We’ve all been there: throwing out a massive boast in front of other people, usually after you’ve had a drink, and then realising you’re either going to have to strap on your big-boy pants or back down and suffer the embarrassment. Well, this pensioner really stepped up to the plate.
Julia Albu, now 81, from South Africa, has just driven her Toyota Corolla – marketed in the country as the Conquest – all the way from her home in Cape Town to her daughter’s place in London, after boasting that both she and the hatchback were fit enough to do it.
A local radio phone-in discussing a public figure’s wild spending on cars for his wife “incensed” retiree Julia, and one thing led to another. She said:
“On the spur of the moment I called the station and told them that I was 80 years old and that my Toyota was 20 years old. We’re a combined age of 100 and we’re both 100 per cent – so much so that I’m going to drive it to London to see my daughter.
“As soon as I’d said it, friends started calling me to see if it was true, so I had to bite the bullet and say that, well… I guess it was… even though I hadn’t thought it through. My partner of 33 years had recently died, I was broke and I couldn’t knit. But I thought that if I could research how to do it and team up with my favourite charity, I might be able to do some good for the world.”
Decision made, the Corolla, named Tracy, was prepared for the trip to England via the ‘scenic route’ with suspension spacers, larger dual-purpose tyres donated by a neighbour and an interior re-trim in an eye-catching fabric of Julia’s choice. A full service and new bushes throughout got the mechanicals ready.
After an amazing collection of experiences during her trip, for which she sourced friends and guides to accompany her on various stages and did her best not to drive after 4pm for safety reasons, Julia arrived in London with just over 227,000 miles now showing on Tracy’s odometer.
The car had, says Julia, been faultlessly reliable throughout. She proudly told Toyota GB:
“Let me tell you something: I think Tracy is the best car on the road. I’ve looked at what people use to drive through Africa – I’ve met and talked to them all now – and I wouldn’t swap my Toyota for anything else. I never had a breakdown or a flat tyre or anything.
“The only thing that’s ever happened is that one of the front wheels almost wobbled free after a particularly bad stretch of road coming out of Uganda. So it got bolted back on by a mechanic at a petrol station and we carried on. Simple as that. I’ve found that nothing is a problem in Africa; you get problems when you reach Europe.”
A local Toyota dealer in Greater London carried out another full service, cambelt change, a brake clean and the replacement of worn rear anti-roll bar bushes and a rubber exhaust mount.
Hats off to an incredible decision from an incredible person. We wish her the very best for her return journey. And yes, she’s driving it.