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There are few events that have garnered the world’s respect and admiration as the Camel Trophy has. For nearly two decades it transported automotive aficionados, adventurers, and four-wheel drive enthusiasts to far-off locales and the most remote regions of the world. Each year they (myself included) would scan the four-wheel drive magazines for Sandglow yellow Range Rovers, Defenders, and Discoverys, and stories penned by notable journalists such as Gary Wescott, Robert Young Pelton, and Sue Mead.

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The Trophy began in 1980 as a one-time marketing project promoted by R.J. Reynolds to create the rugged character known as the “Camel Man.” That inaugural event consisted of just three teams, all from Germany, who drove Jeeps across the notorious Trans-Amazonian Highway from Belem to Santarem, Brazil. During the process it attracted the attention of the international community, and a second Trophy was planned in Sumatra the following year. R.J. Reynolds made the switch to Land Rover (Range Rover Classics in 1981), a tradition that would continue for another 18 years. Camel Trophy was the ultimate test of man and machine, pushing both to the limits of human and mechanical endurance.

Though the Trophy has lay dormant since the turn of the millennium, it has one of the most loyal followings of any automotive genre. So much so that authentic Camel Trophy watches, decals, posters, and books demand a premium price…if you can find someone willing to part with them.

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Return to Camel Trophy was a gala event held at the Triple Aught Design (TAD) studio in San Francisco, California. It was presented by the Northern California Land Rover Club (NCLR) and attended by about 150 died-in-the-wool Land Rover and Camel Trophy aficionados. NCLR president Brenton Corns MC’d the presentation and provided a detailed review of the event’s history. Highlights of the evening included several original Trophy vehicles, loads of memorabilia, and a special presentation by Duncan Lee, Camel Trophy Event Manager from 1982 through 1993. Also on hand were U.S. team member Dave Simpson (1994 Argentina-Paraguay-Chile) and Trophy consultant Jim Slade. Expedition Portal’s Christian Pelletier attended, and I arrived directly from Colorado where we were shooting an upcoming Living Legends video on U.S. Camel Trophy Team Trainer Tom “TC” Collins. TC was kind enough to extend a video greeting to his long-time friends Jim, Dave, and Duncan, along with all the Return to Camel Trophy attendees.

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It was one heck of a night, and I’m pretty sure everyone left with dreams of unspooled winch lines and red Amazon mud spinning around their heads. To stay posted on future events, sign up for the TAD newsletter at www.tripleaughtdesign.com or keep an eye on the NCLR Club website, www.norcalrovers.org The Tom Collins Living Legends article and video can be found in the upcoming Spring 2016 issue of Overland Journal, www.overlandjournal.com

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About 150 Camel Trophy fans packed the Triple Aught Design studio for a two-hour slideshow presentation.

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Jim Slade discusses some of the logistics involved with the 1999 Amazon Trophy.

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All hands were on deck to hear Duncan Lee’s presentation on his 10-plus years as Camel Trophy Event Manager.

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Duncan Lee shares the travails of the 1985 Trophy in Borneo.

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Duncan Lee fields questions from Camel Trophy enthusiasts.

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Duncan Lee and Dave Simpson chat about their travels in South America.

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Left to right: Jim Slade, Duncan Lee, Brenton Corns, Dave Simpson, and Chris Collard.

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Late in the evening participants gathered around for a Camel Trophy HUAA..!

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Click on the image below to watch a video with the legendary Tom Collins. (Video by Chris Collard)

 

 

Camel Trophy by the Numbers

Year   Location                                  Vehicle                         Winning Team Team Spirit


 

1980   Trans-Amazonian                   Jeep                              N/A                             N/A

1981   Sumatra                                  Range Rover Classic   West Germany           N/A

1982   Papua New Guinea               Range Rover Classic   Italy                             N/A

1983   Zaire                                        Series III 88                   The Netherlands         N/A

1984   Brazil                                       Land Rover 110             Italy                             N/A

1985   Borneo                                   Defender 90                  Germany                     Brazil

1986   Australia Land                       Defender 90                   France                        Australia

1987   Madagascar                           Range Rover TD           Italy                             Spain

1988   Sulawesi                                 Defender 110                Turkey                         U.K.

1989   Amazon                                  Land Rover 110             U.K.                             Belgium

1990   Siberia-USSR                         Discovery 200tdi          The Netherlands         Canary Islands

1991   Tanzania-Burundi                 Discovery 200tdi          Turkey                         Turkey

1992   Guyana                                   Discovery 200tdi          Switzerland                 USA

1993   Sabah-Malaysia                     Discovery 200tdi          USA                            Canary Islands

1994   Argentina-Paraguay-Chile    Discovery 200tdi          Spain                           South Africa

1995   Mundo Maya                          Discovery 200tdi          Czech Republic           South Africa

1996   Borneo                                    Discovery 200tdi          Greece                         Russia

1997   Mongolia                                 Discovery 300tdi          Austria                          N/A

1998   Tierra del Fuego                     Freelander                    France                          N/A

 

Chris spent his formative years riding dirt bikes with his dad in the deserts of Southern California and Baja, Mexico, which led to a lifelong quest for adventure. He is handy behind a viewfinder and at the keyboard, and brings four decades of international travel experience to Overland Journal as Editor-in-Chief. His career, which includes work for National Geographic Adventure, Four Wheeler, Hot Rod, and Autoweek, has taken him through 50-plus countries and to every continent. He has also served as correspondent to magazines in a dozen countries and in as many languages. In 2013 he was part of the Expeditions7 team that crossed Antarctica and he has recently been inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame as a pioneering journalist. When not behind the camera Chris can be found on The Office (his sailboat), or undertaking meticulous “research” for upcoming articles in locales such as Tequila, Mexico.