By Andre Stemmet

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In the 1970s South African motor manufacturers often attempted to break all kinds of speed and reliability records in order to promote their products. Such record attempts by Fiat with the 125 and Volkswagen with three 411s (with the evocative folk-tale names of ‘Jakkals’, ‘Wolf’ and ‘Adoons’) on the newly constructed Goldfields racetrack drew a lot of publicity in the local media.

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However, three Cape Town motor journalists had other record-breaking ideas. In July 1970, Peter Burroughes, Frans Aucamp and Conrad van Dyk attempted a record that has not been broken to this day: to drive around South Africa in 75 hours. The weapon of choice was the newly introduced Toyota Corona 1.6. The route stretched from Cape Town up the west coast, through the Kalahari, then looped around the then Western, Northern and Eastern Transvaal, and back to Cape Town along the east coast.

The team finished the route one hour inside the allotted time, covering 4 346 miles at an average speed of 58 miles per hour in 74 hours. Apart from a service stop in Upington, getting stuck in loose sand in the Kalahari, having to remove a tree that fell across the road at Storms River and taking in fuel and doing a driver change every two hours, they drove constantly for three days and nights. During the trip the only repair done to the car was the replacement of the front shock absorbers. The Toyota was stock standard: the only extras fitted being two spotlights, a heater and a radio.

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Bearing in mind the often-primitive road conditions of the time, especially in rural areas like the Kalahari and Transkei, it was a remarkable achievement. Contemporary media reports mention that while the drivers were dead tired on arrival at the Cape Town Foreshore, the Toyota was in almost perfect condition, with only its Firestone Pacers showing some signs of wear!

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