All the (off)road going amphibious vehicles of the world. (work in progress) All the (off)road going amphibious vehicles of the world. (work in progress)

Last modified 04 May 2012


Half safe (1947 1958)


Ben’s journey took eight years. He negotiated 62 744 km overland and 17 780 km by sea.


Ben Half-Safe and some food

Ben and Elinore inside Half-Safe


Ben and Elinore in 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 Plexiglas and metal plates, moved the propeller backwards to make room for an oil tank and made a real rudder.
A transmitter (19 set) 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 liter 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 liter (735 Gallon) fuel, 136 liter (30 Gallon) water, 36 liter (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 gases 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 in it's home

Half-Safe in it's home

Half-Safe in it's home

Half-Safe in it's home

Half-Safe in it's home

Half-Safe in it's home

Half-Safe in it's home

Photo's by John N. Brown.

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 number 2 cylinder was slowly burning away.

Half-Safe Replica 2004 Half-Safe Replica 2004 Half-Safe Replica 2004
Jerome and Thierry from France have build on a GPA a TEMPORARILY replica of Half-Safe for a car show.
Rene Pohl Half-Safe model Rene Pohl Half-Safe modelRene Pohl Half-Safe model Rene Pohl Half-Safe model
Some photo's of a Half-Safe model build by Rene Pohl. This is the way it looked after rebuilding in London

Half-Safe After the stop at the Azores  they moved on to the Canary islands, into Morocco then overland north to Tanger then over sea to Gibraltar, over land to Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany Denmark, over sea again to Sweden and back again through Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France, then again over sea to England where the book ends with the 2.5 year rebuilding of Half-Safe in London.

In the Netherlands Ben was asked by a reporter if they were driving over the bottom of the ocean. ;-)
That far of a normal way of thinking was this adventure!

The second part of this book starts on 30 May 1954 when they left England by sea to France to continue through Switzerland, Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey sailing across the Bosporus to Asia, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and India, to Calcutta.

In the summer of 1955/56 a fund raising trip to Australia was undertaken, Half-Safe was carried on a steam boat. Here, Elinore decided she had seen enough of sea and sea sickness and left Ben.

Half-Safe Now a bit about Elinore.

Here on this picture she is hanging wash on a line.
Note, that this is after the propeller baring gave in.
She went back to the USA, never remarried and never talked about the journey with Ben. She was a lawyer recruitment specialist, (1960) and likely to be the first woman in that job!

In January 1956 Ben and Half-Safe returned by steam boat to Calcutta. Ben, used up a series of shipmates in the rest of the journey. From Calcutta by sea to Burma the overland route was then impassable.
From Burma they continued overland, via Rangoon and Bangkok to Saigon and Da Nang. Then over sea again to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. On 12 June 1957 Ben left Japan for the Aleutians. they went island-hopping across the North Pacific to Anchorage, Alaska. From there over road Ben took a long detour through the US, before making full circle on 12 May 1958 in Montreal Canada.

Ben’s journey took eight years.
He negotiated 62 744 km overland and 17 780 km by sea

Unnoticed by the press,
NO BODY believed he traveled AROUND the WORLD in that thing.

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 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 AUS $ plus postage.
For further information please contact Rosemary Waller on Australia +61 8 9377 9212 or by e-mail

A book written by one of his shipmates gives a different view on Ben!

Once a Fool by Boyé Lafayette De Mente

This one is for sale on Amazon UK!

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, Solded out!