The first overland expedition was in 1955, after months of extensive preparation, six students from Oxford and Cambridge Universities, aboard two identical Land Rovers 86-inch Series I, set off on The Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition. Flagging off from Hyde Park in London, headed through Europe, the Middle East and Asia, before arriving in Singapore from Thailand and Malaysia. After six months and six days, the team returned to London in August 1956 having logged over 32,000 miles. This was one of the longest overland journey during that time and no one or no vehicles has ever done it.

Tim Slessor, a member of the expedition, is still alive today to share their amazing stories. He has also published his book and DVD “First Overland – London to Singapore by Land Rover” He also mentioned in recent Land Rover Magazine, my last thought would be when I “move on”, take me off in a Series I please!

Film.13410.den-thuong-de-cung-phai-cuoiseriesi1954560vl.6649My first reminder of the 86-inch Series I is when it appeared in the all-time favourite classic comedy “THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY” where I watched with my parents. The Gods Must Be Crazy is a 1980 South African comedy film. Set in Botswana, it follows the story of Xi, a San of the Kalahari Desert whose tribe has no knowledge of the world beyond, a biologist who analyses manure samples for his PhD dissertation, and a newly hired village school teacher. Xi did some hilarious things with the Series I.

The 86-inch Series I created countless milestones for Land Rover and touched the lifes of many. It is the first vehicle that most of our grandparents and many rural communities around the world have ever seen. After it’s introduction to the the world during the First Overland Expedition in 1955, sales bookings came in immediately from the countries they visited and the Land Rover Company has never looked back since.


Land-rover-069The Land Rover Series I has 2 pre-production and 2 production models. This original Land Rover saved one company and created another. It helped Britain’s auto market back on its feet after the deprivations of WW2. Britain’s manufacturing industry was hampered by shortages of material; even jam was rationed. The government then has rationed limited supplies of steel to those companies that could export their products and the Rover Company was not one of them. Rover needed a salable vehicle with worldwide appeal.

Inspired by the ex-WW2 Jeep, the head of design team Maurice Wilks sketches the first design on sand at a beach and the Series I was born! No steel was available at the time so Rover made use of an abundance of aluminium that was left over from the war and a design minimal tooling was used.

Land-Rover-series-1-prototypeThe first pre-production Series I model was the centre steer with the steering located in the centre so it would appeal to both left and right hand drive market. The idea was shelved due to requirement for a major design to the mounting of the engine. The centre steer Series I was built only as prototype in 1947. The original centre steer, regarded as the Holy Grail of Land Rovers is lost and cannot be traced. Only pictures and replicas are available.

hue166148 units second pre-production Series I model were hand built in 1947 and sent to farmers around Britain for testing. The most famous and desirable Land Rover now is Land Rover Production No.1 with the registration plates HUE 166 placed now at the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon in Warwickshire, UK. This unit is the true forefather of the Land Rover Company and Defender which saw the end in production in 2015 ending a 67 years of legacy for this model.

series 1 in sabahThe first production model were the Early 80-inch Series I models. This is where it all began. The original 80-inch Series I Land Rovers were built from 1948 to 1953. From 1948 to 1951, it was fitted with a 1.6 litre four-cylinder petrol engine generating 55 Hp and 112 Nm of torque. It has a four speed manual gear box with two-speed transfer box with permanent four-wheel drive (later selectable). Later between 1951 to 1953, it has a new 2 litre engine with 52 Hp and 134 Nm of torque. The distinct difference in this model is the front grille which covers the head lamps and has no external door handles. The front windscreen panel do not have ventilations where it can be opened by the occupants by flipping a level.

series1_scrapThe Early Series I were imported into the island of Borneo during the North Borneo Company’s rule and traces of the Early Series I can still be found in Sabah. You just need to look for them in the small towns in some shed or under a tree which makes a great restoration project!
LandRoverS1_86The second production model, the Later 86-inch Series I Land Rovers were built between 1953 to 1958. The chassis was increased to 86 inches and it has many more refinement than the 80-inch Series I. First off, longer chassis means they are more comfortable to drive and many design flaws of the 80-inch models which were based on the wartime jeep were fixed. The 86 inch was properly redesigned with properly thought-out, sensible, capable vehicle. It still has the same 2 Litre petrol engine and with slab-sided body panels. The 86-inch Series I still have that wonderful 1950s simplicity and appeal, but they drive better, have more load space, weather seals and driving position is not so cramped. Distinctive difference from 80-inch Earlier Series I is the front grille do not cover the head lamps, has external door handles, larger and tougher windscreen frame.


I stumbled upon this 1956 86-Inch Series I last year from a Land Rover parts specialist in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia while looking for parts to convert my Defender 90 pickup to a station wagon. I felt an immediate connection and was inspired to do a restoration project of this 60-year-old Series I Land Rover.

