The Last Overland: New Defender meets ‘Oxford’ on completion of epic journey

New Defender with special livery and Oxford
New Defender with special livery and Oxford

'Oxford', the 64-year-old Land Rover used in the Oxford & Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition undertaken from 1955-56 - also known as The First Overland - has successfully completed The Last Overland Expedition, an epic 19 000km road journey from Singapore to the United Kingdom.

And on hand to receive the intrepid Series One Land Rover earlier this week in Folkestone, the point of entry for The Last Overland team into the UK, was the newest model from Land Rover – the New Defender – in a specially designed one-off Oxford & Cambridge Expedition livery.

RoadTrip | The Last Overland - an old Defender drives back home from 1955 trip

It wasn’t the first time that the Solihull-built old-timer met the shiny, modern newcomer to the Landie family, though. No, 'Oxford' made its first acquaintance with the New Defender when treated to a private tour of the Nitra plant in Slovakia, where production of the latest Land Rover recently commenced, during its tour from the East.

The last overland land rover

                                                                      Image: Grammar Productions

23 countries!

Having crossed 23 countries from Singapore to London, 'Oxford' and the eight-member expedition team has successfully recreated one of the most historic automotive events of the last century.

The Last Overland traversed the jungles of Malaysia and Myanmar, the frozen plateaus of the Himalayas and Tibet, and many other countries, including Nepal, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and across the Bosphorous into Europe. (They even briefly crossed the border from Tajikistan into Afghanistan.)

After a journey of nearly four months the expedition team – comprising members from the United Kingdom, France, USA, Belgium, Indonesia and Singapore – was warmly welcomed in Folkestone at an arrival party hosted by Goodyear.

WATCH: New Land Rover Defender retains its original features with a modern twist

This marked the penultimate stage of the journey to bring home the original Series One Land Rover that also completed The First Overland. Led by film-maker Alex Bescoby and expedition manager Marcus Allender, the team of eight also included Singaporean Larry Leong and Brit Nat George, grandson of Tim Slessor (a member of The First Overland expedition).

Slessor, now 88 and one of three surviving members of The First Overland, was in attendance to receive 'Oxford' back to the UK. An historic gathering of Land Rovers assembled from across Britain and Europe, as well as the new Defender, also welcomed 'Oxford' back.

The team then set off for their final destination – The Hilton Park Lane in London. The finish line was symbolic as it was just yards from the start line of the First Overland Expedition in 1955. The contingent was welcomed by the High Commissioner of Singapore, Her Excellency Ms Foo Chi Hsia.

The last overland land rover

                                                                        Image: Grammar Productions

Tough and challenging

After leaving Singapore on August 25 and traversing Southeast Asia, the expedition moved through Nepal, China and the ’Stans to the border with Turkey. Apart from veteran Singaporean overlander Larry, it was the team’s first time in this part of the world.

Like any major expedition, particularly one crossing so many international borders in such an old car, The Last Overland was not one without mishaps.

According to the team, one particularly memorable incident was a major mechanical mishap where 'Oxford’s' back wheel fell off while driving at 70km/h in Turkmenistan, severing the brake lines entirely.

READ: RoadTrip - Discovering the soul of Japan in a Land Rover

Thankfully no one was hurt, and after some major repair work, the plucky Land Rover was back on the road.

Despite the challenges, 'Oxford' managed to complete the journey back to London, helped by the expertise of the team, including the team’s Indonesian doctor and mechanic Dr Silverius Purba, as well as from remote support of Adam Bennett, 'Oxford’s' restorer, who delivered replacement parts through the post.

The team faced all kinds of challenges, with extreme altitude, temperatures and various diets taking its toll. They had to overcome food poisoning episodes, frigid temperatures and needing to rely on supplementary oxygen while coping with altitude sickness.

The last overland land rover

                                                                       Image: Grammar Productions

The expedition continues

While ‘Oxford’ and the team is now back in the UK, the expedition has not ended yet. In the pipeline is a TV documentary to tell the incredible story of The Last Overland, aimed for broadcast in 2020, and a book written by Bescoby.

Bescoby said: "It has been described by one motoring journalist as 'the mother of all road trips', and I’d have to agree. I cannot wait to share the inside story of an adventure I will never forget. It will be endearing and insightful to contrast The First Overland and The Last Overland, exploring how our world has evolved over 64 years.

"We want to be able to immortalise our experience, including the places we visited, many of them for the first time; and remember the friendships with one another and people from around the world."

New Defender with special livery and Oxford

                                                                        Image: Grammar Productions

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