Turin To Beijing: A Fiat 500 On The Road To The Olympics

Fiat 500

Fiat 500

A great adventure featuring the legendary Fiat 500 started on Tuesday (19/04) from Fiat’s Lingotto headquarters in Turin - a journey of over 20,000 kilometres, that will symbolically link the cities of Turin and Beijing, the next two Olympic capitals.

To do so, Fiat 500 drivers, Danilo Elia and Fabrizio Bonserio, will be crossing two continents in a 1973 Fiat 500 R, bought specially for this occasion. The car is over 30 years old, and has already covered thousands of kilometres around Rome - its former home town. The vehicle has been completely overhauled for the venture, and some mechanical components have been replaced with original spare parts, with the help of Fiat workshops.

The programme envisages an average mileage of 2000 km per week, much of it on dirt tracks, all the way to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, where the diminutive Fiat will be parked in front of the Museum of Chinese History, beneath a clock that is counting down the days remaining to the 2008 Olympics.

Following numerous other exploits, the two drivers have been keen to get going. Danilo Elia, 32, began travelling long distances when he was a teenager. Crossing the whole of Europe from Bari to the North Cape he has been to Ulan Bator on the legendary Trans Siberian Railway; he has toured Norway by bicycle, Iceland by mountain bike, Nepal by motorcycle, and Tibet by 4x4. On Tuesday he couldn’t wait to leave for Beijing.

Fabrizio Bonserio, 33, has often accompanied Danilo. He too has travelled to the North Cape, from Bari to Minsk and on to Kaliningrad. He has spent long periods abroad, in the UK, USA and Lithuania. Now he is anxious to put the little Fiat to the test in the Taklamakan desert.

The Route

Yesterday (Wednesday 20/04), Danilo and Fabrizio were in Milan, where they visited the Annicinquanta exhibition at the Royal Palace, and the brand new Fiat Café (inaugurated to coincide with the 2005 Furniture Show). From there, they will be visiting Verona, Treviso and then over the border into Slovenia at Gorizia. They will continue through Eastern Europe, Hungary and Ukraine to the Russian border. Once in Russia they will pass through Volgograd and Astrakhan, and into Kazakhstan at the delta of the Volga. They will follow the northern coast of the Caspian Sea and on to the Aral Sea. They will cross Kazakhstan to the former capital of Almaty, and then turn west into Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Once they reach Tashkent, they will visit the legendary cities of Bukhara, Samarcand and ancient Khiva, and then they will be heading straight for Turkmenistan and the capital Ashkhabad, where they will turn east once again, along the ancient Silk Road.

Time and weather permitting, they will visit Kyrgyzstan; if not, they will head for the Torugart pass, through the Tien Shan mountains, the mythical Blue Mountains that for centuries were crossed by caravans going east. This will take them into Xinjang, the most remote and mysterious province of the immense territory of China.

At that point they will be about 4000 kilometres from Beijing, which they should cover in about 10 days, across the Urumqi oasis, the province of Lanzhou and Inner Mongolia. They will pass the Great Wall of China and arrive in Tiananmen Square with the first Fiat 500 ever to reach Beijing by land from Italy. The journey is expected to take at least two months.

Published 23 April 2005 Melanie Carter

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