche was greeted with excitement and confusion everywhere it arrived in between Malawi and Zambia due to its battered appearance. Botswana and then Namibia saw the car cruise through, but while enduring the Namib desert a ball joint fractured and had to be bound together using cables which failed continually. Crawling at 20kmph they escaped the Namib after several attempts at the repair.
Cruising at 40kmph the Porsche took 2 days to cover the last leg of 1,100 kilometers and into the capital of South Africa-Cape Town. The epic journey spanning 62 days, covering well over 21,000 kilometers, 26 countries with five deserts in between the Porsche reached its destination crawling quite literally. “It was a dramatic finish and the car limped over the line. I don’t think there are many sports cars I’d have the confidence to cross Africa in, but the depth of engineering in the 944 made us believe that it was possible. And we did it.” beamed Ben. The Journey lay testament to the grit of man and machine, the limit of engineering that Porsche goes into to make the finest quality cars in the world.
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