While our editors traverse the country to find the best content for those magazines, we find other oddities related to the old-car hobby that we really had no place for - until now. With this blog, we're giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what we see and what we do during the course of putting out some of the finest automotive magazines you'll ever read.
Driving around the world ain't easy. Visas, funding, language barriers, supply management, and keeping the vehicle running all require resourcefulness and resilience. But even the hardiest of round-the-world drivers tend to stay away from the Darien Gap, leaving just a handful of expeditions that have driven from Central America to South America.
That's because, aside from a lack of roads, bridges or any sort of infrastructure, the Darien Gap remains largely uncharted, thanks to dense and rapid-growing jungle that reportedly swallows up any paths hacked through it in a matter of days, frequent rainy seasons that unpredictably flood the jungle, malaria-carrying mosquitos, poisonous frogs, and the presence of armed guerillas and cocaine smugglers. Locals and indigenous peoples do navigate it on a daily basis, and it is fast becoming a migrant route for South Americans headed north, but all do so by foot.
Unsurprising, then, that our investigation — aided by research by Patricia Upton — has turned up just seven expeditions that successfully ("success" defined as reaching Palo de las Letras when crossing from the north, Yaviza when crossing from the south) crossed the Darien Gap in four-wheeled vehicles:
The Trans-Darien Expedition
Dates: 1959 to 1960
Vehicles used: Land Rover 88 station wagon and a Jeep four-wheel-drive pickup
Crew members: Terence John Whitfield, Richard E. Bevir, Otis Imboden, Kip Ross, and Arnado and Reina Arauz
Sponsored by the Pan-American Highway Congress and the National Geographic Society, the expedition was intended to chart a path for the completion of the Pan-American Highway. The trip took 134 days.
Dates: 1961 or 1962
Vehicles used: three Corvairs and at least a couple Chevrolet four-wheel-drive trucks
Crew members: Dick Doane, Carl Turk and Gordon Gould
Though Chevrolet released a promotional film on the months-long trip, it appears the Chicago dealership actually put it together. It also seems that one of the three Corvairs might have made it to Colombia, but no farther, while the other two were left behind in South America.
British Trans-Americas Expedition
Dates: 1971 to 1972
Vehicles used: a pair of Range Rovers and a Land Rover
Crew members: headed by Major John Blashford-Snell