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Mongol Rally Help

Hey guys:

Me and a friend are looking to participate in the Mongol Rally ( ) sometime in the next 2-3 years. Basically, you buy a econobox (requirements: less than 10 years old, 1.2L displacement or less) and drive it from London to Mongolia.

Since we have time to plan for this, I was wondering if you might have any advice on either a suitable car, or general maintenance knowledge we could pick up in the 2-3 years between now and then to prepare for the Rally.

This may be difficult in view of the “less than 10 years old” requirement, but if I were you, I would look for something with rear wheel drive. If you have a breakdown, it will be far easier to get repairs done in a nation like Mongolia where modern technology is rarely seen.

Here’s a thought. How about one of the old Russian-built compacts? I know that most of them are simply recycled front-wheel drive Fiats, but if they were still building any of their old RWD sedans (the Volga comes to mind) 10 years ago, that might be a consideration. Volgas were built to withstand very bad road conditions and they are very basic. The more basic your car is, the less likely it is to break down.

However, I have to confess that I don’t know the displacement of the engine–but the Volga is sturdy. (Note: I am referring to the old-style Volgas that were designed during the communist era. The name is now being re-used for a rebadged Chrysler Sebring that is marketed in Russia, and I would NOT recommend one of those for anything!)

Of course, you will also have to carry spare belts, hoses, fuses, filters, tires, tools, etc.

Here is a link to a photo of the vehicle that I am referring to.

The one issue is that because we’re American, we’ll be flying over to London to purchase a car, probably have a couple days to get it fitted out, and head out from there. Have many of those Russian compacts have made it to London?

Here are a few random thoughts.

It seems like ground clearance would be pretty important. You might want to compare the specs on the cars you’re considering ahead of time. Maybe you could do a small lift or even weld in a skid plate.

Bad gas could possibly be an issue. It might be better to have a fuel filter that you can reach versus one where you have to drop the gas tank.

Maybe you’d want to rent an Iridium phone and have the number of your local mechanic handy for some remote consultation if needed.

I assume you’ve found books such as already.

I have seen all manner of vehicles in England that never made it to our shores. That includes Russian cars and small military vehicles, Ssangyong SUVs from Korea, Citroens, Talbots, Renaults, Citroens, Seats, Tatras, Wartburgs, etc. I can’t guarantee that you will find a Volga sedan there, but you certainly have more chance of finding one there than in the US!

Incidentally, another point in the Volga’s favor is that since Mongolia used to be in the Soviet sphere of influence, Volgas are a known quantity in that very primitive nation. If you can’t find a Volga in The UK, try to find one of the small Russian military “jeeps”. These too are known in Mongolia, and they would have the advantage of better ground clearance than the Volga sedan. However, once again, I do not know the displacement of the engine of this vehicle.

Have you two considered an ATV?

What are the other teams driving? Look at past rallies, too.

Do it Top Gear style;

It is some funny stuff in case you haven’t seen it. You might even get some useful info, or not!

Do you have to buy the car in London? If not, I know exactly what you need.

Head to Mexico and buy yourself a '99-04 air-cooled Beetle. That’s right-- they built them there until '04. Spend the afternoon dropping out the fancy fuel-injected motor they had in the last few years and put in a good old fashioned carbureted pancake VW engine. You’ll end up with a very reliable car that is known by most mechanics in the world, can be fixed by simple hand tools and has parts that are easy to come by and easily fabricated.

The only problem is that, depending on what old engine you put in, you’re going to be .1-.4 liters over your limit. But the site says you can pay 100 pounds per unit of engine displacement to compensate, but you’ll probably be able to make it up selling that fancy fuel injected bug engine you pulled out.