World Land Rover Day was celebrated on April 30th, and the 70th Anniversary celebrations are now in full swing. Land Rover released a video recounting some of the greatest expeditions in their history, with the stories told by those who were there.
Tim Slessor reflected on the Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition, which was the first overland automobile passage from London to Singapore in history. Over six months, teams from both universities piloted two 86” Series I Land Rover Station Wagons through all types of challenges, both terrain and political. It was one of the first great cross-country transits made by Land Rover, a company only seven years old at the time. It may never be replicated, as the political situation in the Middle East cuts off much of the route.
The expedition is recounted in a book, First Overland, the title of which has come to sometimes refer to the trip. The vehicles ended up scattered after the expedition; the Oxford truck was rolled into a ravine in Iran in the late 1950s, and Cambridge ended up on the remote British territory of St. Helena. It was about as far from home as the truck could get; St. Helena is an island in the middle of the Atlantic that was not accessible by air until last year; getting there previously required a five-day one-way sea journey from Cape Town on the now-retired R.M.S. St. Helena, the last true working Royal Mail Ship. Last year, the truck was repatriated to Britain, and now restored, it makes frequent appearances at Land Rover events.
Just after the release of the Range Rover in 1970, the British Trans-Americas Expedition traced the Pan-American Highway from Alaska to Cape Horn, in the process making the first vehicular transit of the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia, a dense jungle too thick to build a road through. The journey was arduous, and often progressed only a few miles a day; supplies and spare parts had to be flown in. However, the expedition achieved a feat that had never been completed before and has only been achieved a few times since, as the Darien is now an extremely dangerous haven for drug runners.
The Camel Trophy was for almost twenty years the most iconic off-road event in the world, and even today the mere mention of it defines the Land Rover exploration ethos. The multi-week adventures staged in every corner of the world showcased the capabilities of Land Rover’s latest products in the most demanding fashion. The events were tied into Land Rover’s marketing campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s, and many modern enthusiasts were inspired by these videotapes and print ads. There are many Discoverys and Range Rover Classics repainted in the iconic Sandglow yellow hue in tribute to the event.
However, for an event that featured the iconic British 4x4, a British team only won it once – in the Amazon in 1989, when brothers Bob and Joe Ives took the event in a Defender 110. The event was one of the most difficult Camel Trophies ever, taking place in the middle of the Amazon rainy season, where the roads had all turned into miles upon miles of mud slogs. Some Camel Trophy enthusiasts consider it the pinnacle running of the event.
The video highlights just a few of the many Land Rover expeditions over time, but with so many historic, record-breaking moments in a 70-year history, to recount them all would take far more time!
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