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Round the World in 21 Days!
The Austin A40 Sports is usually remembered for a publicity stunt organized by Alan Hess Austin's public relations officer: the "Round the World in 30 Days" run in 1951. Background plot was a bet between Hess and Austin chairman Leonard Lord to encircle the world in 30 days using an Austin off the production line and a plane to hop over the oceans. Hess teamed up Ralph Sleigh, Geoge Coates and Ronald Jeavons as co-drivers and Austin mechanics Raleigh Appleby and Joe Galvin to take care of the car mechanics on the way and won the bet arriving 9 days ahead of schedule. He wrote a book about the trip that appeared in the same year (Hess 1951) and Austin produced a 20 min movie showing car and drivers on various locations along their trip. Two wonderful issues of the Motor and the Autocar celebrated the trip as well. Especially the Autocar June 29, 1951 is really gorgeous with many period ads, a full report and an overview of all British Austin dealers who sent their congratulations.
Looking at these reports everything worked impressively flawless. A fantastic achievement of the car, drivers, the helpers involved in meticulous preparation and the Austin global dealer network Hess could rely on. If one looks at the movie carefully there is always another Austin acompanying. The movie is still worth viewing as well, but overall the publicity achieved seems to have been ambiguous and might have contributed to the end of Hess’ career at Austin some time later. I could not find a considerable report in any of the export markets for example. George Bishop, who took part in the trip as a journalist, later recalled that the also present Daily Express correspondent Basil Cardew hated flying and therefore the 21 day trip on board of the accoompanying KLM Skymaster in particular (Bishop 1981). As consequence his reports were at maximum lukewarm and he almost blow up the Dunlop campaign „Round the World on One Set of Dunlop Tyres“, when in a side note he reported changing a flat. The last article in his series reporting the car passing the Longbridge works on homecoming was labelled „Globe-trot Car Will Be Greeted by Strike“. To make things worse, just on the homecoming weekend Jaguar won 1, 3, and 5th places at LeMans and Cardew devoted his whole Monday column to that event and no more words were shed about the succsessful round the world trip!
The car LOE 990 was later sold into private hands, to my knowledge its current status is unknown. Interestingly it is in RHD spec. in the picture below, whereas it was changed to LHD spec. for the trip. It also had slotted wheels a feature that will be added only some month later to the production cars.
Austin Magazine & Advocate 1951. ’Round the World in Thirty 21 Days.' The Austin Magazine & Advocate, Vol. 24, No. 10, July, p. ?.
Autocar 1951. ’Around the World in 21 Days in an Austin A40 Sports'. The Autocar: June 29, pp. 19-80, 91, 765-772.</p>
Bishop, George 1981. 'Unloved Austins: I tried them all and even took one round the world but they must rank as big flops'. Collector's Car, March 1981, pp. 46-47.
Cardew, Basil 1951a. 'Massed Cyclists Don't Care a Hoot'. Daily Express, No. 15898, June 4, p. 3.
Cardew, Basil 1951b. 'Plane Parachutes Water to the Desert'. Daily Express, No. 15899, June 5, 1951, p. 1.
Cardew, Basil 1951c. 'Chloroform Dopes World Driver'. Daily Express, No. 15902, June 8, 1951, p. 1.
Cardew, Basil 1951d. 'A Week Ahead of Schedule'. Daily Express, No. 15907, June 14, 1951, p. 3.
Cardew, Basil 1951e. 'We'll Be there in 21 Days'. Daily Express, No. 15910, June 18, 1951, p. 3.
Cardew, Basil 1951f. 'Globe-trot Car Will Be Greeted by Strike. Daily Express, No. 15914, June 22, 1951, p. 3.
Daily Express 1951. ’He's Off Again… Express Motoring Writer Joins a Startling Journey… Round the World. 'The car should do the trip in 30 days' says Basil Cardew'. Daily Express, April 19th, p. 3.
Hess, Alan 1951. Wheels Round the World. London, Newman Neame. Light Car 1951.
’More Fame to The Austin - Thirty Days, Said Mr Lord: So to Win His Bet Alan Hess Circled the World in 21 Days.' The Light Car, August, p. 373.
Motor 1951. ’Round the World in ... 21 Days'. The Motor: June 27, pp. 17, 19, 23-49, 647.