From London to Sydney via Kolkata in a 1923 vintage car

Lang and Bev Kidby drove from London to the City of Joy before shipping the car to Australia for the last leg of an adventurous journey

Kolkata, July 06, dmanewsdesk: The streets of Kolkata witnessed history being recharted as Australian adventure couple Langley and Beverly Kidby recreated a landmark journey by Francis Birtles who drove from London to Melbourne in a 1923 Bean 14 almost a century ago.

Inspired by Birtles’ 1927 ride, Langley and Beverly Kidby are retracing the route on the same vintage wheels. The couple reached Kolkata on June 14.

As the car made its way to a shipping container on its way to Australia, where the Kidbys, will hop on to complete the last leg of the adventure, My Kolkata caught up with them at The Saturday Club to find out more about their historic drive.

Who are the Kidbys?

Beverly Kidby was a radiographer and her husband Langley spent half his life in the Australian Army as a pilot before he got into business, working in construction. Lang and Bev have been together for 55 years and over that time, the couple have been on several adventures across 80 countries the world over. The couple live in Brisbane and are more than happy to be back in Australia having been on the road for around five months. Having been to Kolkata several times before, this time was a whole new adventure while the last was definitely one to remember.

“I’ve been to Kolkata six times now and the last time we were here Lang bought a Suzuki 4WD Gypsy which we drove all the way up to Manipur in 2014,” said Bev, on her last visit to the City of Joy. With the Gypsy it was a much more comfortable drive for the couple in the sweltering heat of late May and June. Having driven across the length and breadth of India on all their previous expeditions, this time was different given the 1923 vintage provided next to no comfort on modern roads packed with traffic.

On the road to India

Inspired by Birtles’ road trip from England to Australia, Lang had been on the lookout for the correct car to go on the expedition himself. “Last year, we got the car from the Gilberts Motor Museum in South Australia and then started planning the trip from England to Australia,” said Lang. The first step was to get the car shipped to England for the start of their road trip.

Shipping a car implies your entire schedule has to be based on how delayed the ship can be. In their case, the delay was almost two months and the Kidbys had to endure the scorching Indian summer.

Starting off in London, the first leg of the trip did not provide much excitement for the couple who had driven through the plains of Europe on several occasions before.

The excitement set in when the folks from Down Under drove through Turkiye, Iran and Pakistan. Because of the political climate, they were advised not to go through these regions but standing their ground and with the help of multiple car clubs in these countries and FIVA the International Federation of Historic Vehicles, the journey was not just made easier but beautiful and hospitable.

“We’ve driven through Europe many times but driving through Turkiye, Iran and Pakistan is something we didn’t think we could do but thanks to all the car clubs we were able to do it with a lot of support. It was just wonderful to witness the beautiful landscape of these countries and the most fruitful part of our journey was meeting the people everywhere. I am not joking about this but on the whole trip we never saw a grumpy face. We were always greeted with big smiles even by those at various borders,” said Bev about an eye-opening experience in terms of culture for her personally.

The Indian leg

Having made it to Pakistan, the plan was to drive from the Attari border to Amritsar and Chandigarh and then into Delhi but there was a major hurdle to get across. Bev had an issue with her visa which didn’t allow her to enter India through Pakistan. The couple were separated for a little over a day and Bev had to head back to Lahore, take a flight to Dubai and then fly to Delhi, while Lang drove Bean to Delhi, where the couple reunited.

The Heritage Motoring Club of India took care of Lang on his way to Delhi and made arrangements for the couple right up till Varanasi before the Classic Drivers Club took over for the last leg of the Kidbys’ journey till Kolkata. The couple took a two-night break in Delhi before they carried on to get some much-needed rest and relaxation to cool down from the heat they had come to experience. While they rested, their vintage car was taken to be thoroughly serviced and cleaned before they set off for Agra, Lucknow and Varanasi.

On June 7, the Kidbys and the Bean entered Durgapur where they were greeted by members of CDC who proceeded to take them to the Cossimbazar Palace of the Roys. After their stay in the Cossimbazar Palace, Bev and Lang, along with the CDC members, made their way to Kolkata with a severe delay, courtesy the intelligence of Google Maps that sent their route awry before manual methods helped them get on the right path to the City of Joy.

Bev and Lang were put up at The Saturday Club, where their Bean was kept on display along with its several stickers boasting 14 flags of the countries the car had been through on its way to Kolkata. On Sunday, June 16, the CDC organised a drive from Town Hall to The Saturday Club along with a stop for breakfast at The Sugarr and Spice.

Over 30 members of CDC showed up for the drive in the morning which Bev and Lang enjoyed. “It’s been lovely to be able to drive through the comparatively empty streets of Kolkata on a Sunday morning with such wonderful vintage cars. The greenery of the city was something that amazed us,” said Beverly, while Lang said: “The roads haven’t changed much but it’s been lovely to be here.”

Asked about the various issues they may have faced on their adventurous journey, Lang said: “We had a few problems with the car along the way, fuel blockage, overheating, electrical issues, brakes needed to be adjusted but we knew someone in every country who helped out. The major problem we faced was the heat and driving this car through the traffic because with these cars you need to leave a bit of space for safety but you leave space and someone comes in front of you.” Bev said: “I was worried everytime we crossed a border or we saw that we were approaching police officers and I thought I had to get all the papers ready but they never bothered us. Instead, they all just wanted to take selfies with us which was quite nice.”

Currently in a shipping container on its way to Darwin, the Bean still has 5,000km to go on Australian terrain before it completes its 22,000km-long journey that started in London in mid-April. While Bev does know how to drive, she enjoyed being the passenger through the trip, while Lang enjoyed driving all across from Europe into Asia. Before letting them go, we asked one final question to the 77-year-olds, would they want to do a reverse trip this time from Australia to England to which Lang said: “It’s too complicated to send the car here to Kolkata and pick it up but we could do a completely different trip in a completely different car.”

Ninety-seven years on from Francis Birtles’ adventure, the Kidbys have done nearly the same route while keeping a few out owing to political climates with certain borders not being worth the risk to cross. With the comfort of home and knowing people all across Australia, the couple are ready to relax for the final leg of their adventurous journey that has seen them face the heat but also meet fresh new faces and take in the culture of 14 different countries and experience the food from all over.

Source: my KOLKATA