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The 2CV Alaska Challenge

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The Car

The CitroŽn 2CV was first presented to the world at the Paris Motor Show in 1948. The appearence of the car has changed little since then. The original designs were made by an architect and the car was aimed largely at the rural population of France. It had to be cheap. It had to be economical to run. It had to be capable of taking the family, including Grandma, on a day trip to Clermont Ferrand. It had to be able to drive across a ploughed field with a basket of eggs on the back seat without breaking a single egg. It had to be capable of carrying livestock or large loads or drunken peasants in the back. Due to these design criteria it became known as 'the French farmer's car'.

The modern derivative of the 2CV has a 602cc twin cylinder engine that is air-cooled and will do 50 miles to the gallon. It has independent suspension on all four wheels and gives a smooth ride. It has a back seat that is easily removed and a canvas roof that rolls right back, exposing a surprising amount of load space.

2CVs are also called 'the Tin Snail'. Some people say they look like a corrugated iron shed on wheels. Some people are very uncomplimentary about them. Some people have no sense of fun or humour. With its canvas roof and curved lines, the 2CV also has a resemblence to the wagons the pioneers used to drive west.

The Alaska Highway    (shown in red on the map)

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1942, American War Department Officials became worried about the vulnerability of Alaska, since at that time there was no road link to the lower 48 states. US Army bases in Alaska had to be supplied by sea, but the supply shipping was now in range of Japanese aircraft carriers. The solution was the Alaska Highway. This 1500 mile stretch of road was built in an astonishing eight months and twelve days by the US Army Corps of Engineers. It crosses rivers, swamps and mountains as it winds its way through some of the wildest terrain in North America. To this day, the Alaska Highway remains one of the world's great engineering feats.

 

The Dalton Highway    (shown in blue on the map)

In 1968 oil was discovered under the arctic tundra near Prudhoe Bay, 516 miles north of Fairbanks on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. The 800 mile long Trans-Alaska Pipeline was built to ship the oil southward to the warmwater port of Valdez (it takes 6 days for the oil to travel those 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez). The Prudhoe Bay oilfields now account for 25% of America's oil. The Dalton Highway was built to service the oilfields and the pipeline, which runs beside the road. The Dalton was constructed in 1974 and is 441 miles long. It is entirely a gravel road, and will remain so because you can't build paved roads on permafrost. It has been described as "a 441 mile long tire shredder and windscreen breaker". It's not unusual to get through three spare tires when driving the Dalton Highway. There are no towns along the way and there are only two places where you can get gas: the Yukon River crossing, 129 miles north of Fairbanks, and Coldfoot, 248 miles north of Fairbanks and described as the northernmost truck stop in the world.

From Fairbanks you take Highway 2 north for 73 miles to Livengood, which is the start of the Dalton Highway. The first major landmark along the Dalton Highway is the bridge across the mighty Yukon River. The road then continues on and crosses the arctic circle before winding through increasingly steep hills. These are the foothills of the Brooks range, the northernmost spur of the Rocky Mountains. The Dalton continues to ascend until it reaches the Chandalar Shelf, which features sheer cliff faces and stunning gorges. There is an abundance of wildlife, including Dall sheep, bears, and wolves. The Brooks are finally crossed at Atigun Pass (elev. 4752ft) and the Dalton begins a 200 mile descent towards the Arctic Ocean. Here, thousands of caribou range across the marshy tundra and it is not uncommon to be forced to wait for up to an hour on the road, as an entire herd of caribou meanders past.

The Dalton Highway takes you into the last stretch of virgin wilderness in the USA. It is not a journey for the faint-hearted or the ill prepared. It offers up a real challenge for the CitroŽn 2CV.


Ten Tall Tales About 2CV's     Story of the Alaska Challenge car

 

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These Bulletins originally appeared on The 2CV Alaska Challenge web site and remain the copyright of Rob Godfrey.