George Hinchcliffe – London to Cape Town
Most people know that Eric Jackson and Ken Chambers broke the London to Cape Town record in 1963. Even those who weren’t born at the time have probably read about it on the internet, in one of Graham Robson’s excellent Ford books or in one of the many specialist Ford enthusiasts’ magazines or classic car magazines that retell the story every so often.
Some people may also know that the record was broken – after 47 years – in 2010 by a three man team from MaxAdventure in a specially-prepared 4 x 4 vehicle. They were raising awareness for the Help for Heroes charity (a charity Eric Jackson wholeheartedly supports). As he said at the time of the attempt, it would have been nice to hang on to the record for another three years to make it a round fifty years, but he was delighted that such a worthy charity had benefitted.
But I’m often asked about the record Eric and Ken broke. Most people know that they broke the record with just a few minutes to spare – after a series of adventures – but who set that record in the first place?
It was set by a man from Bradford – another Yorkshireman - called George Hinchcliffe. George, like Eric, was a motor dealer. In fact, Eric made his 1963 attempt at George’s suggestion.
George didn’t hold his record as long as Eric though; he held his for eleven years only. I haven’t been able to find exactly when George set off from London – his start wasn’t from the headquarters of an official body but from Hyde Park Corner – but he and his two co-drivers arrived in Cape Town on December 9th 1952 according to contemporary reports.
Eric relates that George was a larger than life character; a big bloke with a full beard. The contemporary newspaper report I have says:
Before leaving London, Hinchcliffe said “If they ask ‘Where’s George?’ say ‘He’s gone to lunch in Cape Town.’”
Hinchcliffe made his record attempt in a Hillman Super Snipe, registration number MRW 208. It was unmodified, says the report, apart from the radio which enabled them to stay in touch with England during the trip.
Eric Jackson says:
Make no mistake. George Hinchcliffe was a great guy and a good PR man. He knew how to get the best out of a story and the record attempt did his business a lot of good, as it did mine in 1963.
The last time I saw him, he told me he was going to have another crack – and beat my record. I never saw or heard of him again. I wonder if he’s still in the Sahara???