THE car is a decade-old subcompact hatchback.
The engine power is roughly equivalent to six fairly good lawnmowers.
The loosely defined route is a 16,000-kilometre desert and mountain journey beginning in the United Kingdom and winding through 14 countries leading to the finish line in Mongolia.
For some people it's a nightmare, or the premise for a terrible remake of Lawrence of Arabia, but for three West Vancouver friends, it's how they plan to spend July and August.
"We were looking for something fun to do over the summer," explains Darien Niamir, an engineering physics student at Stanford University who is currently getting travel visas, booking hostels, and programming a musical playlist for the trip. "Peter's really into cars and I'm really into travelling, so it seemed like a natural thing to do."
Niamir, along with Peter Muench and Mathieu Dubuc are The Crazy Canucks, one of approximately 250 squads planning to explore the vast region between England and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia as part of The Mongol Rally.
The rally is not a race, and drivers are not asked to follow any particular route, so long as they can eventually roll, lurch, or limp to the finish line located near Mongolia's Gandan Monastery District.
The rally is organized by The Adventurists, a U.K. company dedicated to organizing disorganized fun.
"Your chances of being seriously injured or dying as a result of taking part are high," reads a warning on the company's website. "Individuals who have taken part in previous Adventurists' adventures have been permanently disfigured, seriously disabled or lost their life."
As university students, the longtime friends decided the rally could be an exciting alternative to a summer job.
While he was unconcerned about the mountains of Turkmenistan or the risk of a sunburn, Niamir admitted to a moment's hesitation before informing his parents.
"I emailed the head of this organization and he got back to me and said . . . 'By the way you shouldn't tell your parents you're doing this trip. They're not going to be OK with it. Tell them you're backpacking through Europe,'" he says, laughing.
While there were the obligatory parental concerns, particularly about the possibility of trekking through Iran, Niamir says his parents were surprisingly supportive of the trip.
Muench, an economics student at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, also got a boost from his mother and father.
"My dad's a big gearhead like myself so he was pretty excited about it right off the bat. My mom, she needed a little bit more convincing. I don't think she liked the idea of us driving halfway across the world without anyone to contact her."
For Niamir, the chance to explore desert areas with his friends and to breathe in the history of ancient civilizations was too good to miss.
"I'm looking forward to visiting countries that I'll probably never see again," Niamir says, discussing the time he's spent studying the history and geography of each country.
The team, which is currently courting sponsorship, is attempting to raise money for the Prince Alexander Fund, which builds schools and hospitals around the world, as well as The Lotus Children's Centre, which supports homeless Mongolian children.
The Crazy Canucks have also found help in paying off approximately $800 in car insurance from local companies the Can-Am Learning Academy and the Pacific Spirit Foundation.
While Muench says he is looking forward to the vistas of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, he also has a gearhead's passion for the marathon drive.
"To be honest, I kind of want to see if I can keep the car going the whole way," he says, discussing the 2003 Suzuki Alto. "Once you get past Azerbaijan it's pretty desolate, you're in a big desert, and if anything goes wrong it'll be interesting to see if I can fix it. I've grown up working on cars. It's one thing when you're in North Vancouver trying to fiddle around on the car. It's an entirely different thing if you're in the Uzbekistan desert."
"One of the slogans of the event is 'Buy a car off your grand,'" Niamir explains. "Unfortunately we don't have any grandparents that live in the U.K. but we did find a really crappy car that fits with the tradition of the event. Hopefully it makes it to Mongolia."
The team is rounded out by Dubuc. Having earned a bachelor of science degree from the Queen's University in Ontario, Dubuc is slated to serve as medical expert and poutine cooker for The Crazy Canucks. Being the shortest member of the team, Dubuc may always be assigned to the backseat, according to Niamir.
The team is scheduled to take off on July 14. The final finish line party is set for August 24.