The 1955 Oxford Land Rover arrives in Malaysia

The expedition team then visits Cameron Highlands, the land of Land Rovers where Series I to III are still found


A JOURNEY to recreate one of 20th century’s most iconic and challenging road journeys — the very first expedition by the 1955 Oxford Land Rover from London to Singapore, arrived in Kuala Lumpur on the morning of Aug 26 after flagging off in Singapore the day before.

Between 1955 and 1956, a team of six young men embarked on the Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition (or the First Overland) and made history by being the first to successfully drive 10,000 miles from London to Singapore.

Now, 64 years later, a member from the first expedition, Tim Slessor, 87, and award-winning filmmaker, Alex Bescoby took the original 1955 Oxford Land Rover Series I on a road journey to retrace that first overland expedition.

This time they are making the journey in reverse, from Singapore to London. 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, northern Turkey, the deserts of the Middle East and over 20 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 the Last Overland expedition during the official unveiling of the original 1955 Oxford Land Rover. Fully restored from a dilapidated state, the car was transported from the UK to Singapore where it was unveiled at Jaguar Land Rover showroom in May.

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 it again today is quite moving.

“After all, before we set out, the experts had told us that we were geographically ignorant and politically naive; the journey couldn’t be done. All that did is to make us more determined.”

Regarding his motivation to repeat the journey at his age, Slessor said the intention was to drive from Singapore back to the UK — an 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.”

The Last Overland expedition began on Aug 25 with the flag off from Singapore’s Formula One pit in Marina Bay.

The Oxford was 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 Land Rover owners Singapore.

Upon entering Malaysia, the team from the Last Overland made its way to Cameron Highlands to visit the land of Land Rovers where Series I to III are still found.

Inspired by the 1954 Oxford and Cambridge Trans-Africa expedition, where six Oxford and Cambridge university students travelled in two Land Rovers named Oxford and Cambridge, the First Overland team traversed the dusty deserts of Iran, passed through northern India, forded treacherous streams and rivers through Burma and down through what was then called 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 Slessor.

The Last Overland will uncover how much the world has really changed since the First Overland expedition.

Bescoby in sharing his enthusiasm for the expedition said: “I feel unbelievably lucky to be embarking on this adventure of a lifetime. We will be travelling for 100 days along the highest roads in the world — through deserts and jungles, aiming to be in London by early December.

“We are grateful for the strong support of our partners, supporters, family and friends, and we look forward to sharing our adventures along the journey with them.”

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, is security firm AKE International and their offices in London and Singapore.

The Oxford left Malaysia on Aug 27 after a stopover at Penang and continues its expedition for the next 97 days until it reaches London.