The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge is one of the world's greatest - and toughest - rallies for classic and vintage automobiles. Held every three years and following the route of the original race in 1907, it takes in some of the most difficult terrain on earth - the Gobi Desert, Mongolia, the Siberian steppes, some 8600 miles in all, from the starting line at the Great Wall of China to the finish at the Place Vendome, in Paris.
So when we had an email from well-known television presenter and motoring show host Edd China enquiring about a pair of study boots for the event we were not unduly surprised. After all we've been making custom boots and classic-style clothing for this event for nearly twenty years now, with our clients participating in some of the oldest and most interesting vehicles ever to have undertaken this gruelling test of motorist and machine. He was planning to drive a 1916 Cadillac and wanted something that looked the part, was comfortable to wear on long hard days on the road and was tough enough for the extreme conditions the motorists would face along the way. We recommended our Aviator boot, a rugged lace-up style patterned on an original WWI motorcycle dispatch rider's boot that has proven popular with participants in previous editions of the Paris-Peking rally.
We knew Edd was a pretty tall guy, having seen him on the TV show Wheeler Dealerand its French version Occasion à Saisir, but we hadn't realised just how big a pair of boots he filled. The measurements he sent us corresponded to a European size 51 or a UK size 16. Happily being a full-custom bootmaker large sizes are no problem for us - we can even make some of our styles up to a size 54, or a UK size 19 - and so after we double checked the measurements we set to work making a pair of very large, very sturdy Aviator boots with a chunky Vibram sole.
The boots were cut - or 'clicked' - from one of our favourite leathers, Horween Chromexel, a pull-up leather with an aniline finish that is oiled and waxed, and perfect for the rigours of the rally. We lined it with a top quality calf hide, for a combination that provides amazing all-day comfort with rugged durability. Sourcing the Vibram sole was the only tricky part, since our usual supplier here in France stocks them only up to a size 49. Through our sources in the US, however, where Vibram soles are made, we were able to obtain the requisite size and duly finished off a handsome pair of Aviator boots that were fully up to the challenges of Paris-Peking. Which, alas, was more than could be said for the ancient, finicky gearbox on Edd's 1916 Caddy. The car sadly never made it to the starting line. We understand Edd hopes to try again another time with a more reliable car. We know that when he does, he'll have just the boots for the job.
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