Pub2Pub Progress!

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Stop the press – with just over a year to go before hitting the road, the forthcoming Pub2Pub Expedition now has its own shiny new website!  Check it out at, and remember to support us by following our progress on social media, and get the inside line on the most stylish roadtrip the planet has ever seen into the bargain…

Renaulting back…

Here at 80breakdowns, we’re pretty used to picking up a car in the UK, only to sell it in some far-flung place.  We’ve sold Porsches to bus drivers in Mozambique, flogged Rolls Royces to hotels in Laos, unloaded classic Minis in Ulaan Bataar; you name it, we’ve probably done it.  What we’ve never done, however, is buy a car in some distant locale and bring it back to the UK, despite it being a pretty obvious gateway to automotive adventure.  Not that we’re exactly blind to the possibilities which are out there; on our travels, it’s never escaped us that some quite interesting metal is available at rather alluring prices out in the big wide world.  VW Beetles for $1000 were ten a penny in Brazil; or how about Fiat 126s for 300 Euros in Poland?  We’ve previously came very close to dropping $10,000 on a ‘60s Mustang in the US, and have also considered importing VW Campervans from South Africa to bankroll further adventures.

But none of these flights of fantasy have yet happened.  In nearly a decade of roaming the globe in random vehicles, we’ve never yet bought an old car in some far-flung locale and driven it back to the UK.  Until now…

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As the plane dropped below the cloudbase for the first time, Ljubljana – Slovenia’s laid-back-to-horizontal capital city – appeared before me for the first time since I’d passed through in an ailing Porsche en-route to Africa eight years before.  80breakdown’s ‘person in Slovenia’ collected me from the airport and soon we were hurtling into town, slaloming through the light traffic in a feisty old Kia Pride which had made the journey out from the UK a month before.

Nestling amid green mountains and luxuriating in a climate which combines the best of both mountain and Mediterranean influences, Ljubljana is pretty much the most pleasant capital city I’ve ever spent time in, and it was almost a shame when the purpose for my visit impeded on my routine of sitting in the well preserved old town, sipping Lasko beer and watching the world go by.  But impede it had to, because back in the UK a week earlier, in what felt like a completely rational course of action, I’d placed a 100 Euro deposit on a 30 year old Renault 4 which I’d never so much as set eyes on.


The Renault – or Benault, as it was quickly named – looked reasonable and ran better, and so soon the deal was done, beer in hand, naturally. Buying the car seemed to be the easy part, however.  As the Benault wasn’t registered it had no numberplates. To get temporary plates, it needed the Slovenian equivalent of an MOT, locally recognized insurance and various other mundane things which generally cost money.  However, we were lucky to be buying off someone who knew the system well enough to quickly rattle through such obstacles, and after a few hours of pen pushing and euro-peeling, the Benault was registered, insured, taxed, MOT’d and fitted with temporary numberplates, ready for the long drive back to the UK.  A few more days chilling in Ljubljana and it was time; one gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon in May, I hit the road.

Slovenia is truly a jewel of a country; an enchanting blur of farm, forest and mountain which rises from the lapping waves of the Adriatic Sea to the cloud piercing summits of the Julian Alps.  My two-hour drive to the Italian border took in the best of this tiny nation.  I looped past Bled, where a fairytale church floats on an alpine lake amid soaring crags heavy with castles. Past the still snow-smothered slopes of Mount Triglav; the lofty symbol of a nation enchanted by the outdoors. And past the switchbacked splendour of the 1,611m Vršič Pass, over which we’d manhandled the plucky Kia Pride a few days before.

Once the Benault was through the unmanned border with Italy, the Dolomites loomed large in its Landrover-esque windscreen.  A succession of high passes guarded our route to the uber-stylish ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo, and my trusty steed was forced to leave the straight and fairly flat for the first time.  As we climbed and plummeted through soaring mountainscapes, the Benault’s character was slowly revealed.  A sports car it is not. 34hp was always going to make for slow progress across the Alps, and, coupled to a chassis which merely tolerates enthusiastic driving rather than encouraging it, and a gearchange which takes pride in its methodical slowness, our process could best be described as ‘stately’.20160508_120535

But this unrushed yet stalwart character meant there was all the more time to admire the views.  And if there’s one thing the Dolomites have wired, its views.  Slaloming towards the setting sun, the still-snow draped mountains just kept on coming, ethereal in the oblique light. And so did the amazing roads, rising to over 1800m in places, and being taken at a dignified plod by the Benault.

