Month-long trek from Beijing to Paris for vintage car race

BEIJING (AFP) - Nearly 100 vintage and classic cars set off on a month-long trek from Beijing to Paris Tuesday, with models from a 1913 Ford Model T to Bentleys and Mustangs starting out in the shadow of the Great Wall of China.

The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge stretches more than 12,000 kilometres through the Gobi desert in Mongolia to Russian back roads across to Ukraine, Slovakia, Austria, Switzerland and finally ending up in France.

Car number one was a hulking black 1917 La France Tourer boasting a 14.5 litre engine, with large round headlights and a single rectangular pane for a windshield.

It stood on the start line flanked by festive Chinese dragons.

It was followed by a stream of painstakingly restored and maintained vehicles, among them several Bentleys, from a regal and heavy silver 1936 model to a narrower 1927 version with a rounded body, and a number of Rolls-Royces.

More recent classic cars included Porsche 911s, a Morris Oxford, and a few VW Beetles and Volvos.

Drivers will cover several hundred kilometres each day for 33 days.

The organiser Endurance Rally Association called it "the longest and toughest challenge anyone can drive in a vintage or classic car... an extraordinary adventure driving through some of the remotest places on earth".

The journey, now in its fourth run since 1997, commemorates a historic 1907 race won by an Italian prince.

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