Half safe


Half safe This one is a legend,

In 1946 Ben Carlin got the idea to use a Ford-GPA to travel around the world under its one power.

He went to the USA and tried to get sponsored by Ford, 
that failed, they thought he was mad.

But he did find Elinore and married her.
Then he bought a GPA for $ 901, a 1942 Ford General Purpose Amphibious GPA number 1239. They put a boot like bow on it that could hold 100 gallon petrol. made a cabin from plexyglass and metal plates, moved the propeller backwards to make room for an oil tank and made a real rudder.
A transmitter was mounted and to hold more fuel an under-belly tank was made.

A good picture of the under-belly tank can be found in René Pohl book "Mit dem Auto baden gehen", ISBN 3893657029.

In 1947 the testing started, biggest problem was carbon monoxide poisoning because that gas can not escape true the hull of a boat/amphib.

The start from New York was 16 June 1948 (the world trip was to be there honeymoon) but Ben and Elinore had to return 3 days later because they had problems with the rudder, leakage of the cabin and seasickness.

The second attempt, 13 July, failed because a wave took the exhaust muffler. They limped back with all vents open en fans fanning. (CO² poisoning.)

On 7 august they sailed again under a beautiful sun, the same sun that was shining 8 days later when the propeller baring welded shut through lack of lubricant.

If that was not enough the transmitter gave in!!!!
They drifted for a week, 300 miles from nowhere, until a Canadian tanker saw there flash light SOS.

They ware ready to leave Half safe, but the Norwegian captain, Hans Brown, greeted Ben with the words: "Hell, your not going to leave that god damned Jeep lying around?"

Ben, Elinore and Half-Safe got a lift to Montreal.

In September 1949 they started again from Halifax, it was then clear that more fuel than what could be transported on board was necessary. There for half-Safe towed two 500 litre petrol tanks that where lost in the first night at sea. First the tanks collided and one was leaking, then the second tank broke lose in heavy sea.

Back in Halifax:
Ben offered to call the whole thing off and to liquidate Half Safe.

Elinore said "NO"

19 July 1950 they tried again this time with one large tank on tow. This tank was specially build, learning from last years failure.

They had 3337 litre (735 Gallon) fuel, 136 litre (30 Gallon) water, 36 litre (8 Gallon) oil, and food for 6 weeks.

The sea was rough, the lack of ventilation made there beds and sleeping bags very damp infarct it was so moist that the labels fell of the food tins. There was no room to move, no water to wash, the engine and oil gasses and noise where a constant plague.
The under-belly tank was banging constantly against the vehicles bottom.
Because the nylon ropes they used to tie it to the bottom where expanding.
The transmitter failed again, likely through moist.

Half safe After 10 days at sea the valves of the engine got a layer carbon, so Ben had to lift the cylinder head and polish the valves and seats. And that had to be repeated 3 times.

After 31 days the Azores came in site.

Witch was a good thing because the exhaust valve of the nr 2 cylinder was slowly burning away.

Half safe
Half safe And last but not least Elinore.

Here on this picture she is hanging  wash on a line.

Note, that this is 3 days after the propeller baring gave in.

Most of the rights of Half-Safe pictures and books are property of Guildford Grammar School who have the Half-Safe vehicle on display.

The Guildford Grammar School has a web pages on Half-Safe

The Book about Half_Safe is:

The Other Half of Half-Safe by Ben Carlin
(which includes an abridged version of
Half-Safe - Across the Atlantic by Jeep)
available from Guildford Grammar School.
It retails for $40.00 plus postage.
For further information please contact Rosemary Waller
on Australia 93779212 or e-mail

Source of information
"Half-Safe", by Ben Carlin. Andre Deutsch Ltd., 1955
"The Other Half of Half-Safe", by Ben Carlin. Guildford Grammar School Foundation, Inc., 1989. ISBN 0-9598731-1-2
"Mit dem Auto baden gehen", René Pohl, ISBN 3893657029.


 In the summer of 1950, Ben Carlin and his wife Elinore left Halifax, Nova Scotia in a World War II amphibious jeep, nicknamed Half-Safe, bound, ultimately, for Birmingham, England. Carlin’s book Half-Safe: Across the Atlantic by Jeep is the tale of their journey.

Unique among “voyage around the world” books, reaction of my friends and family upon hearing me summarize Half-Safe’s voyage was, more often then not, to deny that such a voyage was possible. Indeed the Carlins found the same problem during their voyage, and sometimes found it difficult to get the publicity and sponsorship their voyage deserved.

But it is true: Half-Safe, a souped-up amphibious Ford jeep, purchased surplus after the war near Washington, DC, carried the Carlins on land and on sea, and therein allowed them to work around the usual need to “ship the Land Rover across the Atlantic and then pick up the trip” that characterizes most if not all other round-the-world expeditions.

The impetus for the trip was, like most others, the result of a dare. Carlin, an Australian, was in India during the war working as a Field Engineer. He relates in the opening chapter, still in India at the close of the war in 1945:

It took Carlin five years to get to America, locate, modify, test and refine the jeep, find and marry his wartime sweetheart, and make his way to Halifax for departure.
Halifax did not fare well in the eyes of the Carlins:

Once the major voyage-ending bugs were worked out of Half-Safe’s systems — and there were a large number of them, mostly involving different methods for carrying fuel — the Carlins set off for the Azores from Halifax on July 19, 1950.

Their plan was to head for Flores; they arrived there 32 days later, having travelled through a hurricane, the jeep pummelled almost to the breaking point, having suffered tremendous seasickness (especially Elinore) and, one would imagine, testing their marriage severely.

From the Azores they steamed to Madeira, and then made land at Africa at Cap Juby before driving overland through Agadir, Casablanca, Gibraltar, Lison, Madrid, Paris, Brussels, Denmark, Sweden, London and finally Birmingham, where they arrived on New Years Day, 1952.

Despite their adventures at sea, the voyage overland was perhaps more challenging that the one over sea, mostly because of the variety of borders to cross, breakdowns of the jeep, and the need to hold shows to raise money to support the trip.

The Carlins weren’t rich, and although there was some sponsorship from a North American magazine, and the promise of more from other sources, not more than once they were down to their last dollar and had to pawn their movie camera, or sell surplus fuel to continue on.

Carlin is a witty writer, and the book is a rollicking good tale of adventure, and contains considerable technical details of their voyage.

While the voyage the book relates ends in England, Carlin did, in fact, continue onwards from there, and
this helpful Australian website contains a brief summary of that voyage. The tale of this second leg of the voyage is available as The Other Half of Half-Safe, which can be purchased from Carlin’s alma mater, Guildford Grammar School, which has a page devoted to Carlin’s adventures. The school is also the final resting place of the jeep Half-Safe where it is, says the school, “displayed prominently within the grounds.”

Interestingly, Carlin’s second voyage took place at the same time as the Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition, although, as this commentator notes, “So, there were two overland expeditions in southern Burma at the same time. Both expeditions wrote up their adventures, yet neither mentions the other.”

Carlin continued on around the world, and ended up back in Montreal on May 12, 1958, almost eight years after starting out.

I purchased Half-Safe used from a bookseller in the U.S. using abebooks.com. It is out of print, but many other used copies are available for sale there.