On the 31st January 1907, Le Matin issued what it called A Stupendous Challenge. The supreme use of the automobile is that it makes long journeys possible. Its effect is to make man the master of distance. Its appeal is that it opens up to us journeys hitherto undreamed of. What needs to be proved today is that as long as a man has a car he can do anything and go anywhere.
In May 1907, in response to the challenge, five cars attempted to cross Asia and Europe, to prove the viability of the motor car as a means of long distance travel.
After the event, Le Matin wrote: “On the whole the Peking to Paris race has proved conclusively that the motor car is a much stronger and more resistant machine than has so far been thought and that the usual inconveniences of automobilism, and the frequent breakdowns from which tourists suffer, the breakages and repeated disasters to the machines, are due rather to carelessness or want of skill in chauffeurs than to any congenital weakness of the car itself. It may therefore be said that this industry has arrived near its perfection, and that varied and novel practical uses of the motor car are possible, for regular communications, for service in distant places, and for transport by road. But we must improve our drivers!”
No British car participated, but this was rectified on the centenary of the first event, as four adventurers attempted the journey, unsupported, in Austin Sevens. Images from this Sebastian Welch/Annabel Jones & Kip/Carmen Waistell 2007 Chummy trip deserve wider attention. The full blog here.
The original 1907 PEKIN TO PARIS victor’s story by Luigi Barzini is digitised, with 100 images, in entirety here: AN ACCOUNT OF PRINCE BORGHESE’S JOURNEY ACROSS TWO CONTINENTS IN A MOTOR-CAR