A drive to London - Students choose Ambassador for trip

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By PATRICK PRINGLE
  • Published 5.06.07
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One vehicle that makes heads turn in London is the Ambassador. So rare is the car in Great Britain that a specialised taxi service in London charges through the roof for a ride. But come August, there will be at least one more Ambassador in the UK.

The owners will be Max Benitz and George Vlasto, students of Edinburgh University who have spent the past nine months studying at Calcutta University. They have decided to undertake a journey across 17 countries, three mountain ranges, two deserts and three seas in the car. The trip will take them from the city to London, through Pakistan, China, central Asia and Europe. They will start early on Thursday and cover at least 15,000 km before reaching London in August.

Adventure is not the only motivation of the pair. The two hope to raise money for Future Hope in Calcutta and Royal Marsden Hospital in London along the way. “The work that Future Hope does with disadvantaged children has made a great impression on us. And both of us have had people close to us treated at Royal Marsden,” said Vlasto.

How did the two decide on embarking on such an expedition? “George came up with the idea last year. It has taken a lot of planning, much more than we initially thought it would,” said Benitz. “As foreigners, we surprised a few people when we told them that we want to buy an Ambassador. It’s not an everyday purchase,” said Vlasto. “The route turned out to be self-explanatory as we wouldn’t be able to travel through Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.”

The Ambassador they have bought is new. The two have spent time in a service yard getting accustomed to their home for the next month and a half. “The first time I looked into the engine, I thought ‘Oh god, I’m never going to get to grips with this’, but after a couple of sessions I pretty much know what is going on under the bonnet,” said Vlasto.

“We are carrying enough spare parts to practically make a new engine. On top of that, we will be carrying two or three spare tyres,” said Max. The two have also equipped themselves with the best maps available from a store at Covent Garden in London.

The expenses have been considerable. “When you include the price of the car, visas, insurance, petrol and the various equipment, the expenditure comes to around £8,000,” explained Vlasto.

“Apart from the car breaking down, the one thing that we fear is an accident, as some of the roads that we’ll be taking are chaotic,” said Benitz. “It will be surreal and satisfying to reach London and have a drink in a pub.”

“When we told friends about the journey, some said it was fantastic and were keen to come along, while others thought we were totally crazy,” said Vlasto.

(Log on to www.justgiving.com/futurehopedrivehome and www.justgiving.com/royalmarsdendrivehome to contribute)