To most motorists, a 1.4-litre Daewoo Kalos would make an ideal car for shopping, or the school run, or popping up the motorway to visit relatives.
To Buckinghamshire author Richard Meredith, however, it is the perfect transport for a rather more challenging journey. For 54-year-old Richard sets off next month to drive a near-standard Kalos 10,000 miles through some of the world’s most inhospitable terrain, from GM Daewoo’s UK headquarters in Luton to the South Korean capital of Seoul, worldwide HQ of GM Daewoo.
As befits someone embarking on such a trip, Richard is something of an adventurer. When he sold his magazine business three years ago he took a year off to back-pack around the world, and wrote a book about his experiences called One Way Or Another.
Recently he agreed to spend six months teaching English at a university near Beijing, but rather than fly direct to the Chinese capital another idea hit him: why not drive there? And so the "Daewoo Challenge" was born.
Explaining his decision, Richard said that he owned a Daewoo, and by driving one to their HQ in Seoul, it would be only a short hop to China.
"I decided to put the idea to Daewoo’s European HQ in Zurich," said Richard as he prepared for his journey at his home in Newport Pagnell, ironically the town where another famous, but rather different, marque, Aston Martin, is built. "The people there were very interested, and have taken up the challenge most enthusiastically."
A left-hand-drive 1.4 Kalos was chosen and is currently being prepared in Belgium with such equipment as roof-mounted luggage box, additional spare wheels, larger petrol tank, strengthened suspension, extra lights, and underbody and front protection. It will also be equipped with telephone, lap top and web cam, so enabling Richard and his co-driver, Phil McNerney, a 25-year-old Merseyside IT and engineering graduate, to keep in touch with GM Daewoo in Zurich and Luton.
Throughout the journey – which is scheduled to take 80 days, a la Jules Verne - the pair will be raising funds for the SOS-Children’s Villages organisation, a charity with which Daewoo has close ties.
The route will take Richard and Phil through no fewer than 16 countries: From the UK to Holland, Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, North Korea and South Korea.
"Currently there is the SARS epidemic in China, an earthquake in Turkey and ominous nuclear noises coming from North Korea," said Richard, a divorced father of two. "These are the sort of problems Phil and I will face, but I am confident we will cope with everything – as will the car."
The pair will start their journey at the Luton HQ of GM Daewoo UK on the morning of Monday, June 9, with Managing Director Andy Carroll expected to flag them off.Published 11 May 2003