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The following article is reproduced with the kind permission of Ken Green.            

Safari Rally car pictures


The event started with a proposal put to the Royal East African Automobile Association for a reliability trial to be organised as a celebration of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

 Planning started in January 1953. The event, called “The East African Coronation Safari”, would have three starts: - Nairobi (Kenya), Morogoro (Tanganyika) and Kampala (Uganda).  The rules for the event were simple, they stated :- All the cars were to be in showroom condition – that is nothing could be added to the specification to improve their performance.  Entries were to be divided into four classes based on the showroom price of the car. Each class would have it’s own target time for the event, no overall winner was to be declared, entry fee for this historic event was 100 Shillings (£5). The event was timed to finish at the same time the Queen was being crowned in Westminster Abbey.  The event ran from 27th May – 1st June 1953. 

The event was a flat out blast over the worst roads in East Africa.  No rest periods were planned, and no organised servicing was allowed, crews could however carry some spares. The event established a reputation for toughness from the first. 

The average speed set for the Volkswagens was 43mph and out of the 56 cars that started only 16 made it back to Nairobi within the time allowance, a further 11 crews struggled in very much later. 

The team of Alan Dix & John Larsen driving a 1131cc Split-Window Beetle dropped only 170 penalty points, but the John Manussis/John Boyes Chevrolet was the first car home, dropping 2970 points.  

Alan Dix recalling the event in 1968 said they “went off the road, passenger John Larsen’s head hit the windscreen smashing his nose and knocking the unbroken screen onto the car’s bonnet, the front of the car was damaged and was almost undrivable” – Dix wanted to take the injured Larsen to hospital but, he said, “that idea was met with violent protests in almost unbelievable language!”  They continued - with the windscreen held in place by the wipers. 


Class A

Position Drivers Car Time
1st A M Dix & J W Larson 1131cc VW 17 minutes late
2nd J P H Townsend & F Drew 1131cc VW 180 minutes late

These two, with the VW of G R Blakeway & D L Shepherd, won the team prize.


The winning trend of the VWs continued. The average speed had now gone up to 46mph, but three 2½ hour rest periods had been incorporated into the route.  VWs took the first 5 places in their class - it would have been 6, but Brooks & Vest’s car was excluded for a speeding offence.

D P Marwaha & Vic Preston won the event outright from the 11 cars that were penalty free, they being the fastest on the tie-deciding acceleration and braking test. 25 cars finished from 50 starters.

Alan Dix the previous year’s winner came home 3rd in class & VWs won the team award .



A Ford Zodiac won the event overall but VWs again won their class and the team award for the third year in succession. The average speed was now up to 46mph. The domination of the event continued in 1955 when all except one of the finishers in Class “A” were Volkswagens.



This was to be a poor year for Volkswagens, the classes were still organised on the showroom price of the car and for the first time VWs were over the limit of £516 for class “A” and now ran in the up to £735 class.  The best that could be achieved was 8th in class “B” For although the car of Frazer & Brochner finished penalty free, they were not quick enough on the tie-deciding blast round Nakuru race circuit.

Eric Cecil won the event and class “B”driving a DKW.



© Ken Green



Copyright B. Samways 2000-10