Ford were pleased with Eric’s effort in the Cortina (Jackson and Chambers had set the London-Cape Town record in 1963), so a couple of years later in 1965 they planned a publicity stunt to race the liner RMS Windsor Castle from Cape Town to Southampton. This ship, the last passenger liner built at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead and last of the Union-Castle mailships that sailed between Southampton and South Africa, would average 24 mph and Captain Hart thought it a no brainer – he would win. Jackson set off in the Corsair but lost time with a string of punctures. He used Firestone cross-plies, and found the inner tubes were rubbing badly by the ribbing inside the tyres. Cross-plies, he argued, are available all along the route and have stronger side-walls – but it proved to be a duff choice, and the car’s progress suffered. At one point, Eric was changing tubes, fixing a puncture, on the move!The Ocean Liner Virtual Museum has a more elaborate version of the story that places the race in 1967:
Cameroon refused the car so it had to be flown in an air-lift – and at a stroke was no longer keeping the wheels on the ground. They then drove non-stop to England, reaching a hotel at Gatwick the night before the day the ship was due to dock, the crew took a hotel room for a few hours rest and then drove to Southampton. Ford publicity chief Walter Hayes had agreed with Captain Hart that due to the air-lift, they would call it a draw, and the Corsair made it to the dockside as the ship entered the harbour.
In May 1967 the RMS Windsor Castle was involved in a dramatic race from Cape Town to Southampton against a motor car. It began after Union-Castle Line claimed sea travel was the fastest means of travel from South Africa after air. The Ford Motor Company disputed this and threw down the gauntlet for the ship to race one of their cars from Cape Town back to England. So the RMS Windsor Castle took up the challenge and in May 1967 raced home against a Halewood built Ford Corsair 2000E in a dramatic and nail biting race between these two Merseyside built machines. Sadly despite the high profile nature of this race sadly press coverage was muted. The ship and the car (with rally drivers Ken Chambers and Eric Chapman), left simultaneously from Cape Town dockside to a great send off bound for Southampton. The liner’s 7,000 mile sea voyage was pitched against the 9,700 road journey. Chambers and Chapman had many adventures along the way. Including a moment when the Corsair fell into a 6ft, water filled pothole and had to be rescued by 30 locals and 200ft of rope. Other challenges included petrol shortages (nuns once gave them beer as a substitute!), armed Congolese soldiers forcing frequent stops (their support team and plane were locked up for several days), plus 24 tyre changes and 37 puncture repairs. Even, just before reaching Southampton, they were pulled over by West Sussex Police and cautioned for having a dirty number plate! Accounting for the driver’s air travel, the race was declared a draw, although the Corsair arrived the evening before the ship sailed in.The RMS Windsor Castle was broken apart for scrap five years ago. Anybody know the ultimate fate of the Corsair that raced her? And anybody know the exact year the race took place?
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