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AFTER OVERLAND

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After the 'After Overland' teams returned from Singapore, the two cars, SNX761 ('Cambridge') and SNX891 ('Oxford') were returned to The Rover Company, and used for a while as promotional vehicles. But when the Series 2 Land-Rover was announced in 1958, the 'old' Series 1 model was no longer the one they wanted to promote — the two cars were 'retired'.

'Cambridge' was sold to a dealer, and bought by a group of young explorers, who drove to the Middle East and went their separate ways. The car's official owner, Terence Bendixson, was heading back to the UK, driving at night to avoid the heat, when he ran off the road in a remote area, and crashed into a ravine. He was evacuated out to hospital, and treated for a badly damaged leg, but the fate of the rolled vehicle is unknown. Efforts to find the wreck, or the recovered vehicle, haven't yet been successful.

'Oxford', on the other hand, was loaned to the British Ornithologists' Union, and shipped to Ascension Island in the South Atlantic to support their centenary expedition. After providing transport round the remoter parts of the island, when the expedition ended the car was passed on to the driver of the Cable & Wireless water bowser, in recognition of the help he'd given them. When he retired, he took the vehicle (and a later 88" Land-Rover) to his home island of Saint Helena. There 'Oxford' was cannibalised to provide spares for the 88", and parts of the body and chassis were bulldozed into the hillside when a new road was being put through.

 

 

Many people had had thoughts about trying to repatriate the remains of this iconic car, but it took the determination of a York businessman, Adam Bennett, to get it to happen. In 2017 he persuaded the owner of the remains to part with them, in exchange for a refurbished Land Rover Defender, which he shipped out to the island. Every part of the two Series 1s that could be identified was piled into a container, and taken to York, where Tim Slessor, author of the 'After Overland' book, was reunited with the car he'd last seen 60 years before, and was able to confirm that it was the original.

With the help of Black Paw 4x4 of York, Adam was able to reconstruct SNX891 — some parts (such as the chassis) were beyond repair, and had to be replaced, but the majority of the original car was reassembled, and left in the 'unrestored' condition in which it left St.Helena. In the following months it's been exhibited at various rallies and events, always being driven on the road as an 'in use' vehicle. It's even been to Italy.

 

 

'After Overland' is a new video, charting the 'Oxford' story on Ascension, with the people who drove it; its move to St.Helena, then recovery and restoration. It also features an interview with the driver of 'Cambridge' when it crashed. It was premiered to the public at the Land Rover Series One Club's 70th Anniversary Rally on Anglesey in June 2018, and is now available on DVD here, or for download from Vimeo.

 

 

But the title refers to more than the travels of SNX891 — it also reveals for the first time colour footage shot on a subsequent expedition 60 years ago. In 1958 Tim Slessor and Antony Barrington-Brown took one of the newly-released Series 2 Land-Rovers on an overland journey back to the Far East. They were searching for the famed 'White Elephants' of Burma, and the film features their journey, and the people and places they found on the way. There is also rare footage of a young 'White Elephant' — not pure white, but considerably paler than normal, and a source of great pride to its owner.

If you'd like to be kept up to date on progress of SNX891; the (unlikely) rediscovery of SNX761, or need any other information,
sign up for the TSV DVD Newsletter here, or contact Graeme Aldous.

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