East Sussex man to drive world’s smallest car from John O’Groats to Land’s End
Children in Need attracts all kinds of weird and wonderful fundraisers. This has ranged from bathing in custard to being pelted with all kinds of food while strapped into the stocks. But one man from Wivelsfield Green in East Sussex has taken the challenge to a whole new level.
: East and West Sussex’s prestigious landmarks, buildings and homes at risk of being lost forever Alex Orchin will drive his distinctive Peel P50 the length of the UK, John o’ Groats to Land’s End, in a world first charity fundraiser.
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It couldn’t be simpler and it takes seconds – simply press here, enter your email address and follow the instructions. You can also enter your address in the box below the picture on most desktop and mobile platforms. Alex, 31, has owned his car for more than three years but in that time has never taken on a challenge of quite this difficulty.
If he completes it, he believes he will be the first person to ever complete the 850 mile journey in the world’s smallest production car.
Alex’s fundraiser has already raised over GBP1000 (Image: Alex Orchin)
Being the first to take on such a task is what appealed to Alex, however, it does mean he has no real idea what to expect. “I’m really looking forward to it – I don’t know quite what the challenges will be until they happen because nobody has ever done John o’ Groats to Land’s End in the Peel P50.”
The size of the car does come with its drawbacks admits Alex. “The car is deafeningly loud – you’re in this tiny little fibreglass box and the engine is just under your right leg so its really noisy, and it gives out quite a lot of heat, ” he said.
“Also, as it is so small there’s a lot of vibrating and because the tyres are so tiny any bump in the road, and I mean any bump, you will certainly feel it – it is not very comfortable.” The difficulties don’t end there either. “Being a three wheeler, the handling is a bit all over the place, so just driving it is quite a challenge – but I’m doing it.”
Alex is pleased to see that fundraiser already doing well and hopes it continues to make lots of money for a good cause.
Alex is keeping spare parts in his friend’s van in case he runs into any mechanical issues (Image: Alex Orchin)
“I haven’t even started driving yet and I have raised a grand, the way we’re going now we could make a really large contribution to Children in Need which would be great.” This isn’t the first challenge that Alex has done but he admits it may be the hardest. “In 2018 I did the London to Brighton cycle on a Penny Farthing for the British Heart Foundation.
“I think this is going to be harder as it’s in a vehicle which is not designed for long distance use – it’s going to be a real test of mental endurance – to then get out of the car and play the bagpipes is another thing.” As the car is not designed for long distances it is not known how it will cope with the journey. However, Alex, who is an actor and musician, is also a bit of a handyman which should be especially useful should anything go wrong.
An array of different vehicles have been common throughout Alex’s life (Image: Alex Orchin)
“If anything goes wrong hopefully I’ll be able to handle it, I did an apprenticeship in motor mechanics – I’m quite good with old and unusual cars.
“I own a 1955 Renault Goelette, which is a French commercial truck, and I am about half way through restoring it. “That is my full time living van – I’ve always gone for a more alternate lifestyle.” But despite being mentally and mechanically prepared for the challenge it remains to be seen how well he will be able to cope with such a long journey.
“The longest journey I’ve ever done in it before is about an hour and a half, and after that I felt like I was shaking all over from all the vibrations – so this is definitely going to be a massive challenge. “I think we will see how far we get per day but I am hoping to get to Land’s End in about 2-3 weeks.”
Alex hopes to complete his challenge within three weeks (Image: Alex Orchin)
Whilst the journey is a long one, over 850 miles in total, Alex has conceded he will not be setting any land speed records in the process. Nor will he be taking any risks in the car which weighs less than 100kg.
“The car only goes 35mph depending on the road conditions, if the road is rough then obviously you’ll be going a lot slower. “Also it can’t legally go on the motorway as it has got a moped engine – but even if I could I wouldn’t go on them because it would be so dangerous. “But I’m going to be driving from city to city and I’ve got my bagpipes so I’ll be busking next to the car, talking to people about what I’m doing.”
Alex will not be doing the journey alone however, with his friend Joely driving up in a 1988 Mercedes minibus, converted to a camper-van, to act as the support truck and accommodation. “The van acts as our mobile accommodation and will hold everything for cooking, luggage, storage, tools, spare parts and of course the bagpipes – we even put the Peel P50 in the back of her camper to get it up to Scotland.
Alex will busk with his bagpipes on his regular intervals (Image: Alex Orchin)
“Joely is going to drive ahead to checkpoints and I’m going to catch up each day – we’re kind of living on the road as we go, the camper-van is vital for us to be honest – a bit of a lifesaver. Alex also admitted he was looking forward to seeing more of the country and serenading people with his instrument.
“The bagpipes always draw a crowd, then they come over to listen and see the car and are just like, ‘wow look at that’.” The Peel P50 was popularised following an episode of Top Gear in which Jeremy Clarkson drives it through the BBC studios and is even seen in the background of a BBC News broadcast. But Alex has admitted it was not possible to acquire an original model due to the surge in their popularity.
“Before Jeremy Clarkson drove it on Top Gear it wasn’t very well known at all.
“They had only made around 50 of the original cars and when Clarkson did his thing it went viral – the price tag of the original just shot up. “The latest original one that sold went for more than £125,000. “My one is a replica but they are made from exactly the same mould and dimensions. – the company gave me a full service beforehand to make sure it is ready for the challenge.”
Alex has admitted the car always catches the eyes of onlookers due to it being so small. “I’ve used it for everything, for commuting, going to work, going to do the shopping, but I’ve always wanted to use it for a big road trip. “It always draws a crowd but I’ve been driving it nearly four years so i am quite used to seeing people’s reactions.
“Its either they’re quite hysterical laughing or they’re so amazed and they want know what its like to drive and everything about it – kids always love it too.
“What people always love is that because you can’t reverse in it as it has got a motorbike engine it has this handle on the back so you actually have to pick it up and drag it like a wheelie bin – it’s brilliant.”
Alex will begin his journey on Saturday (November 13) and is aiming to be done within three weeks of starting, although he has admitted he has no idea how long it will take.
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