Night set as I headed south out of the mountains, avoiding the heavily tolled autostrada and instead following Italy’s take on A-roads towards the French border.  As the ribbon developments lining the road became more dense, so too did the traffic; frenzied traffic which took the Benault’s 50mph cruise as an affront and would do everything in its power to barge past.  Couple this with rough, potholed roads and the challenge of navigating off a rather inadequate map, and falling asleep was never a risk, as I felt my way through the night towards a milky sunrise above the relentlessly flat countryside west of Turin, where a puncture halted the Benault for the first time, almost 500 miles into its journey.

Boyed on by the new day, I changed the wheel and pressed on east, the Benault performing flawlessly, as it had done right through the night.  Another sweeping high pass saw us forsaking Italy for France, and stopping for breakfast in the ski resort of Briancon; a node of glamour amid the sea of mountains.  And what mountains they were!  Once again, the Benault rolled past wave after wave of vertiginous peaks still bearing the last of the winter snows.  The highpoint of the drive – literally – came near Briancon, when we summated the 2,000m Col du Lautaret, then swept down the curves on the other side to Grenoble, arriving 22 hours and 750 miles after leaving Ljubljana.


Grenoble called for a spot of R&R, and so I spent the afternoon with a friend exploring the old town, taking in the cafe culture and relaxing by the river which gives the place almost a riviera feel.  The following day it was time to hit the road once again; north, to Fontainebleau. Once again I was avoiding toll roads, and so the drive took the whole day, but there are few more pleasant ways to spend a day than pottering through the rolling French countryside in a classic car, stopping at cafes and patisseries when the whim takes you, and delighting in the dappling sunlight and clear, smooth tarmac which swept us north in a dreamlike trance.20160509_144949

In the beautiful Foret du Fontainebleau, just south of Paris, the weather changed.  Blue became grey. Rain replaced warmth.  Gusting winds rocked the Benault on its soft suspension.  The pleasure of the slow drive north was eroded by the weather turning against me, and so rather than linger like an unwelcome guest, I made a dash for the ferryport.

Northern France is an open sweep of rolling farmland and melancholy towns which never quite seem to have escaped the weight of their history.  As I left Ile de France and headed towards the Somme, the sky swept down towards the earth, pummelling it with torrents of rain.  Despite it only being mid afternoon, darkness overtook us, broken only by the strobing lightning which smashed into the earth all around.  On and on through the maelstrom we pushed, the rain becoming heavier, the thunder more frequent, until we were passing through one of the worst storms I’ve ever experienced.  The road became deserted, other road users seeking shelter in lay-bys or on verges.  Horizontal hail strafed us with a deafening roar, threatening to smash the Benault’s windows and blasting branches off trees into our path, which we swerved around, tyres spinning on the muddy torrent of water which the road had became.  Thunder and lightning came as one now, as if an artillery barrage had finally zeroed in on its target.  And through it all, through the bombardment and shrapnel and lightning and driving hail, the little French car soldiered on, its wipers flailing, its wheels sliding and against the odds, its demeanour still one of aloof disinterest.

And then, as we reached the Somme, it cleared. The hail stopped and the roar of thunder withdrew to become the distant rumble of artillery, echoing through the ages.  The air was still, the light sombre.  I parked at Vimy Ridge, where 100 years ago one of the pivotal battles of the First World War had taken place, and walked across the still-cratered, pulverised landscape to a memorial, upon which 12,000 names are engraved. The names of those who were never found.  A poppy wreath lay against the limestone; a token, futile gesture to those lost.  Around me the humid air felt heavy; charged.  Sheep grazed among the craters as I stood alone, imagining.  A kestrel swooped on its prey.  And then the thunderous rumble which sounded like artillery fire drifted closer, and the smoky darkness returned.  And as I hurried back to the shelter of the car, the sky began to weep.

The violence of the storms never relented as I continued through the night to Calais, where the Benault boarded a ferry to its new home.  It’s in Devon now, 1,800 miles later, and we’re getting to grips with the next stage of its journey – getting it road legal in the UK.  And after that, who knows what adventure awaits it?!


Pride of the Alps

What do you do when you find yourself in Slovenia with an endearingly  old-school Kia Pride at your disposal? Why, you head for the hills, of course!

This is the irrefutable logic which earlier this week, led to us taking on the Julian Alps’ epic 1611m Vršič pass; one of the road-engineering marvels of the 20th century. In what is pretty much a wheeled biscuit tin, with a less-than-psyched 1.2l engine sat up front.

The road was built during WWI by Russian prisoners of war, and consists of no less than 50 hairpin bends winding their way through some of Slovenia’s most spectacular mountainscapes. Against the odds, our plucky Kia seemed to relish the challenge of being manhandled around the endless giggle-inducing hairpins which make up this spectacular knot of snow-lined tarmac, though its brakes protested vigorously when asked to check our descent to the gorgeous Soča valley once the climbing was over.

