Ten ideal endurance rallying cars

Which cars are best for historic endurance rallies? We talked to Rally Preparation Services on which cars to buy, and how to ensure they survive. You might be surprised at the choices...

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Rally Preparation Services-prepared machinery has won the 2010 and 2013 outings of the Endurance Rally Association’s Peking to Paris Motor Challenge, the toughest endurance rally of all for vintage and classic vehicles. In 2016, RPS had 25 cars on the starting line in China, with no fewer than 23 making it all the way to Paris.

In the past year, the team has journeyed to Japan for Rally Round’s Samurai Challenge, won Bespoke Rallies’ Pan-Am Classic with a novice crew in a 1970 Rover P5, and seen cars achieving class wins on the Paris Amsterdam and 1000 Mile Trial.

More about endurance rallying on AutoClassics…

So, we asked RPS MD Simon Ayris which cars are ripe for the picking and have the best chance of getting to the finish line:

1. Chevrolet Coupe

A Peking to Paris winner in 2010 and 2013, the Chevrolet Coupes have amazing provenance with the Fangio heritage and good ground clearance, and they're as strong as an ox. Seeing one go 100mph across the desert is a sight to behold – they're like a big Tonka toy, with big nuts and bolts.

The 3.3-liter straight-six has plenty of power but, if the regulations allow, you can go up to 3.8 litres. You can fit a four-speed truck gearbox and a truck axle, both from the period. The weakest link is the shock absorbers, and there isn’t a lot of room in the living accommodation, either. The car shown above is for sale here.

To find more Chevys like this, click here

2. Austin 1800 ‘Landcrab’

This workhorse has proved its metal on the endurance rally scene and, although they don’t drop into the normal simplicity rules, they can be quick with a committed driver who can keep their foot in. While you wouldn’t be at the top of the leader board on the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge, you’ll have a great experience.

With the car’s quirky Hydrolastic suspension, you can pump it up for extra clearance, and heavy-duty parts are available from Australia. The engine is a B-series so it’ll take MGB tuning bits, which are widely available. The biggest issue, after finding an example of the Landcrab, is to get a rot-free body to save a lot of preparation work.

Find Landcrabs for sale on AutoClassics here.

3. Bentley 3 and 4½-litre

Historically one of the most successful endurance rally cars, the Bentley is strong and has staying power with the 4½ litre example. However, for speed you can’t beat the 3-litre Super Sport. Because of the design, you can’t modify them much – but why would you want to?

Just make sure you can make the best of what you have got on the car – which is much easier with companies such as Benchmark Precision around, who are recreating Bentley parts. It may look epic, but the Bentley is a ‘hands-on’ rally car that will need daily upkeep to make sure it keeps going mile after mile.

Find Vintage Bentleys for sale on AutoClassics here.

Classic cars for sale now

4. Porsche 356

Air-cooled, so light and with no overheating issues, it is basically the same as a Beetle. You have to cover up either end, but there’s not that much to get damaged. The main problems seem to be electrical, so convert then to 12v negative earth for the best results. Reliable, and in RPS say that in all their years on the road they’ve never seen a major failure.

Models made 1959 onwards are more refined and offer more power, so 365B and C are the best options. Early models and Speedsters can be three times the price tag. A coupé can save you 50 per cent on the bill of a convertible, and are stronger and more secure.

There are always plenty of 356s for sale on AutoClassics here.

5. Alvis Speed 20

If you’re looking for a survivor, look no further – Alvis built tanks! Well-made to begin with, they are uncomplicated vehicles that can cover the ground, although you don’t want one with a big, flouncy body. They have good ground clearance – one of RPS's clients doesn’t even have a sump guard on their car.

The cars are a price, but all the parts are available from Red Triangle. RPS add extra fuel filtration, using two complete fuel lines, each with taps either side of the filter so parts of the system can be isolated if blocked. They also do smaller but effective jobs such as adding chains to filter caps in case they come off in the sand.

Find suitable Alvis models for sale on AutoClassics here.

6. Mercedes Fintail

These models have good ground clearance and lots of usable power. RPS convert the saloons to floor change, which transforms them, and they’re a lovely car for living in. The long wheelbase makes them nice and stable, with plenty of time to catch them if the tail comes around, and they’re all over the world so you can get spares easily.

However, they are big old cars, and can get a bit heavy once you start adding roll cages, sump shields and skid plates plus your rally kit. The cost of OE parts can be pricey, but at least they are available. Look for W110, W111 or W112 examples for the best results.

Find Fintails for sale on AutoClassics here.

7. Ford Coupe

Choosing between a Ford and a Chevy Coupe is always difficult. The Ford flathead V8 has more power and gives a much lower centre of gravity. The suspension is more complicated than the Chevy’s, with transverse leaf springs both ends and long radius arms, but RPS haven't seen one bent yet – although you have to four-link the rear axle.

Trim the mudguard lips to allow extra clearance for the bigger tyres – which are usually Falken, as they’ve proven to be tough and have longevity. Upsweep the exhausts and add lightness by ditching the steel dickey lid. Extra V8 cooling is a must.

See something similar for sale on AutoClassics here.

8. Volvos

There’s no bad choice when it comes to choosing which Volvo to go for. The Amazon, PV and 140 are all mechanically more or less the same. Volvo is great for finding parts, as the company still supports the older models in the US and Europe. These cars all use the pushrod 1.8 or 2.0-litre engine, so that’s an easy upgrade.

PV444s with only 1.4 or 1.6-litre engines and three-speed gearboxes are rarer, and 544s, with more power, are likely cheaper to buy. These models are good for playing the long game on these events. PVs sit high so don’t need much adjustment to the springs. You just have to be careful with the weight when packing.

Find classic Volvos for sale on AutoClassics here.

9. Ford Model A (1928-31)

Simple and good value, as you get so much for your money, and so strong – it’s no wonder they’re so popular with the VSCC members for trials. A great vintage car that is significantly cheaper than a Bentley but will do the same job. You can fly in an A gearbox in hand luggage – you can’t do that with a Bentley’s ’box – plus there are brilliant parts suppliers in the US such as specialist Snyder’s Auto Antiques.

These cars have gone all the way on the Peking to Paris, with minimal repair. On the Coupe replace the steel lid for a vinyl skin to save weight. The all-steel Tudor and Fordor saloons give more comfort on long-distance rallies.

There are Model As for sale on AutoClassics here.

10. Datsun 240Z

A proven winner, these cars look amazing on the rallies but you have to spec them like a Safari car to survive these tough events – which can see the cost of the cars rise to around £100k. Parts are readily available, as well as useful alternatives such as an Austin 1800 driveshaft if you get stuck.

There are still solid California cars around, and left-hand drive is a bonus in most countries where the rallies take place. A useful feature is the built-in lockers behind the seats, which are ideal for storing tools and parts. Depending on the regulations, you can adapt the car to up to 2.8 litres with later blocks and cranks.

You can find 240Zs for sale on AutoClassics here.

RPS offers complete rally preparation and support to crews and cars all over the world. For more information, see its website here.

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