Ben Carlin’s Round-The-World Trek in a Ford GPA
In 1950, a young Australian mining engineer named Ben Carlin set out to do the impossible: circumnavigate the globe, by land and sea, in a single vehicle
Would you want to accompany even a sane person in a claustrophobic half jeep/half boat designed to ford shallow streams on an around the world journey in the early 1950s? If this suicide mission wasn’t bad enough, you would be cooped up with Ben Carlin in a tiny cabin for parts of a decade. The carbon monoxide fumes are making the hyperactive Carlin delirious clouding his already questionable judgment. His increasing sense of paranoia is fueled by on shore binge drinking. He calls you a son-of-b… at your every slightest perceived screw-up.
Those unlucky enough to accompany Carlin describe him as part monster, part maniac, but a master mechanic and navigator. His seafaring and car/boat fixing skills saved his life on numerous occasions, but it was his prickly personality that was as memorable as his land/sea navigational skills.
In the 1950s, a man from Perth named Ben Carlin decided he wanted to circumnavigate the globe in an amphibious jeep, an optimistic-sounding land-and-water vehicle developed by the U.S. military and which Carlin first encountered while he was serving in the Indian Army. It was a mechanical mongrel that was supposed to move with equal ease across land and water but in practice wasn’t much good at either.
Ben Carlin had attended Guildford Grammar School from 1923-1929. On leaving School he pursued various careers, including studying engineering at the Kalgoorlie School of Mines before vanishing to a coal mine in China. There he wasted a perfectly good war in the Royal Indian Engineers. Close to the end of his tour of duty a battered amphibious jeep caught his eye. After 15 minutes around, over, and under this oddity, the likes of which he had never before seen, he mused, “You know, with a bit of titivation you could go around the world in one of these things.”
After demobilisation in 1946, Carlin found a surplus jeep in the United States; in 1947 he was able to buy the Ford GPW Jeep from the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland for $US901.
Carlin named his vehicle the Half Safe after an Arrid deodorant radio commercial at the time that used the slogan: “Don’t be half safe – use Arrid to be sure”.