Back in 1955, Land Rovers were fairly new beasts. They’d only been around for about seven years, but they’d already proven themselves to be some of the most off-road capable, and plucky, vehicles on the planet. So naturally, they were the first choice for a group of undergraduates from Oxford and Cambridge when they dreamed up an overlanding expedition from London to Singapore.
The students convinced the fledgling car company to donate two Land Rovers for the trip, one painted dark blue, the other light blue, and named each for the respective colleges of the inhabitants. The students figured the media would jump all over the expedition, and that it would be terrific publicity for Land Rover—if the vehicles, and the students, survived.
The BBC bit and decided to film a short series of documentaries about the trip narrated by a young Sir David Attenborough. Called the Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition, the trip inspired not only the BBC’s films, but also a book, First Overland, by Tim Slessor who took part in the historic trip.
It took six months, but it was a resounding success.
After the trip, the Oxford Landie returned to the UK, then ended up at isolated Ascension Island, way out in the South Atlantic, roughly 1,000 miles from Africa, and 1,400 miles from Brazil. There it sat for decades, kept in use by a local man who lived and worked on the island, until he took it with him to St Helena Island, even further into the Atlantic. Eventually, a Land Rover enthusiast tracked the Oxford down and convinced the owner to sell it to him.
Now, Oxford is back in the UK, still running, still being off-roaded just like it should.
The above video from Land Rover features Slessor and the Oxford, along with a number of drool-worthy Landies that have gone on some serious mileage overland expeditions over the decades. Watching that ancient, charming Oxford truck bang around in the snow is almost enough to make you forget about the lack of power steering, heat, good brakes, power, comfort, stereo, decent wiper blades, auto-locking differentials, and seats that don’t feel like leather bags full of springs. We’ll still take one.