In 1955, six UK college students hailing from classic rival institutions, Oxford and Cambridge, set out in two brand new Land Rover Station Wagons with the intention of driving all the way from London to Singapore. Their plan was to document the sights along the way and with the help of young BBC producer David Attenborough, along with a host of other sponsors, they created film footage of the entire journey.
Their adventures would be broadcast in black and white on the televisions that were largely new additions to many UK homes in those years. The entire country watched and the young men, as well as the Land Rovers, became stars of their day, and captured the imaginations of many who would come later. The men would all move on to successful careers, but the Land Rovers were not so fortunate. Both were returned to Solihull and loaned out to other pursuits. One of them would meet its end a few years later, reportedly in Iran. The other found its way to Ascension Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, where it remained in use at least until the 1990’s. Eventually, it was broken and began to return to the elements. But, its existence and location were well known.
All that was needed was somebody with a lot of love for Land Rovers and the resources and desire to fetch it off the island and back to somewhere to be restored. That someone turned out to be one Adam Bennet, of York in the UK. He has returned the vehicle to its original appearance with all of its battle scars intact. Recently, he was visited by the surviving members of the expedition team, who all got to take turns behind the wheel.
I got to preview some of the footage from a recent BBC special featuring the truck. It was a low-quality copy that I’m not able to share. But even in the small blurry image on my laptop screen, you could clearly make out the enormous smiles on the faces of the expedition crew as they took their turns at the helm.
Whoever came up with the saying, “You can’t go home again,” has obviously never experienced the time traveling sensation of climbing behind the wheel of a vehicle that is as much an old friend as it is “home.”
Here is the original "First Overland" video documenting the expedition, restored to full color.
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