To toast Burns Night, the Dundee Museum of Transport celebrates its’ Tartan exhibit. The ‘Highlanders’ Jo Williamson, Gordon Blair, Rick Wright, and Brian Meldrum set out from John O’Groats to Siberia (via the Gobi Desert in Mongolia); and back through Russia. The 14,000 mile (22,500 kilometres) journey in two Ford Fiestas was accomplished to raise money for Findacure: a charity working to promote research into rare and fundamental diseases.
Jo Williamson sadly lost his wife to a rare form cancer caused by a faulty hereditary gene. The money raised is going towards research into potential treatments to find a cure for Phaeochromocytoma. Jo’s twins have the SDH-B gene and medical issues, while there is also a risk that their children could inherit the disease.
£30,000 had been pledged to Gordon and Jo before the journey took place. The no back-up vehicle or support crew drive took nearly eight weeks, travelling through 24 countries with the Highlanders raising the profile of the terrible disease Phaeochromocytoma. They also received donations for Findacure as they travelled.
Gordon Blair had the task of selecting two suitable cars, and having considered several makes, identical Fiestas were selected for their tough reputation and simple mechanics. Semi-independent torsion beam rear suspension helped the ride and refinement. The Mk. III was the first model to get Ford’s mechanical anti-lock braking system and featured a lean-burn engine. The two cars did not feature any electronics – so there was less to go wrong. Both cars performed without problems and returned safely to Perth.
The DMofT received one of the cars as a donation: to preserve the vehicle as an achievement, and keep the cause publicised. It is presented as it returned; although the mud on the outside has been removed, you can still see the dust of the Gobi Desert and Mongol Rally route on the dashboard inside the car!