Look back at the birth of the original Land Rover | How Land Rover has driven adventure and scientific exploration | GQ Editor Dylan Jones discusses inspiration with Chief Design Officer Gerry McGovern | Exploring the potential impact of electrification and connected vehicles | Tackling the 999 steep steps up to Heaven’s Gate in China
WORLD OF ADVENTURE
WORLD OF ADVENTURE “ADVENTURE IS STILL EXTRAORDINARY. TO FIND IT, TRAVEL, PREFERABLY OFF THE BEATEN TRACK, AND AWAY FROM THE PREDICTABLE” TIM SLESSOR, FIRST OVERLAND EXPEDITION MEMBER In September 1955, just over eight years after the launch of the first ever Land Rover, two Series I Station Wagons left Hyde Park Corner in London heading towards the Kent coast. It was the start of the now legendary 32,300-mile Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition, a veritable first that would change vehicle-based expeditions forever. Their destination was the port of Singapore in Malaya, the trade hub of south-east Asia and the farthest point from London on the Eurasian land mass. Six undergraduates from the two renowned British universities, fired up by the fact that no land-based expedition had ever made it beyond Calcutta, had started making their plans twelve months previously over a cup of coffee in a student hall of residence. Former journalist and BBC documentary film maker 86-year-old Tim Slessor, was one of them. An original member of the Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition and author of the best-selling book First Overland, he is an intense but immediately likeable man. His bright eyes and sprightly gait tell the tale of an individual who has spent a lifetime pushing boundaries. He is perhaps too an original adventurer. The first of the 330,000 words he wrote in his expedition diary from the trip paraphrased legendary mountain climber and conqueror of Mount Everest Sir Edmund Hillary, “The main object of our Far Eastern Project is a jolly good adventure.” Intrigued, by how an 86-year-old journalist defines adventure today, there is also the more fundamental question of whether there are any real adventures left? Above: Series I Land Rovers SNX 891 ’Oxford‘ and SNX 761 ‘Cambridge’ during the Far Eastern Expedition in 1955 Right: Tim Slessor back at the wheel of SNX 891 at Eastnor Castle after its recovery from St Helena and recent sympathetic renovation by Land Rover enthusiast Adam Bennett “We had more opportunities than young people now,” Slessor says. “Today most of the possible first time adventures have been done.” Some things do not change however. “Adventure is still extraordinary, it is best done with friends and there has to be an element of risk. To find it, travel, preferably off the beaten track, and away from the predictable.” THE ULTIMATE TEST The vehicles were fundamental to the project, a fact the Rover Company immediately recognised along with the chance to generate some very useful public relations. As Tim recalls, “we thought the Rover people were joking when they said you have an opportunity to test the vehicles to destruction.” A year earlier in 1954, undergraduates had ‘overlanded’ to Cape Town and back in two Land Rovers. The lesson was obvious. “A tough four-wheel drive vehicle with low-ratio gears was essential. We concluded that the Land Rover was the only car suitable. We needed two and they cost 600 pounds each, but we had 200 pounds between us.” The team needed financial support and an aim of conducting irrigation fieldwork provided justification that sponsors (of which there were 83 including the Rover Company and the BBC) required. Expedition cameraman Antony Barrington-Brown (known as BB) spoke to a young (now Sir) David Attenborough who had just joined the BBC but would later become the defining figure of the BBC’s world-renowned Natural History Unit. BB persuaded Attenborough to support the team with a camera and film, packing him on his PHOTOGRAPHY: ANTONY BARRINGTON-BROWN (4) 30
Land Rover Magazine showcases stories from around the world that celebrate inner strength and the drive to go Above and Beyond.
In this issue, New Defender is put through its paces by two inspirational young adventurers as they prepare for an expedition to the South Pole. We also celebrate 50 years of Range Rover by taking a journey of discovery to Dubai. As well as looking back, we look to future as a group of visionaries explain the technologies that could change the future for all of us.