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Sahara Desert DED Tour - Egyptian Off-Roading

Posted in Events on May 1, 2013 Comment (0)
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Egypt, the ancient land of mummies, pyramids and lots of sand. It’s not what most people would consider paradise, but then again we aren’t most people—we are wheelers. And yes, Egypt is on the other side of the world from where we live, but if you had a chance to go wheel in the desert, dirt, and sand for three weeks, wouldn’t you?

The awesome Jeeps we used were a ’42 Willys and a ’42 Ford. Savage’s son Matt owns a 4x4 shop in England (www.mattsavage.com), and they found a couple of well-worn jeeps in California, shipped them to the U.K., and refurbished them for desert use. Rebuilt engines were sourced, electrics redone, brakes and bearings serviced, and luscious desert tan paint sprayed over the jeeps inside and out. Although converted to 12-volt and sporting Michelin tires, these jeeps were still close to bone stock.

If you know us for anything it has to be for our DED Tours, where David Freiburger from Hot Rod and I travel to a remote location and acquire then resurrect a near-dead flattie, and then drive it cross-country on an awesome road trip home. Along the journey we nearly die at least once, and also hit dirt every day—hence the moniker DED. We’ve been doing it for nearly two decades in a variety of patina’d jeeps and Jeeps. The first published was a two-day trip to the desert with a fragged-out flattie (“The Adventure,” May ’98). Over the years we continued with an unusual assortment of other rigs.

But this trip was a bit different—an Ultimate Desert DED, if you will. A wheeler in the U.K. had an idea of driving two stock 70-year-old jeeps 2,300 miles around the Western Desert in Egypt to commemorate the British Long Range Desert Group of World War II and then drive through the Great Sand Sea. That part had never been done before, and it was unknown if even we could accomplish it. Simple, right? The organization and logistics were formidable, but there wasn’t any reason not to, not even the political instability of the region. Our minds wandered back in time to the ’60s TV series The Rat Patrol, where two American jeeps battled the Nazis in North Africa. We remembered those jeeps flying over the dunes firing .50-caliber machine guns. Heck yeah, we were in!

The Long Range Desert Group of WWII consisted of stalwart British soldiers facing fierce conditions of desert warfare while evading Italian and German troops. They gathered information and intelligence of troop movements and strengths across the Sahara Desert. While the LRDG was initially equipped with large two-wheel-drive Chevy trucks, the jeep made for a small and mobile platform to carry out their duties. Modified for desert driving and surviving on their own, these were truly the original DED Tour guys.

The desert romp was hatched by expedition organizer Toby Savage, a photographer and explorer from the U.K., along with journalist John Carroll and expatriate colleague Sam Watson living in Egypt. Since they are all desert explorers, photographers, teachers, and writers, the idea was to retrace the routes of their countrymen fighting in WWII Africa, the famed Long Range Desert Group (LRDG). Now 70 years later, the three subjects of the realm wanted to retrace their steps, with refurbished, original WWII jeeps. Not museum-quality restored, mind you, but real-world rebuilt rigs worked over in a manner befitting the LRDG, who had to scrap and patch together whatever they could find to make their unit work.

Professional U.K. photographer Toby Savage had spent many years at archeological digs in Libya and had keenly studied the LRDG. His dream was to retrace the areas of the group in period-correct vehicles—something that had never been done since the middle of the war—on the 70th anniversary. It would be simple: Find two jeeps in good shape, gather his pals, ask other people to help split the cost, and go adventuring. Yeah, there was a lot more to it than that, but too much planning can get in the way. Suffice it to say, Toby had the experience and a few desert chums to form a team that could handle the task, much like the LRDG.

Finding suitable participants was also a gamble, but Savage put the trip on a website (www.tobysavage.co.uk/lrdg) and got much attention—fortunately our tech editor, Fred Williams, found it as well. The idea was to find a total of eight people who could split the cost of the entire expedition, with a little left over for safety. Figured into the cost were the jeeps, refurbishment, transport to Africa from England and back, all accommodations, gas, food, supplies, and equipment while on the trip, along with the cost of the Egyptian Army accompanying us.

The adventure took two years to prep and nearly three weeks to complete. With countless marvelous mechanical issues, plenty of politics, roadblocks, soldiers, stress, and fun, it was a true desert DED of epic proportions. But an adventure this grand simply can’t be contained in just a few magazine pages. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3, and check out www.4wheeloffroad.com for extra photos, links, and videos of a real wheeling adventure.

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