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Romantic adventurer reveals Sahara secret—40 years late

PUBLISHED: 07:00 27 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:08 05 October 2010

Brian... piloting his microlightto Australia with blind co-adventurer Miles Hilton Barber

Brian... piloting his microlightto Australia with blind co-adventurer Miles Hilton Barber

BORN adventurer Brian Milton has finally put his first global exploit down in a book—more than 40 years late. He's been too busy with his career as a journalist, ironically, to put pen to paper about driving across the Sahara in 1968 in a clapped out jalopy to marry his sweetheart

By Mike Brooke

BORN adventurer Brian Milton has finally put his first global exploit down in a book—more than 40 years late.

He’s been too busy working as a journalist, ironically, to put pen to paper about driving across the Sahara in 1968 in a clapped out jalopy to marry his sweetheart.

The 67-year-old intrepid romantic from London’s East End set off 41 years ago in a 1937 Austin 7 Ruby called Alexa’ to reach the other end of Africa.

There were no motorways—and often no roads—on his overland route.

He has since taken to the skies as a hang-gliding pioneer in the 1970s, although more well-known for his exploits in 1998 as the first man to fly around the world in a single-engine microlight aircraft (pictured).

He has often crashed out of the sky in his need to push back frontiers, sometimes ending up within an inch of losing his life.

But it was his Sahara trek at 26 that he is now publishing in Alexa—the Life and Death of an Austin 7 Ruby.

“I motored 1,800 miles on rough track across the Sahara,” he recalls. “I reached a Nigeria that was wracked by civil war.

“I survived. But alas, my Austin 7 did not. We crashed once and ran out of water twice in the Sahara. I drove 2,000 miles on three pistons and 900 miles without brakes, lights, shock absorbers or starting motor or handle.”

The broadcaster and author who now lives “a little more quietly” in a modest terrace behind Bethnal Green’s Museum of Childhood, should have published the story in 1968 when he returned to Britain.

“But trying to make a living and getting into the BBC, I didn’t manage it,” he told the East London Advertiser.

“I took to the skies after that and almost killed myself last year testing a microlight over Hertfordshire when the sail began ripping a 400ft up.”

He had a similar brush with death demonstrating a hang-glider on BBC TV in 1976 when he crashed and needed six weeks off work.

Brian, one of BBC Radio London’s voices throughout the 1970s, was named this May in The Daily Telegraph’s Top 20 Great British Adventurers, behind such legends as Ranulph Fiennes, Chris Bonington, Robin Knox-Johnston, John Blashford-Snell and Chay Blyth.

Milton is listed half-way at No 10 as “a born adventurer” whose first expedition was driving across the Sahara to meet his fiancée.

He has produced just 500 copies of Alexa—the Life and Death of an Austin 7 Ruby, but has sent one to TV’s Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson as a challenge to repeat the Sahara trek.

This self-confessed Phileas Fogg’ is marketing his story on his own Brian Milton website, at £10, plus p&p, or cheque to RB Milton, c/o The Reform Club at 104 Pall Mall, SW1 5EW—from where Phileas Fogg set off around the world in 80 days.

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