So why is 80Breakdowns currently in Slovenia? Well, when not flinging Korean hatchbacks along mountain passes, we’ve been engaged in the mildly confusing process of buying a Renault 4 to drive back to the UK. As is traditional with such things, this process has involved copious amounts of paperwork, with the vehicle needing to pass a technical inspection, be registered, insured and fitted with temporary numberplates before we could hit the road in it; however it wasn’t all bad, as the process of buying a car in Slovenia also seems to require that you drink plenty of beer with the previous owner.  We finished both the beers and the paperwork yesterday, and so this afternoon I’ll be hitting the long road back to England in a 30 year old piece of Gaelic charm….

Wish me luck!

Racing Back…

Driving should never feel routine. There’s always scope to mix a bit of adventure into every journey.

Hence, when I was sat drinking beer on a French campsite last week, contemplating the drive back to the UK from my annual rock climbing trip to Fontainebleau, in France, an idea was formed – use the journey to visit 4 different racetracks, in 4 different countries, in 4 days.  Here’s a few pictures from the journey; enjoy:


Day 1, Track 1.  The old Reims-Gueux Grand Prix Circuit, France.

In use from 1926 to 1972, the old GP circuit at Reims has now been taken over by public roads, but the old grandstands, pits and race control buildings still stand, frozen in time since the last racecars left. A truly evocative place.



Day 2, Track 2. The Nurburgring Nordschleife, Germany.

Reputations don’t come much bigger than this! For 90 years now, the 14 miles of sinuous tarmac which constitutes the ‘Green Hell’ has enchanted and terrified generation after generation of racing drivers. In typical 80Breakdowns fashion, we rocked up to lap the circuit sporting only a hangover and a crusty old Volvo estate, which suffered from brake fade before making it even halfway around, contributing to a leisurely 11:56 lap time.


Day 3, Track 3. Spa Francorchamps GP Circuit, Belgium.

An early start saw us leaving the ‘ring at the crack of dawn, and arriving at Spa just as a private trackday was getting underway, punctuating the crisp morning air with dozens of roaring exhausts. A spot of sightseeing at Au Rouge proved a fine way to start the day, and whetted our appetite to book onto a track day here later in the year.



Day 4, Track 4. Santa Pod Raceway, England.

The final racetrack of our convoluted journey home was Santa Pod, Britain’s foremost drag racing venue. Sadly our goal of seeing how fast the Volvo would run a quarter mile was thwarted by the sheer number of people wanting to take to the track, but as someone who’s never been to a drag racing meet before, it was still interesting to see what’s involved in this often-maligned branch of motorsport.


So there’s how a routine 12 hour commute back to the UK turned into a 4 day adventure. And predictably, the next mini-roadtrip adventure is already being planned…

A thousand smiling Faces

What makes a road trip special? Is it the landscapes and cultures you pass through, or the character of the vehicle you spend your time coaxing along the route? Perhaps it’s the problems you solve or the red tape you manage to scythe through which burns the deepest memories?  Or maybe it’s the people you meet?

This brief blog post is dedicated to the last option on the list, taking the form of a photo album of some of the people we encountered during our V8Nam drive across Asia, who made the journey special.

No stalwart cars, no glorious wheelspin, no epic landscapes or risky escapes; simply a montage of the smiles which greeted us every mile of the journey.



Perfection takes a little longer…

Seven years ago last week, some of the more monumental occurrences in the history of 80Breakdowns were playing out. The start of the week saw our deepest low – Following 5 straight failures to bodge a tricky repair to a lower suspension ball-joint failure, we found ourselves stranded in the middle of a pitch-black Namibian desert, sheltering in our vulnerable cars as electrical storms strafed the empty plains all around.

But we didn’t give up. We carried on fighting, escaped the desert, and pushed on to our biggest high – rolling into Cape Town in our lashed-together Porsche and parking beneath Table Mountain, tension giving way to elation as we looked back upon a long cherished trans-African journey, and a thousand memories which will never fade.

In many ways, the AfricanPorsche Expedition was defined by the problems we faced.  It was a continuous battle to overcome a challenge most people had declared impossible before we left.  ‘You can’t drive across Africa in a Porsche; you need a Land Rover, not some flimsy sports car’ was the standard response we got whenever we shared our plans before we departed. And if AfricanPorsche was an exercise in ‘can we do this?’ then its sequel – V8Nam, was defined by the question ‘how easily can we do this?’  For while our choice of vehicles for the drive from the UK to Singapore fitted in with the 80Breakdowns philosophy (an inherent unsuitability for intercontinental travel, offset by an all-round awesomeness) in other respects the goal was to make the journey as routine and as straightforward as possible; to prove that you don’t need a 4×4 to effortlessly traverse the globe, a sports car would do just nicely, thank you.  So if the last two trips were defined by ‘can we?’ and ‘how easily?’, then what question will define the forthcoming extravaganza – Pub2Pub?

