Drive for a dream

The Dumball Rally, which sees 125 participants travel across South India in 36 cars, is a quirky expression of individuality for a good cause

January 14, 2016 06:33 pm | Updated September 23, 2016 12:29 am IST

Particpants with their car

Particpants with their car

As you read this, 36 Hindustan Ambassadors, complete with funky paintjobs, ornaments and embellishments are making their way across the south of India, carrying a 125 strong team of tourists from the UK, USA, Australia, Portugal and more. This the Dumball Rally, an annual event that sees participants visit a different country each year, pick a cheap locally manufactured vehicle, and attempt to drive it as far as possible in one week.

“The name was derived from the Gumball Rally, where you have supercars being driven across different locales. Since our cars are quite different, we named it the Dumball Rally,” says Rick Murray, one of the founders of the rally. The team behind it stress that this is not a race, more of a fun ride that celebrates individuality and silliness, all for a good cause. The proceeds from the rally go to the Teenage Cancer Trust, which builds hospital wards for those between ages 12 and 25 affected by cancer. “The idea is, if you’re a cancer patient below 12, you get a fluffy bunny to play with, but above 12 you’re put in a ward with older people. Since cancer treatment can take a while, that’s a long time to spend without company of a similar age,” says Nick Geary, another of the founders.

Rick chimes in and explains that the wards built by the Trust allow children to interact with similarly aged peers and access entertainment like video game consoles. “While you can raise money for a different charity, most of us have had contact with cancer survivors and others who are no longer with us. The families of patients also often join our rallies, so we have a connection with them,” he explains.

The group, which set out from Chennai on January 10, and will travel through Coimbatore, Mysore, and Mangalore before ending their journey in Goa, are still soaking in the culture of India. “It’s been great so far, I’ve visited India before and driven an Ambassador here, and I’ve been showing Nick a picture of me doing that for the last five years saying we should visit Kerala, and that’s finally happened,” says Rick, going on to elaborate the difficulties of driving in India. “In the UK, you drive behind people, let others through, read speed limits and stop at red lights, and here you have people come in from everywhere and honk all the time.” Rick and fellow Dumballer Luke Sudbery go on to mimic different horns heard on Indian roads, with uncanny accuracy.

This sense of camaraderie is prevalent among the entire group, who also love the Hindustan Motors Ambassador, better known in England as the Morris Oxford.

“We don’t get to see these vehicles back home except in shows and vintage car rallies, so to come here and drive them for ourselves is a great experience. While most of the cars are newer models, we have a 1973 Mark 3 Ambassador in the fleet as well,” says Rick, while Matt Arnold, another longtime Dumballer is all praise with how welcome the team have felt in India, “People come up to us and smile and wave and talk, its been great.”

The colourful convoy, which has already raised around 100,000 pounds on this trip, is looking forward to their journey through the Western Ghats in the coming days, optimistic that all their cars will make it. “Usually, at least 30 of 36 cars make it to the end, and we’ve only lost one so far, so this could be a new record!”

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