FIRST OVERLAND NEWSLETTER 43
The latest news of the 'First Overland' DVD, based on Antony Barrington Brown's original film footage of the 1955 Oxford & Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition from London to Singapore, and the subsequent 'After
Overland' adventures of the two cars.
Yes, hardly had the engine cooled after travelling back overland from Singapore, than SNX891 (the 'Oxford' car) was back on the high seas, crossing the ocean in the 'Atlantic Sky' to roll ashore in Baltimore — a new continent for a well-travelled car!
Photo from David Short
But more of that in a minute... when I wrote the last Newsletter I finished by saying "See you at Folkestone?". Well, I'm afraid it didn't happen for me, as a family health scare meant that I had to stay in Yorkshire. I was naturally 'gutted', after 6 decades of following the SNX891 story, to miss this important milestone in 'Oxford's history, but there are times when family has to take precedence. I understand it was a great 'Welcome Home' event on the Folkestone Harbour Arm, although timings were nearly scuppered by gales in the Channel — although the original plan was to sail majestically into Dover Harbour (and I had planned a great video shot from the top of the White Cliffs), the rising wind made an on-time ferry sailing less and less likely. Mindful of the hundreds of enthusiasts waiting at Folkestone, the decision was taken to come through the rail tunnel instead.
That was followed by a convoy up to London, and the famous 'Grenadier' pub that has featured so much in the whole London-Singapore story. There was then a press celebration at the Hilton Hotel, before a special visit to the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington. Then the team were off to Salford Quays near Manchester for a live insert into the BBC Breakfast programme, before a dash back into the Pennines so that BBC Leeds could feature the Yorkshire side of the whole story. After that, Adam Bennett got his car back, and took it home to York to cool down.
I'm not going to steal any of 'Last Overland's' thunder by giving more details — there's plenty more to read on the 'Last Overland' website, and I'm sure that we all look forward eagerly to Grammar Productions' completed TV film(s). I just hope that, for UK viewers at least, it's commissioned by a broadcaster that's available free-to-air... unfortunately Alex Bescoby's last broadcast production (about the Ghurkas) was only aired on the History Channel, which is subscription-only, so I wasn't able to see it. I'll also (having seen a 'taster' video) hope that Alex and his team resist the temptation to mimic 'Top Gear/The Grand Tour' — this was a serious expedition in a museum-piece car, and although there was an obvious element of 'the gang's all here' cameraderie, too much lad's buffoonery could dilute the brand.
For the latest 'Last Overland' news, the social media links are @thelastoverland / #thelastoverland. Alex also has an email newsletter that you can sign up if you click here. The expedition website has all the information you need to follow the team, including their biographies — it's www.lastoverland.com.
In Newsletter 41 I promised a video record of the press send-off at The Grenadier — unfortunately, for a number of reasons, it never got finished. But in an interview I did with Adam Bennett about the future of SNX891 after a successful return from Singapore, he said "We had a poll on Facebook about countries it could visit, and places it could go to, and continents, and half the people say Africa… and then the other half of the people you speak to say 'Please can you bring the car to America?'” So it’s not retirement…? “No, I don’t think so. Probably one day, I could see that happening, but there’s life in the old girl yet, and it seems the right thing to do… to visit some places where it hasn’t visited.”
Well, a few days ago I was on the phone to Adam about the sales of his very successful 'First Overland Photobook', and he just happened to mention in passing (as he does!) "The car's in the middle of the Atlantic at the moment, on its way to Baltimore." So, what's the story?
Well, to crib from the Rover Owners Association of Virginia website "In 2020, the 65th Anniversary of the original First Overland journey, Oxford continues its journey of exploration with a tour of North America. With the help of the Rover Owners Association of Virginia (RAOV), Oxford arrived on the shores of the east coast of the United States in January and began to travel westward visiting Land Rover and overlanding enthusiasts’ events along the way. Once it reaches the west coast, Oxford will drive back eastward along the TransAmerica Trail — a 5,000 mile network of dirt roads through the back country of the United States."
'Oxford' on David Short's trailer
So, on January 28th, the container ship 'Atlantic Sky' was in Baltimore Harbour, unloading its cargo, which included SNX891. 'Oxford' was collected by the ROAV President, David Short, and is being prepared for yet another epic journey. But on the ROAV website, David makes it clear that for American enthusiasts to be able to see this iconic vehicle, funds will have to be raised. "Our current plan is to 'crowd-source' the movement and sponsorship of this journey through the combined efforts of the various Land Rover clubs and dealer networks across North America. I am hoping we can have various dealers and clubs assist with the movement of the truck from event to event across the country this Spring and Summer. In late summer, Oxford would then make the return journey back east along the Trans-American-Trail (TAT). We are hoping to bookend this adventure between the ROAV’s Rovers at Wintergreen event in April and the Mid-Atlantic Rally in October"
Adam's son, Miles, is flying to the USA as I type this, to represent his father at the official hand-over to the 'Green Oval' fans of North America.
So, USA enthusiasts — here's your chance. For more details, visit the ROAV website to see how you can contribute to this fantastic enterprise... one of the Top 5 iconic Land-Rovers of all time, now in your country and coming to a trail near you. There is a special web page where you can Donate. But please treat our wonderful car carefully — we want her back (probably so that Adam can send her to Australia?!!!
And finally, a pictorial reminder of some of the places that SNX891 visited 6 decades ago, and another mention for Adam Bennett's 'First Overland... the photos' picture book. With the help of BB's family, he's been through his archive, and the personal photo collections of Tim Slessor, Pat Murphy and Nigel Newbery, and put together a spiral-bound book of images from the original journey to and from Singapore — the majority of them never published before. It's a remarkable collection, which since the beginning of December has sold all around the world. It's a bit late now for Christmas presents, but Easter is already looming on the horizon if you're looking for present ideas — you can either give it to a fellow enthusiast, or drop hints for yourself.
I'll make it clear that, apart from a little picture research, I've had no involvement with this book... but I am handling it on Adam's behalf because I have the facilities through my DVD sales. The details are near the top of my Sales page... the link is below.
Previous 'First Overland' Newsletters are available here.
To subscribe to this Newsletter, and receive notice of updates, please visit my Subscribe Page.
The 'After Overland' web page is afteroverland.co.uk, and 'First Overland' is teeafit.co.uk/firstoverland.
And a reminder of my DVD titles still on sale, priced at £22 (including postage) worldwide — you can order them via the DVD sales page, where you'll also find the Vimeo download details, and the Photobook.