Edward Beiner and Guido Balocco are embarking on the trip of a lifetime this June. The two friends and business partners have entered the historic Peking to Paris Motor Challenge, a 35-day contest across two continents that covers more than 9,000 miles from Beijing, China to Paris, France.
This year marks just the sixth time the race has been held since 1907 due to various political tensions and border issues. Its inception came following a challenge issued in the French newspaper Le Martin that dared drivers to complete a drive from the French embassy in Peking (now Beijing) to Paris.
“The magazine basically said, ‘Look, the car has been invented, it has four wheels and can go anywhere. We’ll pay anyone $50 thousand if they can go from Peking to Paris,’” Beiner said. “And it was like a joke: a Frechman, a Brit, an Italian, a German and a Dutchman applied and entered the race, which was eventually won by the Italian, Prince Scipione Borghese.”
A lifelong automobile lover whose personal collection currently includes two Austin Healeys, Beiner found out about the race while perusing a car magazine. He didn’t hesitate to discuss it with Balocco, a fellow car aficionado who has prior racing experience, having participated in the World Rally Championship and the Pharaons Rally in Egypt.
“We love cars; have competitive spirits and enjoy risk-taking,” he said. “We’re businessmen; we take risks. If you combine these personality traits and an opportunity of a lifetime like this, you kind of pay attention to it. After thinking and talking it over briefly, we jumped on it.”
They set out to learn as much as they could about the race. Their research led them to fellow Miamians and previous Peking to Paris (2013) racers Dirk and Alexandra de Groen, who competed in a Mercedes, and John and Brett Layzell, who drove a Volkswagen.
“They were, in a way, an inspiration,” Beiner said. “We were able to sit down and speak with them about what the challenges are in the rally, how you need to have your car prepared in terms of tuning and spare parts, how to mentally prepare, navigation information, decision making and, of course, Murphy’s Law.”
This year 115 people have signed up for the event, which is set to begin on June 12 and end on July 17. All accepted cars must either be in the Vintage category for pre-1941 models or the Classic category for models produced before 1975. The vehicles need to have been built and maintained as close to their original condition as possible. However, alterations reinforcing cars’ suspensions and frames to better handle difficult terrain and road debris are permitted.
Beiner and Balocco spent two years building their vehicle, a 1940 Chevrolet Master coupe — often referred to as a Chevy Fangio after the famous Argentine racer Juan Manuel Fangio.
“We’re using a machine,” Beiner said. “It is a material item. But at the end of the day, with something like this, there is a personal and — if you want to call it that — a spiritual growth. We’ll be seeing things that most people don’t ever see. At our age we are still looking to improve, live a full life and make every day one of learning.”
Ed Beiner and Guido Balocco own and operate Edward Beiner, Purveyor of Fine Eyewear, with stores throughout the South Florida area, and have been in the business for more than 30 years. You can find out more about them by visiting www.edwardbeiner.com.
For more information about the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge, visit www.endurorally.com/pages/peking-to-paris-2016-news.