1964 East African Safari Rally – Photographs and Insights Featuring Ford Comets and Cortinas from the World’s Toughest Rally: From the Collections of The Henry Ford
(Some of the textual material, including that in the captions, has been prepared from press releases issued in 1964 by the Public Relations Department, Lincoln-Mercury Division, Form Motor Company, Dearborn, Michigan)
The Easter weekend brings back many joyful memories to me of East Africa. As a young boy, I most vividly remember the East African Safari rally held over the four-day Easter weekend. Recently, as I was gathering photos of historical Valentine’s Day Cards from the Collections of The Henry Ford, I also came across photos from the 1964 Safari rally that was held over the Easter weekend from March 26-30. If you happened to be in East Africa or were a die hard motor racing fan in any part of the world, I am sure the progress and eventual outcome of the world famous rally was something that you followed with keen interest.
The East African Safari rally was recognized as the most severe automotive competitive test in the world. The rally started in Nairobi and ended there 4 days later. It was a 3,100 mile (4,989 kms) day and night grind with only 1 night eight-hour layover. The rugged course also covered parts of Uganda and Tanzania (then Tanganyika) and exposed the car and drivers to the hazards of bush, jungle, a climb to 9,000 feet (2,743 metres) near Mt. Kenya and a fearful 16-mile stretch of rough road to Mbulu up a steep pass studded with rocks. Also, the Usambara Mountains in North Eastern Tanzania took a heavy toll on the cars with drivers having to drive through heavy rainstorms on roads at an altitude of some 8,000 feet (2,400 metres).
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In 1964, a team of special Ford Comets was the first American team entry to accept the challenge of the East African Safari. Out of 94 cars that started the race in Nairobi in 1964, only 21 came back to the finish line. For the interest of readers, I might note that the 1963, 1966 and 1968 years were perhaps the toughest in the history of the rally, with only 7 to 9 cars finishing the race out of more than 85 that started in each of those years (for summaries of the rally for 1964 and other years, please visit this fantastic website).
The East African Safari Rally began in 1953 as the East African Coronation Safari in Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika, as a celebration of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. In 1960 it was renamed the East African Safari Rally and kept that name until 1974, when it became the Kenya Safari Rally.
The 4-day event was the most awaited sporting event of the year, with thousands of people lining up in small and large towns and villages as well as along the route as the cars would thunderously speed past us drawing dust in the air or splashing mud and water on our bodies. Often a strategic place to stand would be alongside roads filled with huge and deep puddles of water as well as mud, where cars would often get stuck.
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Abdul Bhaloo, my next door neighbour at Islamabad Flats on United Nations Road (then Cameron Road) in Dar es Salaam, and I would cycle for miles until we reached the outskirts of the city to watch the cars speedily come around sharp and dangerous bends. It was a thrilling moment! Another place we went to was Dar es Salaam’s famous Kariakoo market where drivers would have their paperwork validated to ensure they were meeting the requirements of the rally. Yes, indeed, these drivers were idols to us. At Kariakoo, we would be only metres away from the drivers and we saw all the famous faces — Kenyans Joginder and Jaswant Singh (Volvo), Tanzanians Chris Rothwell and Bert Shankland (Peugeot), and many others from abroad such as the Swedes Pat Moss and Eric Carlson (Saab). The cars from several manufactures were a delight to watch. The sharp looking Datsun 240Z was a sight to behold, and it became one of our favourite cars.
Ismailis in the East African Safari
Since this post is dedicated to the 1964 rally, I might mention that the (Late) Ken Kassum, a member of the Ismaili community and younger brother of Alnoor “Nick” Kassum, was Bert Shankland’s co-driver in their (fuel-injected) Peugeot 404, both representing Tanzania. They were 4th out of 21 cars that finished the 1964 race; 73 other cars retired due to mechanical problems, accidents or arriving very late at checkpoints due to incidents they encountered on the road. Later, Shankland and his co-driver Chris Rothwell became very popular after consecutive wins in the 1966 and 1967 Safaris in Peugeot 404.
However, I have better memories of Ken Kassum’s participation in the 1965 rally, seeing him at the Kariakoo checkpoint with his French driver Ogier Jean-Claude in a Citroën ID 19 — the car whose suspension could be raised or lowered, and that was quite fascinating to see when it was done in front of our eyes! It was said that this suspension feature made the Citroën one of the most comfortable cars to sit in on the corrugated roads of East Africa. Kassum did not finish the 1965 rally which was won by Joginder and Jaswant Singh in their Volvo PV 544 Sport. Kassum, as I learnt from informative historical records, also participated in 1962 (driving an Auto Union 1000S Coupe with J.A. Pike) and in 1963 (driving a Peugeot 404 with Britain’s P.A. Goode). Among other well known Tanzanian Ismailis whose names appear in the safari’s historical records are the (Late) Zully Remtulla who drove with his co-driver Nizar Jiwani. They finished 14th in 1970 in their Peugeot 404. The pair also took part in 1971 (retired), 1972 (11th finish, Datsun 1600 SS), 1973 (12th, Datsun 1800 SSS), and 1974 (5th, Datsun 260 Z).
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It is indeed sad that such a great really met its death in the mid 1970’s and lost its privileged status as a premiere world rally of the time! Now Kenya has its own rally, the Safari Rally Kenya, that is held in a vastly different format.
I hope that readers enjoy the photos as well as some technical details as they pertain to Ford Comet cars that participated in the 1964 rally. I am sure it will bring back nostalgic memories of the Safari to everyone who was a diehard fan of the superb and well organized East African Safari race.
Please feel free to submit your comments and share photos of the 1964 Safari Rally and other years that you have in your personal collection for inclusion in a future post. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ford Cortina GT – the Winner of the 1964 East African Safari
Date posted: April 13, 2022.
For more photos of the 1964 East African Safari as related to the Ford cars, please click East African Safari 1964 – The Henry Ford.
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