The Last Overland: Remaking History Through A 10,000 Mile Road Expedition From Singapore To London

Posted by Oneshift Editorial Team
5 Jun 2019
The Last Overland:  Remaking History Through A 10,000 Mile Road Expedition From Singapore To London

SINGAPORE, 5th June 2019 – In 2019, The Last Overland will recreate one of the twentieth century’s most iconic and challenging road journeys. 

Between 1955 and 1956, a team of six young men embarked on The Oxford & Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition (The First Overland), and made history by being the first to successfully drive the 10,000 miles from London to Singapore. Now, 64 years later, a member from that first expedition, Tim Slessor (age 87) joined by award-winning film-maker, Alex Bescoby (age 31), will take the original 1955 ‘Oxford’ Land Rover Series I on a road journey to retrace that first overland expedition.

This time they will make the journey in reverse, from Singapore to London. But as before, they will travel across three continents. It is an expedition that will take them through the jungles of Malaysia and Myanmar, the mountains of the Himalayas and northern Turkey, and the deserts of the Middle East, as well as over twenty countries, including Nepal, China, Uzbekistan, Iran and Bulgaria. The aim is to arrive in London within approximately 100 days of setting out from Singapore.

Grammar Productions explained their plans for this Last Overland expedition during the official unveiling of the original 1955 ‘Oxford’ Land Rover Series I. Fully restored from a dilapidated state, the car was transported from the United Kingdom to Singapore where it was unveiled at the Jaguar Land Rover showroom, in Singapore, on Thursday, 30th May 2019.

Tim Slessor spoke about the thrill of being reunited with his old ‘Oxford’ Land Rover, “The last time I seriously drove this old thing was a long time ago. So, as you might imagine, to see the old thing again today is quite moving. After all, before we had set out, the Experts had told us that we were geographically ignorant and politically naive; the journey couldn’t be done. All that did was to make us more determined. Six months later, we pulled in to Champion Motors on Singapore’s Orchard Road. I can tell you, the champagne and flash-bulbs really popped that day. We’d made it. As the man from America’s Time magazine put it, ‘I guess you boys have run plumb outta road.’”

Regarding his motivation to repeat the journey at his age, Mr Slessor continued, “The intention is, come late August, to drive her from Singapore back to the UK – overland once more. As I get older, I have been bothered by a recurring and nagging whisper: ‘Go for it – before it’s too late.’ Which is why I am here today – I am 87, and if I don’t do It now, I may never get another chance. After all, as that whisper reminds me, ‘you’re only here once.’ So I am hoping to be aboard old SNX891 come August. If you like, it’s a case of ‘this Old Man helps take the Old Lady home.’”

Flag-off on 25th August

The Last Overland expedition will begin on Sunday, 25th August 2019 with the ‘flag off’ from Singapore’s F1 pit straight in Marina Bay. ‘Oxford’ will be given the perfect send off by being escorted through the streets of Singapore all the way to the country’s border with Malaysia by a parade of other Land Rovers driven by local enthusiasts, including members of the group, Land Rover Owners Singapore.

Mr. Chang Chee Pey, Assistant Chief Executive, International Group, Singapore Tourism Board, said, “The Last Overland expedition is aptly timed alongside the commemoration of the Singapore Bicentennial this year, exemplifying the strong historical ties between Singapore and the United Kingdom, whilst highlighting the spirit of collaboration between our two countries. The expedition is the very embodiment of STB’s brand, Passion Made Possible. Tim and Alex are testament to the fact that regardless of age, you can be empowered to do what you love, in this city of unlimited possibilities, and STB is indeed honoured to be supporting the team as they embark on this journey in the pursuit of their passions.”

Mr Robin Colgan, Managing Director, Jaguar Land Rover Asia Pacific Region, said, “Tim’s book of the original journey is required reading here at Land Rover and the idea of retracing this epic journey after 64 years has really caught our imagination.” He added, “Land Rover’s ethos is to go ‘Above and Beyond’ and our vehicles have always evoked a spirit of adventure. We hope that their journey will inspire a new generation of travellers to pursue their individual adventures.”

The First Overland

Inspired by the 1954 Oxford and Cambridge Trans-Africa expedition, six Oxford and Cambridge university students travelled in two Land Rovers named ‘Oxford’ and ‘Cambridge.’ The team traversed the dusty deserts of Iran, passed through northern India (the previous limit of any overland journey from London heading east), forded treacherous streams and rivers through Burma (modern Myanmar) and down through what was then called the Federation of Malaya.  Upon reaching Singapore in 1956, the expedition made headlines around the world.  It was documented in three BBC films commissioned by Sir David Attenborough which showcased many remote corners of the world on film for the first time, as well as by a book authored by Tim Slessor.  Writing about the original expedition, Sir David Attenborough described it as “a madcap adventure” that would be “quite impossible today.” 

The Last Overland

‘Oxford’s’ adventures did not end in 1956. It was subsequently involved in an Ascension Island expedition, and would remain hidden and decaying on the tiny South Atlantic island for decades, before being rescued and restored by Adam Bennett in 2017. Adam, who had grown up steeped in the First Overland story, gifted the Land Rover to Tim and Alex for this latest adventure. Through the eyes of two different generation of travellers, and the people they meet along the way, The Last Overland will uncover how much the world has really changed since The First Overland expedition.

The team will be accompanied by a team of professional advisors, Land Rover enthusiasts and travel experts – all united in their passion for automotive history and adventure.

Supporting the team on the road with safety equipment, satellite tracking and risk advisory, will be security firm, AKE International and their offices in London and Singapore. AKE’s Chairman, Richard Mitchelson said, “We are delighted to be supporting the Last Overland as they are kindred spirits who mirror the ‘frontier’ ethos of our own organisation. The expedition also leverages our significant operational experience in some of the world’s most challenging places. Robust journey management is all about detailed planning and analysis. We just wish we could jump in the AKE Land Rover and join for the entire journey!”

The expedition will also involve major press and marketing events across over twenty countries that Tim and Alex will be passing through. Grammar Productions is planning a record-breaking gathering of classic Land Rovers in Singapore and London, to mark the start and end of the journey and to celebrate a global love affair between Land Rover and the motoring world.

‘Oxford’ will be on display at the Jaguar Land Rover Showroom from June until the flag-off on 25th August.

The Last Overland is supported by Singapore Tourism Board, AKE Group, Jaguar Land Rover Asia Pacific, and Klareco Communications.


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