Michael Kundak-Cowall has a dream: driving a tiny car from London, England, to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, partly to raise money for charity—and partly just for the sheer thrill of participating in the annual Mongol Rally.
“There’s a certain degree of insanity to it,” says the twenty-one-year-old Chelsea resident. “Everything’s fine in Western Europe, but when you get in Eastern Europe and especially Russia and the Ukraine there are corrupt cops and really bad roads. From what I’ve seen, the Trans-Siberian Highway is like a rural road in western Washtenaw County but worse.”
It’s 9,000 miles from London to Mongolia. “Usually you drive in convoys of three or four cars in case something breaks or you get stuck in a swamp,” says Kundak-Cowall, “which is easy to do with a lot of little Fiats, Hondas, and Toyotas driving rural roads in Siberia.”
The rally begins in London in late July and “ends whenever you get to Ulaanbaatar,” Kundak-Cowall continues. “Once you’re there your car is donated to a local Mongolian charity, and you find a way home.”
Kundak-Cowall hopes to compete in next year’s Mongol Rally—but first he needs money and lots of it.
“The biggest cost variable is the car itself,” he says. “A used car can cost about $7,000 and shipping it trans-Atlantic is about $800, and total costs may end up as high as $15,000.”
Kundak-Cowall says he’s been “hauling ass working this summer” before going back to school at Wayne State. But what he really needs are individual and corporate sponsors for his team—”myself and two friends I’ve known since high school. Like me, they’ve gone abroad already—and because we’ve known each other so long, we know we’ll get along well cooped up in a car for a month.”