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The Mongol Rally is an annual exercise in lunacy wherein entrants must drive somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 grueling, dangerous miles (depending on route taken) from London to Mongolia in some seriously crappy cars. Engines must displace less than 1 liter, and while organizers allow drivers to prepare their cars for the punishing event, if they decide that the pre-rally mods make the car too good, they'll fine the driver (that money, like the $1000 entry fee, goes to Mongolian charities).

Once out in the wild, all the two-man teams (a driver and co-driver) are completely on their own. Breakdowns could happen in very remote locations, so participants are advised to get in touch with their inner MacGyvers. This year, 160 cars left Hyde Park on July 22nd. 19 were abandoned along the way, 64 have completed the rally, and 77 are still out there somewhere.

One of the cars, a 1990 Daihatsu Charade purchased for -- get ready -- £150 on eBay actually finished the event. That alone is ridiculous, but wait, it gets even better: the little Daihatsu never broke down. The "Mongolian Taxi Service" team, comprised of 21-year-old David Mayo and his dad, Tony, split time behind the wheel and arrived at the finish line after 20 days on the road. They described the conditions they experienced along the way as "atrocious." Awful conditions aside, the Mayos made good time, seeing as they were the fifth team to finish this year's rally.

They reportedly chose the Charade because they figured a Japanese car would be reliable. Good call.

(Press release after the jump)

[Sources: Daihatsu, Mongol Rally]



A 16-year old Daihatsu Charade bought for £150 on e-Bay has just completed one of the toughest drives in the world, the 6,635 mile-long Mongol Rally.

Furthermore, the car looks set to be the only entry to complete the Rally without a single breakdown.

David Mayo, a 21 year-old student from Surrey, took 20 days to complete the fund-raising feat with his 55-year old father, English teacher, Tony. They travelled as team 'Mongolian Taxi Service'.

Despite departing Hyde Park on 22 July, many of the 160-plus entrants have still to arrive in the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar.

He said: "That little car was amazing and although it is not a race, we were actually fifth to arrive. The conditions were so atrocious that at one stage a Mini disappeared down a pothole.

"The toughest part was driving through Kazakhstan, south of Russia. That took two full days of driving to cover 50 km. The engine didn't like the 80 octane fuel we had to run on and the suspension took a hammering over the crater-sized potholes but the Charade struggled on nonetheless."

Neither David nor his father have any mechanical knowledge but wanted an old Japanese car because they believed it would be reliable. Competition rules limit the engine size to below 1.0 litre and while there is no cost limit, cars must be considered "highly unsuitable" for the trip.

Apart from raising more than £1,000 for charity even before they left Hyde Park, on arrival in Ulaanbaatar the Mayos donated the car plus toys and camping gear for auction. The proceeds will go to a children's charity.

The official UK importer, Daihatsu Vehicle Distributors Limited, made a contribution to preparation costs and dealer, Hall's of Ruddington carried out all the necessary work.

Daihatsu Managing Director, Paul Tunnicliffe, said: "This remarkable adventure really captured my imagination and although there was clearly no guarantee of success, it seemed a worthwhile cause to support. It is also a reflection not only on the durability of Daihatsu cars but the professionalism and thoroughness of our dealers."

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      The Mongol Rally is so cool. When autoblog first posted, I thought it was awesome and it's great to see them follow up on its progress. I think it's hilarious that they'd take such junky cars and just totally wail on them, especially through such rough terrain. Too bad there's nothing like that in the US. The closest thing to "cheap racing with a car you don't car about" is SCCA's $2006 (depends on the year) race car challenge. i.e. build a race car with $2006.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Daihatsu was owned by Toyota for a long time. I think until 1999 when they took over the company completely,(previous poster) they owned a good portion of the company anyway. Daihatsu was toyotas small car division in the early 70's in some parts of the world.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Actually the Metro was sold as a Chevy up through 2000 with the 1.0L engine... although EPA rated gas mileeage went down one or two every year, not sure why. The 1997 was rated at 49 mpg highway. Hmm, maybe I'm missing out here!
      • 8 Years Ago
      According to the rules, all cars must have engines under 1.0 liters...anyone know what's the most recent car sold in America that has a 1 liter engine?

      • 8 Years Ago
      #1 My riding mower.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Which might have stood a pretty good chance of winning!
      • 8 Years Ago
      Ah, I'm famous. HiJetSet, you definitely win on the "worst Daihatsu", but we got lucky with the sponsorship, and Daihatsu seem pretty pleased about the not-breaking-down thing.

      Great post autoblog, you managed to take a terrible press release and turn it into something readable. Another one to add to the scrapbook.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Not to toot our own horn too much, but the charade wasn't even the worst daihatsu to make it. We made it from London to UB in a Daihatsuu Hi Jet van with 997cc's under the hood:


      For some pics of the journey:

      • 8 Years Ago
      #4 Daihatsu is very much Japanese, and became part of Toyota in 1999. And they still make cars with 1L engines.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The smart is one. But that one would be terrible for that kind of roads! The swift/sprint maybe? The subaru Justy had a 1.1l engine. Ford had a similar one. Festiva. Nissan imported the micra in Canada late 90s.
      But I am pretty sure they are just over 1l.

      One must remember that most models in Europe have smaller displacement in general. And often each model will be offered in a cheapo version with a less than 1 liter engine. Ex: the Yaris was offered with a 990cc engine in Europe. the smallest here is probably a 1.6 or so.
      There are many different ones in Europe. It's a major chunk of the market (students, 2nd cars etc.). Fiat esp. had many of them.

      • 8 Years Ago
      This news may make used Daihatsu cars popular in third world countries where they have to witstand bad road conditions, and price is important.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Most recent 1 liter "American" car: Geo Metro?

      And, I thought Daihatsu was Korean. No?