The A35 waiting to start a stage in Honduras. Bonnet up so the engine must be laughing.

I was in an accessory shop and they had some air horns that sang: ‘La Cucaracha, La Cucaracha,’ so I put them on too.

1992 Route de Maya

Alastair is well received in his Austin A35. His popularity inspires him to name the car La Cucaracha.

We took part in the Route de Maya rally starting in El Salvador. When we got to Honduras we had huge crowds wherever we went, it was just amazing seeing the reaction of the people who just loved this rally. They hadn’t seen cars like the ones we were driving and they hadn’t had international visitors at all so when we got to Honduras there were 50,000 people standing in the middle of the town. The Minister came along: we were a really big deal.

The crowds loved the Austin A35. They liked it better than the flash cars because they could identify with it more; it looked more like the kind of car they would own. And so they ignored the Aston Martin, the lady in Aston Martin was quite miffed and didn’t understand why they all gathered round my Austin A35.

For a joke I bought a machine that goes in your downstairs loo that laughs whenever you put the light on. I put it under the bonnet: they always wanted to look at the engine, and I’d open the bonnet and there would be a loud laugh coming from the engine. This caused much amusement. Some of the crowd said to me that the car looked like a cockroach which is La Cucaracha in Spanish. In El Salvador I had the idea to write ‘La Cucaracha’ on the front and back windscreens. Also, by sheer chance, I was in an accessory shop and they had some air horns that sang: ‘La Cucaracha, La Cucaracha,’ so I put them on too.

One of the joys of the rally for me is that I’m good at fixing cars because I was a race mechanic. It’s almost impossible for my car to break on me to the point that I can’t fix it. I spent the whole of this rally fixing my car. Bits broke, bits blew, bits flew off it. It was new to me because I’d only just bought it and driven it round the block and that was it; I sent it off to Central America with no preparation experience with it at all. Big bits fell off it every day and I bolted them back on, made new bits, welded it up and glued it together. The engine collapsed so I took more and more bits out of the engine until I was eventually running on two cylinders. We got to the end, but I didn’t come last; once again, we did not come last.

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