Simple: ‘How Awe-inspiring can we make this?’

If you’ve already read the philosophy behind Pub2Pub (here), you’ll know where we’re going with this.  We want to make the expedition more than merely yet another road trip; we want to go way beyond that.  From the vehicles we use and the route we plan, to the way we record it, it’s going to be as close to overlanding perfection as we can get.

So, what does all this mean? Well on a mundane level, it means that the level of pre-trip planning we’re undertaking is an order of magnitude greater than on previous trips. On V8Nam, we pretty much woke up one morning, climbed into our over-engined steeds and pointed them in the vague direction of Vietnam. This time, the preparation will be absolute.  And every aspect of the expedition will receive attention to ensure it’s as dripping in panache and flair as we can make it. How so?

Well, firstly, we’re going beyond the simple ‘road trip’ concept for the first time – what we’re putting together is an odyssey; an adventure in the truest sense of the word. As well as the automotive sections of the trip, we’ll also be using sea kayaks, yachts and ocean liners to achieve our goal.  These changes in our mode of travel won’t be contrived, they just happen to be the most convenient and stylish way to accomplish our goals.  And those sections of the journey which will be undertaken on 4 wheels will be taken to a level several stages beyond our previous trips, in every respect.

Whereas in Africa, our journey was documented on a battered old Pentax SLR, this time we’re going to be augmenting the traditional still photography with Go-Pros, camera-drones, medium format film cameras and HD video (there’s a sneak preview of our film capabilities here).  In Africa, our progress updates consisted of the occasional email when the dark continents email connections allowed; for Pub2Pub, we’re planning an interactive website and smartphone app to allow easy access to all the expedition’s blog, photo, video, geotagging and social media resources, along with geocaching and real-time location updates through our GPS spot tracker.  While our last two expeditions departed almost apologetically – so small was the fanfare we put in place – this time we’ll be throwing a launch party that’ll be talked about for decades to come.  On previous expeditions, sponsorship has been a minor afterthought; this time, we’re seeking to align the expedition with select brands who we feel fit into our ‘lost art of travel’ ethos, with the intention of bringing the ultimate in expeditionary style to every aspect of the journey.  And speaking of the journey, what of the cars?

Stylistically, the Porsche we used in Africa complimented the challenge it faced very well.  Its angular lines never quite looked at home amid Africa’s deserts and grasslands, so it maintained its underdog air to the last – a fitting situation for an expedition defined by the question ‘can we do this?’  In contrast, the Rolls Royce and Corvette which we took on V8Nam projected an feeling of confident superiority.  Both vehicles had an insolent air about them; a feeling that the entire journey was never the equal of their glorious excess.  But what the two V8s didn’t do was gel as a team:


The Edwardian aloofness of the Rolls always jarred with the Corvette’s shock & awe, so the two cars never felt like a coherent pairing.  When we make the final decision on the cars we’re taking on Pub2Pub, we’ll be aiming to put together a cohesive team; a pair of vehicles which look like natural, stylish companions on the road. We’ve already put forward some thoughts as to what character the lead car should possess here, and whatever gets chosen, the second vehicle will have to be a good complement.  And while no final decision has been made, we’ve got some pretty stylish ideas on the backburner.

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So there you have it.  In every aspect, we’re looking to make Pub2Pub surpass everything we’ve done before.  The only downside with this goal is that bringing it to fruition requires a lot more preparatory work than previous expeditions needed.  We don’t see this as an issue; indeed, planning the route, wrestling with the logistics and preparing the vehicles is half the fun of these trips.  However this commitment to make Pub2Pub the most awesome vehicle-based expedition the planet has ever seen does mean one thing – it can’t be rushed, because to rush the preparation would be to compromise.  And this time, compromise has no place in proceedings.  Because of this, we’ve made a big decision – we’re knocking the departure date back by a year, from next summer to summer 2017.  Because, well, perfection takes a little longer.

So, watch this space, enjoy the journey, and see you at the start line in 18 months!

That feeling of being watched…

Tuesday an unusual day.  The alarm fired up at 04:45, and the TVR wasn’t far behind it.  Destination Dartmoor, and a rendez-vous with the good folk of Vertical Horizons Media, who are partnering the forthcoming Pub2Pub expedition by providing top-end aerial footage for the expedition.  Several hours of driving on deserted tarmac while being stalked by 7 kilos of whirring airborne high-tech later, and the footage was in the bag.  Here’s a few stills from the shoot, while the video itself can be seen here – enjoy!  We’re looking forward to carrying out some similar shoots in more exotic locations once the expedition is underway…

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11895155_10155978092820451_5315783943692548576_oRemember to keep track of all the latest Pub2Pub developments by liking the expedition Facebook page, found here: