Quest to Turkey: Part 2b

This story continues from Quest to Turkey: Part 1 and Quest to Turkey: Part 2a

To make full sense of this story, first read Quest to Turkey: Part 1 where Howard Hunt touches on the background and the preparation of the cars before they left for Turkey, and Quest to Turkey: Part 2a where we follow the trip from the outset.




Turkish Delight to Turkey

While D44’s crew were in Rome, D38’s crew went to Monte Cassino,  Naples and Trieste.


Willie recalls that on a number of occasions getting in and especially out of cities, the sign posting was very difficult, not just because it was in a foreign language, such us in Greece where the Greek alphabet was a challenge, but also because there wasn’t the same care and attention to signage. Typically, the junction preceded the road sign, making it very difficult to navigate. One of the worst examples was Milan, where they finally stopped some police officers, gave them some free pens, and in pigeon English explained that they were lost. The Milano Polizia gave them a police escort out of the city with sirens and blue flashing lights …… and then insisted that they had their photograph taken!

“They didn’t want our photograph,” recalls Willie, “and they insisted we take theirs. Typical Italian!”



Reaching Yugoslavia, they were unimpressed, and described it as being flat as a pancake, adding that the quality of the roads was terrible, with hour after hour after hour of boring scenery and poor road conditions. This, they said, is where the discipline came in – they got up every morning and checked the car religiously because everything depended on that, the wheels, any damage, the levels, the whole lot, the windscreen and headlights were cleaned even if they didn’t have time to clean anything else. Willie would take the first shift in the drivers seat, Peter in the navigators seat, and Mick resting in the back, and then they would stop for a break. Willie then became the navigator, Mick drove, and Peter rested in the back. They did this every two hours which ensured that everyone got their turn at the wheel and the necessary recuperation in between.

Willie has a fear of snakes, and Mick has a deep knowledge of wildlife so every time they went into a different region Willie would ask ‘Are there any snakes around here Mike?’ and Mike would say ‘No, no, no, no, of course not!’ Further south towards Greece came the inevitable ‘Well there’s one or two round here that might give you a nasty suck!’ and Willie’s expected answer ‘I’m sleeping in the car tonight’

Driving onward through Yugoslavia, the other XJ40 and its crew were still in Rome. Thirty years ago there were no mobile phones, and none of the instant communication that we take for granted these days, so D38’s crew had no idea of the whereabouts of D44’s crew.

Crossing the border from Yugoslavia into Greece, the  border guard looked at Willie, who was driving at the time, then looked at the car with all the logos on it and said  ‘It’s funny, another one of these just went through an hour ago!’


As Peter explained, ‘even though we’d left them in Rome for two days, the other crew managed to catch us up by driving through the night, which we’d made a pact that we wouldn’t do because we thought it was dangerous, so they broke the rules in the interests of trying to catch up.’

Although D38’s crew now knew that D44’s crew were an hour  in front, they  didn’t know if they would turn right to Athens or left to Thessalonica, so they wanted to try to catch up before they got to the junction! Unfortunately, they didn’t manage it, and having turned right towards Athens, D38 and D44 were not reunited until they arrived at the embassy in Istanbul.

On a beautiful day in Greece, they couldn’t resist stopping to take some photos of D38 outside a tunnel they had just driven through. Willie, in particular, marvelled at the tunnel (the entrance of which can be seen on the left hand side of the first picture) which had no internal brick supports, and was simply hewn out of the rock.

“This is Istanbul and the consulate, previously the British Embassy in Turkey,” as Willie explains “These negatives got a little bit damp, but I don’t think that necessarily ruins the photograph – it adds a certain patina to it. I don’t know who’s in that, these would be Embassy officials, and they didn’t really know that we were coming.”
Seen here, driving the XJ40 through the streets of Istanbul, Mike adds“We thought that they would know, we were told that they would know that we were coming.”

Now a tourist destination, Istanbul was very different 30 years ago!


Crossing the Bosphorus Bridge

“That was my ambition,” Peter explains  “to drive from Europe into Asia.”


There followed a 200 mile drive, which Willie, Mick and Peter described as horrendous!

What was, supposedly a two lane highway, was bordered on either side by a rough gravel track, about the width of a vehicle. This sloped steeply away from the highway, but completely undeterred, the ‘locals’ used it as an extra lane.

Described by these seasoned police trained drivers as ‘absolutely terrifying’ with vehicles coming up the inside, the outside, and straight towards you, as they turned this two lane highway into a six lanes free-for-all!

Eventually they arrived in Ankara, in the dark, in middle of the night!


Mission Accomplished!

On their first night in Ankara the two crews were treated to a traditional games night, with dominoes, darts, cards etc in a British pub within the embassy itself. Everyone was very kind and they were welcomed and looked after very well.

The two ‘travel stained’ cars together for the first time in about a week!
Presenting the Turkish Delight to Patricia Daunt, The Ambassadors wife.

(Sir) Timothy Daunt retired as ambassador to Turkey and became Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man

On the second night D38 and D44’s crews went to a post-Presentation party, held in their honour!


Homeward Bound

Here, the mood changed to a sombre one. Mission accomplished, the aim was to get home swiftly and safely, and the two crews drove the XJ40’s on a more direct route straight up through Germany, taking four and half days to reach home.

En route through Greece there was a horrendous thunderstorm, and the two crews were in their tents. It was then decided that they would drive through the night, hence there are no pictures of this part of the return journey as they were seriously concerned about the risk of being hijacked if they stopped. This was not an unfounded fear, as it was barely a month since Timothy Daunt had been stopped and his Range Rover had been stolen, mercifully leaving him standing at the side of the road, unharmed.

Safely back in the UK, and Mick explains “We stayed overnight at Ashford, they gave us a cheque and then we drove up to Bruche. We were going to stay overnight at Bruche, but we didn’t, we all just wanted to get home. We had to go to work to start a new job!”


Willie adds “I was allowed to keep the car for a week, which was a huge thrill …….
Having grown very fond of D38, Willie took this series of pictures at a friend’s farm in Cumbria, before returning her to Coventry.


All in all, both XJ40’s each covered 7000 miles and raised £10,000 between them!

The final episode of this story is:  3. Reunion ( to be published shortly)

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