John, can I mention some of the pre-1970s Overland people as well - and as you've mentioned Astran's Mr. Frost, later on a bit about some of the truck firms, since we all drove on the same routes, at least to Tehran on the the direct route to India - a very small number went as far as Lahore, but more of that further on.
I'd say that in the first half of the 1970s some of the Overland firms from the 1960s were still active; firstly because John, Harvey and myself drove for them - are Safaris. In 1966 (ish) the Fenwick brothers, Bob and John, started the Safaris company from the house in Lansdowne Gardens in Stockwell; nearby was the Canton pub in the South Lambeth Road where the meetings and bookings took place - for both Safaris and PBK Tours - which was run by Paul Beesley. The old information sheets from the late 1960s claims that PBK had been doing Overland Trips since 1962. Another name associated with Safaris and PBK was Brian Page - but I can't remember much about him.
When I first went Overland in 1968 and starting driving with JF in the Maudslay bus, Beesley was running with us in a newish, petrol engined, long-wheelbase Landrover. This seated, I think, 12 people - it must've been cramped in the back, and a long roof-rack carried all the rucksacks and clobber. This vehicle was very handy for a few of us to use in the evenings, or if the ancient Maudslay broke down. The Maudslay that I was in, I'd thought, was a 1948 bus, but I'm sure JF told me recently that it was rebodied in 1948; the chassis etc was apparently pre-war.
Tangerine Travels was another of the independent Overlanders; here's the card given to me by Roland Watts. The last time I saw him was October 1972 in Istanbul; Mr Beesley I last saw in 1975 in Greece and Istanbul, he was driving a Bedford VAL - this was a 3-axled bus, in transport jargon they are referred to as a 'Chinese-Six' because they had four front wheels. He still owes me the 20 dollars I lent him, when we and and a few of his passengers (mostly female) had a well lubricated dinner in a floating resturant in Istanbul. He'd come out that night without any cash on him, or so he said; I knew I'd never see it again...
Peter Day ran his own bus, and he may have operated as Roadrunner or something like that; I last heard from him in 1978, when he phoned me up and asked if I could run a truck (he must have known I had a HGV licence) from Germany out to Kabul for him - I didn't like the sound of it, so I politely declined.
And there were many more people at it, especially as the 1970s progressed; not just from the UK but Europe. Dutch, German, French buses were doing the Overland as well, though I don't think it was anything like the numbers from here (UK), although a fair percentage of drivers of buses departing from the UK were Australian or New Zealanders.
And here is a motor belonging to AsiaBus, stuck on the Iran-Iraq border in 1966 - I don't know who ran this firm, or who drove for them. The picture is cut from one that Rory MaClean has put on Flickr, and I've shown it before.
But before all this happened, as Derek says on here, Norm Harris started in 1958, and it was probably 10, or more, years later that Emil began the Budget Bus trips. It should be compulsory for all ex-Overland drivers and passengers to be computer users...there's so much information and so many photographs, just locked away.
Another regular driver, though not of Overland Buses, was a guy called John Frost who drove for Asian International/Astran trucks on the rout to Tehran. There were not many trucks heading East in those days though after 1972 the situation changed quickly.
At the same time as the Overland Bus trips were running, the Europe to Asia transport activity was really growing; in 1964 two blokes set off from London for Kabul with an articulated truck loaded with printing presses. Following the success of this venture they set up a company called Asian Transport - which in later years was renamed Astran. This now large company still runs out to the Middle East today.
In 1970-1 Iran began to increase its hunger for trade with Europe so the amount of truck traffic increased in a very short period, all this freight movement overloaded the primitive road systems, particularly in areas like eastern Turkey. Reluctantly in 1977, the Turkish authorities opened an existing military road to create the northern bypass route around the mountain range that peaked at the notorious Tahir Pass - this old road had been a tortuous and twisting climb to over 8000' on an unmade surface. By the late 1970s it'd be fair to say that for every Overland bus, there were many hundreds of international trucks on the same routes - and as the numbers of trucks increased the likelehood of those drivers stopping to help you out decreased.
This is the situation on the Tahir before the northern route was opened up in 1977. In this picture, very few, if any of that lot of trucks struggling to get over the Tahir would have been from the UK - they came from all over Europe, including the eastern countries like Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary and so on; plus the odd Turkish and Iranian ones. Not all the Overland bus firms operated right through the winters, whereas the freight traffic ran whatever the weather - it just kept going. In 1968 there wasn't anything like this number of trucks going to Iran - of course there were a few, but most of the time you had the road to yourself.
When I got into trouble on the old Tahir Pass road in 1971, it was an English Overland truck that pulled the AEC bus back onto the road, but also offering assistance was another Englishman called Dick Snow who drove for Asian Transport - his yellow Scania truck and drawbar trailer are in the background of the picture picture below. This man went on to become a cult figure among the truck drivers who went out to the Middle-East; his reputation founded on his legendary trip times of 21 days from England to Tehran and back - not bad going in a 40 ton vehicle, with no co-driver. He once told me that he now and again drove as far as Lahore in Pakistan, and that these trips were usually for the British Embassy in Pakistan; and that the loads consisted of personal property of long-serving senior officials out there, or new furniture being sent out to the Embassy. The staff were either commencing or finishing a term of duty.
Now that there some Hughes and/or Intertrek drivers here, do any of them know anything about the Bedford in this picture that I've posted 2 or 3 times before?
John, that bloke to the right of you, in the picture is Hank - a passenger going from Delhi to London in 1971. In 1972 he phoned me up and told me he'd bought a Bristol double-decker and was setting up on his own to do Overland Trips. Anyway, he asked me a lot of questions and in the end I went down to see him and his bus in a yard at Westbourne Grove in London; I didn't fancy his chances with it and told him so, but some months later off he went. I think it all went wrong before he got out of Turkey, his few passengers deserted, the bus was abandoned out there and he lost a lot of money. At some of the borders were fenced off compounds full of confiscated vehicles - from cars to buses. It wasn't as easy as it may have looked; it was an understandable thing to want to have a go at - many people did, and a lot of people failed. Too many people went out there for the wrong reasons.
John, or Johnny, Frost came to Astran after Snow had started (these meteorological sounding names are real...) and as far as I know, is still alive. Mr Snow gave eventually gave up his long-haul driving to run a pub in Essex, and died some years ago. In the picture below he is seen, on the right, overseeing the recovery operation of a European truck that had gone off the road on the Tahir road in eastern Turkey. A truck and a grader, chained together, are attempting to extract a Scania 110 and its semi-trailer from the snow - this was a far too common sight, this one was lucky; some guys didn't survive these incidents.
The Euro-Asian truck movements were not totally the activity of European firms; for a long time Turkish trucks went up into Eastern Europe and into Germany, as did the Iranian firms like Marand, and Shams Express Transport (from Maku). The largest Iranian firm to do international work (in those days) was ICC (Iran Container Company) - based in Tehran, they regularly ran as far as Germany from 1970 onwards. They used dark blue Mack Maxidyne tractor units for this work - each one double-manned, to minimise stop time. One night in Erzerum, one their drivers, an English speaking Kurd, helped me fit snowchains to the AEC, and afterwards I helped fit the chains onto the (6 x 4) Mack. This was a miserable task when the temperature had fallen to below -30