Continental thrift: crossing Africa in a Porsche 944
Meet the intrepid Brits Laura Reddin and Ben Coombs who drove a classic Porsche from England to Cape Town.
Not so Ben Coombs, for whom daily-driving a 944 for five years was merely the beginning of a life-changing adventure. Coombs, a British engineer, first bought his Alpine White 944 in 2002. It was immediately put into daily service as his only car, serving both weekly commuting duties and longer holiday drives around the country and into Europe.
The Porsche 944 in Syria
A week of driving through Europe and Turkey brought the car to the Syrian border, the moment at which the going would get more serious. But the car was running well and the pair resolved to continue, driving though Syria and Jordan before catching a ferry to Egypt.
The Porsche 944 in Egypt
After countless hours of complex paperwork at the port, the 944 finally emerged onto Egyptian soil, now proudly wearing Egyptian number plates, and headed for Cairo.
The Porsche 944 in Sudan
After crossing Egypt, the 944 faced its first major hurdle, the Nubian Desert. “The Porsche could take the punishment,” Coombs says. “All we lost was the exhaust, but we just strapped it to the roof and on it went.”
The Porsche 944 in Ethiopia
The journey led from here into the relatively greenery of Ethiopia and on to the border with Kenya where car and drivers faced what had always promised to be their greatest single challenge of the trip.
The Porsche 944 in Kenya
“It’s 500 km of really bad roads where it is understood you just do not stop. Let alone break down,” Ben explains. We were formed into a convoy with the Kenyan army as an escort, but it had rained for the first time in two years and the roads had turned to soup. We couldn’t keep up with the trucks in these massive ruts and were eventually abandoned in the middle of this bandit-ridden tribal war zone.
The Porsche ploughed on, however, its underside taking a beating from the rutted and rock-strewn road.
The Porsche 944 in Tanzania, Botswana & Namibia
By now the car was showing over 350,000 km, at least 1,600 km of those essentially off road. Wherever they now went, through Malawi and Zambia, they were greeted with a mixture of confusion and excitement at the site of this increasingly careworn 1980s sports car.
“The sun was setting as we began to cross the Namib,” Ben says, and we had this feeling that nothing could stop us now. We were doing about 65 km/h when one of the ball joints fractured and we didn’t have a spare. So we used ratchet straps and cable ties to lash it back together.
Nov 07, 2020 at 23:58