Epic Jeep Expedition in the Australian Outback


Australia is best known for its famous Outback and the rugged individuals and vehicles that conquered the continent. It’s far more than an ancient land of kangaroos and convicts—it’s a multicultural nation of indigenous tribes and modern settlers. But in the very heart of the continent lies the Simpson Desert—a collection of 1,100 dunes that provides a beautiful barrier to most travel across it. In fact, for 500 miles the area has no water, food, fuel, shelter, or shade. But back in 1969, a group of hardy explorers and Jeepers decided that it should be crossed—with the new Jeep Overlander that was then being built in Australia. Ian McDonald planned and orchestrated a group of individuals and corporate Jeep sponsorship to make the journey. After 44 days of travel, wheeling, and breakage along the way, the group made it from the continent’s east coast to the west coast—proving it could be accomplished.

Fifty years later, another group of explorers will retrace the route from east to west, including the Simpson Desert crossing—which hasn’t been retraced using the original route. The BFGoodrich 50th Anniversary East-West Australia Jeep Expedition will travel some 2,500-3,000 miles across the continent, including 500 miles of pure sand dunes. Co-organizers Ben Davidson of Seven Slot Expeditions and Chris Collard of Adventure Architects are taking an elite group through the barren wasteland to re-create the journey. Jp Magazine Editor Rick Pewe joins the troupe, along with journalists Sue Mead and Justin He. Aussies Michael Bowen, Alan and Karen McMullen, Paul Graham, Vaughn Becker, and CJ-3B historian Derek Redmond round out the team, and original team members Ian McDonald and John Eggleston will be riding shotgun for the Simpson crossing.

The crew was a diverse bunch of five Aussies: filmmakers, mechanics, adventurers, and the like. The modern crew will be a total of 13 people.

Preparation for the adventure took careful planning and notes from Ian McDonald’s original expedition. Retracing the route as much as possible, including areas that have been closed off to the general public for decades, the trip will take well over two weeks. Five Jeeps from different eras will be ready to wheel, including a TJ, a JK, and even a JL, which have been prepped by the JeepKonection. Title sponsor BFGoodrich supplied the KM3 mud-terrain tires, while Warn, TeraFlex, Bestop, Dometic, J.W. Speaker, Maxtrax, Long Range Automotive, Redarc Electronics, and Factor 55 have all helped in the endeavor. Follow along at sevenslotexpedition.com as well as fourwheeler.com and our social channels for updates throughout the trip!

Three Jeeps and a special bike crossed the barren plains before and after the Simpson Desert. Two Overlanders and a CJ-5 competed the group.

The factory support from Jeep was important for this journey in 1969. In 2019, Jeep support is still an important aspect of the trip.

The steep dunes of the Simpson required the use of sand tracks for the heavily loaded Jeeps. Our modern contingent will be using the Matrax for the same purpose.

The dunes of the Simpson may not be the highest in the world, but run north-south. Traveling east to west causes the Jeeps to attack the steep side instead of the easier west side.

Civilization is slim in the Outback, no matter where you are on the continent. Local watering holes and duel stops are few and far between.

Getting bogged down and stuck was a daily ritual on the original trip. Our modern steeds will encounter the same harsh terrain.

Even a lonely fence line remains back in 1969—finding this fence 50 years later would be an astonishing feat.



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