1927 Ice Buggy, Early Car Racing

1927 Ice Buggy
1927 Ice Buggy The first attempt at racing cars in the winter from Moscow Russia, to Vorkuta Siberia.
Published by: All Car Central Publishing
Date published: 12/09/2015

In 1926 a national Austrian newspaper printed a challenge for any four wheel vehicle with one or two drivers to complete the winter trip from Moscow Russia, to Vorkuta Siberia. The prize was, in converted funds, just over three thousand US Dollars. No one had ever tried such a journey and it was doubtful if the so-called roads would be in any condition to drive on or use in the winter. The usual means of travel in such conditions was by train and that took several days depending on the weather . Apart from the train stations on route there was not much choice where to stop or stay. It should also be remembered that at this time the end of the Russian Revolution was just a matter of three or four years as the so-called White Russians continued fighting the Soviet's long after the end of WW1 in 1918. In fact both the British and the American governments sent both supplies and even a small task force to assist the White Russians, with unfortunate results.


Three thousand dollars was quite a large amount of money in 1927 and remembering the oncoming collapse of the world markets (1929), would have been a very useful nest egg for any individual. However no one seemed willing to accept the challenge until a sister publication offered to fund the adventure with a gift of one thousand dollars. Next problem was to find a car that could face the driving conditions but not cost too much money. As luck would have it a car was offered in exchange for any publicity that the event might create. The car in question was a product of a small Russian company who were struggling to create a foothold in the automobile world. The name was interesting especially in the circumstances of the challenge. . "The Ice Buggy", a two seat sports with a fold down spare seat in the rear that also served as the trunk. As the challenge was a drive in artic conditions there was little use for this extra seat so the rear section was converted in a storage area. Included in the luggage was a small tent and all the required items to keep you alive on such a journey such as a primus stove, sleeping bag, food and of course liquids of various character.

Water was no problem as snow was the most convenient source of this important item. An Austrian auto driver took up the challenge regardless of the fact that he had never competed in any winter driving events and was better known as a would be rally driver, he also found someone who was either stupid enough or brave enough to join him as part of the team. As no other couple picked up the challenge these two adventurers set off in early January departing from Vienna for Moscow, by train of course. On arrival they were met by several high ranking officials with a private dinner and all the trimmings that went with celebrities especial those who were silly enough to risk their lives even when the motivation was simply money, not quite the true motivation of true socialists which of course the two drivers were not!

The car was collected in Moscow and was made ready for the trip, again regretfully there is no picture of either the car or the drivers, all we know is that the co-driver was a few years older than the principle driver. The estimated distance from Moscow to VORKUTA was just over 2,000 miles; this was as far as the road went although in time it would be extended to the Kara Sea with the help of political exiles! The car was powered by a two stroke twin cylinder engine and being air cooled did not face the problem of the radiator freezing when the weather fell to below forty degrees as it often did in the winter. However the same could not be said for the battery power which meant that several times whilst on the journey the car had to be started manually with a push or if lucky a starting handle. As there was little night driving the lights were not that important except that it gets dark around three thirty in the afternoon so the actual driving time was restricted to about eight hours a day providing you did not run into a snow storm or similar delights.

At these sub zero conditions there was always the threat of the fuel freezing, a situation that requires drastic action and I don't mean warming the stuff by the fire! From the reports published a few months after the run was completed this only happened twice and the remedy was to bring the fuel can into the tents and sleep with the stuff. Yes they did sleep in their tent several times during the trip although they were usually accommodated by the local inhabitants some of whom had never seen a motor car before! The journey took thirty two days to complete with an average speed of around fifty miles a day give or take a few snow and ice storms on the way, when driving was completely impossible. There is not much detail available on the actual drive especially as the achievement took place almost a hundred years ago and many more exciting things have happened in Russia since then. Yes they did get the prize money and some popularity in the press for a few weeks after their return. (Hence this story)..To me the most interesting question has to be what happened to the car and/or how did it get returned to Moscow? As far as I can tell there is no information on this, the two drivers returned by train...Did the same apply to the car? Today you can drive the same route in a matter of days in a heated car with arranged stops for a warm hotel and garage. The down side would be that once you had done this no one would give you a prize in fact it could cost you at least five thousand dollars, so you would be seriously out of pocket!!
Geoff Wheatley

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