After 8 and a half months on the road, Ben and his TVR Chimaera ‘Kermit’ are now home. Having gained a huge following from his latest expedition, Ben is now ready to launch Pub2Pub Adventures, making adventure road trips accessible in an organised fashion. Ben tells us his eventual goal is to get a classic sports car to the South Pole!
ClassicLine Insurance together with Ageas are pleased to be sponsoring Pub2Pub Adventures as Ben’s official insurance partner for 2018. We share Ben’s passion and belief in classic cars and its great to be supporting him and recognising the achievements of the TVR.
Ben Coombs is a guy who likes cars and who likes to travel. Well, we all do, but what sets him apart from the rest? Ben likes big challenges and is motived to make them happen! Ben is no stranger to long road trips having taking part in the Mongul Rally in his Mini called Daisy, driven across Africa in a Porsche and then driven to Vietnam in a V8 C4 Corvette. Ben caught the expedition bug and is always on the lookout for his next adventure or something that will be a laugh. So, whilst sat in a Dartmoor pub one evening, the idea of driving from the northern most pub in the world to the southern most was born. Ben tells us with a bit of Googling, he found the northern most pub and the southern most, figured out it was doable and then set about making it a reality!
The Pub2Pub Expedition was driven the whole way in a TVR Chimaera.
Ben tells us he has owned the TVR for 6 years now. When he first bought it, it was pristine and he always said to himself that the TVR is not doing a trip, well apart from a 1,000 mile round trip to France the first week he got it. As Pub2Pub began to evolve, Ben hadn’t managed to source a car and with the TVR, nicknamed ‘Kermit’ sitting there he decided it was the perfect car for the trip. The TVR sounds good, looks good; the 90’s TVR’s are built with passion and charisma giving a more real driving experience.
After driving 26,500 miles across 25 countries you would think that the car would be battered and bruised, but it withstood the terrains and extremes really well. It’s been everywhere between zero degrees up to 50 degrees celsius, 86 metres below sea level up to 4,700 metres above sea level. It’s been through dirt, gravel, mud, rivers, snow and was very reliable. Ben tells us they had to change the clutch in Nicaragua and there were a few other niggles, like HT leads playing up, but nothing major. Ben carried a basic kit, a few tools picked up in Walmart in the US. Ben tells us when you ship cars by RORO you can’t leave anything in the car, so you can only take the tools you can actually carry and fortunately the trip didn’t demand anything he didn’t have. The whole trip was done on one set of tyres, though he did have to change one tyre in Patagonia as it was starting to thin.
We have seen the car as Ben is on his homeward leg of the expedition and other than quite muddy, it looks great. The TVR had a full service before the trip started but was left completely standard, no modifications, standard drive height, standard engine, no changes at all. As adverts go for TVR’s, it’s not bad at all!
Setting off from Dartmoor on the 2nd July 2017, Ben and Kermit first made their way up to the remote island of Svalbard, in the deep artic about 400 miles north of Tromso in Norway. Accompanied by 2 friends and a Nissan Micra acting as the trips official camera car. Here was their first goal, a hotel bar of an obscure, deserted, former mining settlement called Pyramiden run by the Longyearbyen Brewery.
From here they made their way back down through Europe, back into the UK and then shipped the car over to New York.
When he got over to the States, there were then 6 of them and two cars – a bright orange 5.7 litre Dodge Charger. They drove in convoy from New York across to San Francisco and then down to Panama, eventually making their way towards the second goal, Tierra del Fuego on the southernmost tip of the South American continent, where the southernmost ‘licensed premises’ on the planet lies. The expedition officially finishes in Dartmoor, back where he started last year.
Ben tells us they have been very careful not to represent this trip as a pub crawl, the only two pubs which were official stop offs were the northern most and southern most pubs in the world, in-between was the real adventure.
At night they would pitch up a tent or find a local hostel or hotel. The most extreme camping conditions were 50o heat in Death Valley, with an overnight low of 42o. Ben tells us the cold wasn’t so bad, they camped in Norway in the summer which gets to 0o but if you have a decent sleeping bag and are used to camping its pretty easy.
Over the 8 and a half months, they averaged around 120-130 miles per day. Some days they pulled a long day. Ben says you will rack up the miles to get somewhere you want to go, then have a break for a few days to coincide with somewhere interesting. Ben was never alone, he would often pick up hitch hikers or give travellers from hostels a lift. We asked Ben if he had a trip anthem, but he said this trip hasn’t really had an anthem…yet! Other trips had 3-4 different songs. One that did get hummed a lot was Van Halen ‘Panama’ after he was stuck in Panama for over a week. From Panama you have to ship the car to Columbia, across the Darien Gap with no roads.
Having driven across 25 countries, we asked Ben what were his highlights. He replied, the whole of South America! He likes opens spaces, deserts and mountains which South America has in abundance. He would like to go back to Patagonia. It’s like nowhere else on earth; desolate, windy, but it has raw character. He drove through Patagonia too fast and would like to go back…he’s toying with the idea of buying an old Renault 4 and driving back there… Up there on the highlights list is getting the car out on to the Salt Flats in Uyuni in Southern Bolivia. We did asked Ben if there was any racing going on there but sadly no, that’s left to the likes of Bonneville!
Ben said that they didn’t spend too much time in El Salvador or Honduras. There were riots and road blocks in Honduras the week after they left. And Costa Rica with a right-hand drive car, it was a bit awkward because of the steering being on the wrong side.
Other than this, Ben said the only other challenges were the speed bumps the majority of the way through South America! They were sufficiently high that the TVR would ground out on them so he would approach them at an angle – not ideal when you are somewhere like Guatemala City centre with chaotic traffic. He did say he lost an exhaust tip through hitting the speed bumps somewhere in Patagonia.
This is not the end of the adventure – it’s just the beginning
Ben is launching Pub2Pub Adventures off the back of the journey; a company dedicated to making this unique blend of adventure road trips available to the masses, while organising new journeys which build on what
the Pub2Pub brand has already achieved.
The TVR’s journey across the globe has caught people’s imagination like little else. Last month, a BBC article about the journey was read by 1.5 million people in the first 8 hours on line. Over 60 different news outlets have covered the trip, from the Daily Mail to the Hindustan Times (!), reaching over ten million people, it’s been featured on BBC Radio 2, 4 and 5, and hit the news in every automotive news outlet from Top Gear to Carthrottle.