If you’re a fan of overlanding, even just an armchair one, Tim Slessor should be your spirit animal. In 1955, he led a team that drove a Land Rover from London to Singapore. The expedition took six months, involved a whole lot of impromptu mechanic work knee-deep in mud in all kinds of exotic countries, helped prove the Land Rover’s ability to ferry people and cargo over pretty much any terrestrial object, and, most important, was joyous fun. Slessor wrote a book about his experience called the “First Overland” and the name has stuck. It certainly helped popularize the idea of adventure vehicle travel.
This summer, at the age of 87, with the support of a small team, Slessor will be at it again. Behind the wheel of the very same Land Rover he drove 64 years ago, this time rumbling northwest from Singapore to London. “The Last Overland” this trip is being called, probably because the moniker is a nice bookend, but also because Slessor will turn 88 on the trip and it stands to reason he won’t be doing anything like it ever again.
Least if he does, hope it’s in a vehicle with AC and much better suspension. And seats. And electronics. And better everything, really, than what an admittedly charming 64-year-old Land Rover comes equipped with. The fact that this rig is running at all is astounding. After the big London to Singapore drive, the truck island hopped a bit around the South Atlantic before gently rusting away in a field for a couple of decades. Finally a person who knows their Landies was able to send it back to the factory to be refurbed. Kind of.
It leaks, it rattles, it has apparently had no modern amenities added to soften the ride. Two jerry cans are strapped to side of the Landie. “Gin” reads one. “Tonic” the other. Presumably full of gas. Presumably.
There will be challenges unrelated to the harsh driving. The route runs through China and Tibet and politics and permits will be in play. But Slessor, undaunted, is up for it. The drive for adventure is stronger in Slessor than the tough as nails drivetrain in the rusted old Landie.
“Hell, I live in a little one-bedroom flat. I don’t have a garden — there’s a tendency to get a bit bored,” he said. “An inner whisper has been saying to me for a year or two, ‘In light of your age, do it now, before it’s too late.’ You’re only here once.”
A film chronicling the journey is planned. A trailer is below.