After 100 days on the road, the Last Overland expedition is returning to London on Saturday, December 14th, with "Oxford," the same iconic Series 1 86” Station Wagon that completed the “First Overland” expedition in 1955-56.
The story began when “Oxford,” the Series truck that was used on the original trip, was recovered from the remote Atlantic island of St. Helena, where it had been resting as a pile of parts for years, partially buried in the dirt. The truck had been used for the first-ever drive from London to Singapore, then ended up living on the outpost. In 2017, it was repatriated to Britain on one of the last voyages of the classical passenger-cargo ship RMS St. Helena, and restored by Yorkshire Land Rover enthusiast Adam Bennett.
In December 2018, Bennett shipped the vehicle from Southampton, England to Singapore, in preparation for a group driving it back to London, a reverse of the first leg of the First Overland expedition. In late August, the team flagged off from Singapore, beginning a journey of 10,000 miles with the 64-year-old Oxford and two 2010s-era Defenders, a 90 and 110.
They drove up the spine of Malaysia, stopping in the Cameron Highlands, where a unique exemption to national vehicle regulations has kept an unusual number of old Land Rovers alive in this remote area. Then it was over the border to Thailand, Myanmar, and into the parts of northeast India in the Himalayas and Nagaland that the First Overland visited in the 1950s. In the Kachin State of India, they replicated a famous photo from the old trip of Oxford being bathed during a traditional water-flinging festival in a now-inaccessible part of Burma. They also replicated a photo with the Darjeeling Toy Train.
Then it was Nepal, and into China and Tibet. From there it was across “The Stans” – Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. In Turkmenistan, just across the border into the reclusive former Soviet country, Oxford decided to eject the rear left wheel. A somewhat common failure on Series Is, which do not have floating rear axles like later Land Rovers, it happened several times on the original expedition.
Then across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and Georgia, a diversion from the planned route via Iran – no longer advisable after recent developments there since the expedition began. Then it was back to Turkey, and for the first time since Southeast Asia, a reunion with the original route.
They spent a week in Turkey, including taking a spin on the Istanbul F1 circuit and returned to the Hilton Istanbul Bosphorous, where the original team stayed. The trip has spent the past month transiting Eastern Europe, via Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, and Slovakia. In Slovakia, they stopped in Nitra, where the New Defender is being manufactured, and took Oxford for a spin on the production line.
The rest of the trip has been a drive across Western Europe, with a crossing of the English Channel to Britain on Saturday, December 14th. There, the Last Overland ends, but for those that have enjoyed following the journey along the way, there is already a film and book in the works. As for Oxford…well, its adventures are just beginning after being revived.
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