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Bill Barriere’s 1978 Pan American Trip

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UPDATE IV: Here’s an another photo form 1978, this time it’s a good closeup of the hood.

View all the information on eBay

1978-12-03-bill-barriere-expedition-photo-jeep-hood1 1978-12-03-bill-barriere-expedition-photo-jeep-hood2

UPDATE III: Charles Chips — What happened to Bill Barriere, continued (see more info in below updates). (two years after the photo in UPDATE IV) In 1981 Bill launched Charles Chips of Palm Springs, a franchised(?) business that has specialized in home delivery of cookies, pretzels and other snacks in the United States since 1942 


The next week, this photo and caption was published by the Desert Sun in Palm Springs, California. Bill’s adventurer-look was gone, replaced by a more casual-business-looking persona.

UPDATE II: This photo shows Bill on top of the jeep.



Original Post January of 2019 …. UPDATE: Another photo of Bill Barriere and his jeep appeared on eBay (see below). That find sent me once again on the pursuit of the question, “What happened to Bill Barriere’s jeep trip?”. It turns out, he didn’t make it very far. During the early portion of his trip, he crashed into a bridge in the Yukon, which left him with a $7000 repair bill and $1700 tow bill (Yukon to Fairbanks). He decided to abandon the trip idea and, instead, become a mercenary fighter in Nicaragua (and drive his jeep there). Maybe some day I’ll figure out how his life as a mercenary fighter panned out. 

“1978 Press Photo William Barriere wipes down Jeep in California. This is an original press photo. California – William Barriere will attempt to drive solo from the Arctic Ocean to the Antarctic Ocean. Photo measures 7 x 10.25inches. Photo is dated 11-25-1978.”



This is a January 4, 1979, article from the Palm Spring’s Desert Sun newspaper that explains why he cancelled his trip.






Original Post September 3, 2015: In 1978 Bill Barrier attempted to become the first solo driver to complete a Pan American Trip, Alaska to southern Argentina. This article was published in the November 11, 1978, Milwaukee Sentinel.

A 1976 article discussed some of his early plans, as did this article. Here’s an example of an advertisement he put in newspapers regarding the trip. Unfortunately, I could not find any word on whether he completed it or not. Note that the jeep was actually built for a London to Singapore trip that never occurred. There are some interesting mods.




20 Comments on “Bill Barriere’s 1978 Pan American Trip

  1. David Eilers Post author


    I’ve been hunting for answers to that question, but haven’t found anything yet.

    – Dave

  2. Terry

    He said he was going to Nicaragua to fight with the Communist Sandinistas ,they probably killed him and gave his Jeep to a Party member .

  3. David Eilers Post author

    If he really did go down to fight, I can’t imagine he made it out, let alone made it out with video of the fighting as he’d hoped to do.

  4. SE Pennsylvania Steve

    I’m very skeptical of all this, it almost sounds to me like he was some sort of con man. An engine ramming forward in an accident? Hot air blowing on a radiator? $27K for a jeep in 1971? And he’s endlessly searching for sponsorship money. Maybe the sponsors he thought he had were pulling out because when they looked into his background he wasn’t what he said he was. Maybe he realized they were catching on to him and wanted to disappear so he made up a bullcrap Nicaragua mercenary story. If don’t find anything more about him, Dave, I bet I’m right.

  5. David Eilers Post author

    Steve, the thought had crossed my mind, too. I’ll keep an eye out for updates.

  6. Bill

    Had Alaska or Rust not worked out so well, I too was planning on becoming a mercenary fighter in Nicaragua.


  7. David Eilers Post author


    Then, you’d likely to be fighting on the opposite side of Bill Barriere. President Ortega was a senior member of the Sandinistas when they began the civil war against the Samoza regime. Now, Ortega is the one playing dictator, jailing news employees, arresting demonstrators, and disbanding civic groups. And then, there are all the kidnappings to complicate things. In short, I’m glad you didn’t have to try your hand at becoming a mercenary! (But, if you do go down, I will happily care for your jeeps until your return).

  8. Bob in nc

    I’ve been thinking about this a little more.

    “First crossing of the western hemesphire” and the clown didn’t make it through Alaska?

    He pocketed the rest of money for trip, sold the jeep and moved on to next scam in another state. Probably married an older wealthy woman. An early low budget scammer.

  9. Mike

    A little bit off topic, but I actually had something in common with Bill Barriere, we both had Charles Chips Routes. A step down for him, a step up for me. Most kids back then had paper routes, (paper routes, what’s that?) I had a Charles Chips route. At 12 years old, I would deliver potato chips & pretzels in the neighborhood with my little red wagon, profit of 50 cents on every tin I sold. OK for a little, not so good for Bill Barriere.

  10. David Eilers Post author

    Craig: Cars, definitely not, but was it safe to buy cookies or crackers from him?

    If this guy did one thing well, it was get publicity. Searches on show that the message of his upcoming adventure was shared more widely than any other jeep-adventure I’ve run across. In fact, I just received a copy of an issue of Jeep News from the late 1970s with him on the back discussing his upcoming adventure.

  11. David Eilers Post author

    Mike: I’d never heard of Charles Chips until I ran across that article. But, I do know what a paper route was. And, in my neck of the woods, you knew what the green plywood shacks were; that’s where the newspaper dropped off the papers. Then, we’d have to add the commercial inserts to each paper.

    I had a paper route during the summer between the 7th and 8th grades. Sunday mornings were the worst! Dad did build me a special cart with bike wheels that I could tow behind my bike, so that made things a little easier. We lived in what was the country at the time, so the houses were spread apart and there were no sidewalks, so I was having to avoid cars on the busier roads. I’m pretty sure that every direction I rode felt like I was pedaling uphill, too, when the cart was loaded with papers. I remember having to collect cash monthly and knock on doors to increase my customer base. When school started up that fall, I was done with it.

  12. Mike

    Dave, I also had paper routes, did well on those, Paterson Morning Call, early morning routes no other kid wanted. Newark News, riding my bike with big basket up front. On Sundays, when the Newark news was super heavy, My dad would help me by loading his 1960 Willy Wagon. Lots of fun sitting on tailgate while my Dad drove, made delivering go a whole lot faster. In my older years, I used my own Willys wagon and Jeepster Commando to deliver newspaper motor routes.
    Charles Chips was big in the Northeast, franchised routes, much better chip than the well known brands. Those childhood memories become more valued as one ages, somehow we have a better understanding of our fathers.

  13. Bingo

    He seems to be a ‘little, big man’ The CJ is taller than he is! The hood is as high as his armpit. They didn’t do SOA conversions way back then……I don’t think

  14. rdjeep

    And I remember Charles Chips, too. Family behind us (i.e. lots of kids) had them delivered regularly, but not by Jeep. A step-van, if I recall well enough.

  15. Kevin

    I came across Bill Barriere in 1993. I did not know much about him other than he loved to cook and was a good guy. I met him at the Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe, NM. I was a production Chef there and he was one of the cooks. Bill was still traveling around the Country and at this point in time he had his father with him. They had a Cadillac and they were pulling a large Airstream behind it. He would have been about 58 years old at the time.

    I recently came across a letter that he had written to my wife and I. It reminded me of the good times we had and I started to see if I could find him online. Have found only this feed on him. Do any of you know if he is still around?

  16. David Eilers Post author

    Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for sharing those memories. At the time I last gathered information for this post I was unable to learn more about Bill’s current status, though I expect he has passed away.

    I just did a few google searches, but still can’t learn whether he’s still alive or not.

    – Dave

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