Documenting restoration project for Series I is not new, especially in the UK. However, documenting the first Series I restoration project in Sabah, Borneo is something else. More interestingly is to discover the origins of this Series I bearing registration no B 160 S. Only the 160th car registered in Beaufort, the original and first owner of this car is still alive to tell the stories!


References and further read:


This production was done in 2012. Was a supporting cast in the offroading section and my defender 90 was used in the making of this video. Shots taken in Imbak Canyon and Kota Belud.



“Life is a journey, not a destination” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Overlanding as the name suggests, describes undertaking a journey over land whether with your own vehicle or on your own two feet or in an overland truck with other people. The essence of overlanding, no matter what your mode of transport, is that the journey is what is important, not the destination.

The beauty of overland travel is that you get to see and experience parts of a country or continent that would be very difficult to access, if not impossible without a vehicle. You get the opportunity in meeting new people, or simply after an affordable way to travel from one stunning location to another, an overland trip will cover the best highlights, national parks and adventure travel activities that the location has to offer.

But overall, overlanding is more about your attitude. You need all the usual attributes to enjoy travel. You need an open mind, to be tolerant of other people, a sense of humour and you must relish the idea of foreign places and unusual situations. By nature there is a lot of camping involved which makes it a cost-effective way to travel. If you enjoy camping in the open, sitting around a campfire, looking out of the window at different scene every day, and don’t mind skipping a shower every now and then, overlanding is for you.


The Borneo Expedition is an adventure travel series to develop, document and promote sustainable overland routes within the island of Borneo and beyond. Each expedition comprises of an exhilarating experience designed to promote key destinations of significant geological, ecological, cultural and historical importance.  This is our first venture into videography. Working on the final edit and will be released in the first quarter of 2016 and hope to get this adventure series up and running to promote overland tourism in Borneo and beyond.

Episode 1 touches on the experience of 4 overland vehicles and 10 crew members traversing more than 600 Km from the city of Kota Kinabalu to the most southern town of Sabah which borders the fringe of the Kalimantan and Sarawak Border. The journey involves a 180 Km offroad section and upon reaching Long Pasia, expedition members have to track a journey of 30 Km return to the Maga Nooh Campsite located at the beautiful Maga Falls.

Long Pasia is also the home of the Lundayeh people of Sabah that has similarities with neighbouring Lundayeh people of Kerayan-Kelabit highlands of East Kalimantan in Indonesia and Lawas, Sarawak where they called themselves Lun-Bawang. The Lundayeh plants padi as the main source of income and the rice of Long Pasia are considered the best similar to the the famous rice planted from Bario of the Kalabit highlands. Long Pasia is already famous for a place that is very far down south and the Maga Falls is also shortlisted by Sabah Tourism Board as a destination. However, information is not comprehensive of the surrounding trails and tourist attractions around Long Pasia. The Ministry of Tourism and Environment Sabah has made an excellent effort to educate the people of Long Pasia to convert or take up their homes under the homestay programmes. Villages are invited to undergone basic training to run homestay businesses in Long Pasia.

Based on feedback and discussions with homestay operators, one of the most common problems faced by them was not having enough guests. There was this myth that has been perpetuated that once they build the homestay, attend a training course and received a certificate of attendance and licence to operate, the customer will come.

Not sufficient efforts were made for marketing, promoting, pricing, packaging and engaging with the tour operators who may be able to play a leading role. Some could not engage in conversation in English with the guests and were unable to meet the needs and interests of the guests. Just like any other business, Homestay is only a viable business if done right. For a successful homestay development, the certain conditions must be present to ensure a long and sustainable growth. Many NGOs have come to Long Pasia and they have contributed their part to educate and uplift the living standards of the villages by implementing hydro-power, solar power and so on..  However, more effort can be channel to the development of assets based tourism products such as surrounding activities and trails to support the development of the homestay business.

The people of Long Pasia to date still have to consume untreated water from the river, live on few hours of solar power and generator sets per day. Major income is still rice planting which are only harvested once per year. Most of the rice harvested are only for self-consumption as not much more to sell. Due to the altitude of Long Pasia (above 1,000 M), low land fruit trees all bear sour fruits, palm tree do not grow well (luckily) and they don’t have much alternative crop other than planting rice.


This project aims at complementing the homestay programmes for the people of Long Pasia by developing the most important criteria, Asset Based Tourism Products.

Long Pasia has a rich natural environment, biodiversity, adventure activities and culture which are the main ingredients for a successful homestay development programme. This project proposed to implement the following:-

  1. To improve the facilities and trails of the Maga Falls and its surrounding areas.
  2. To produce marketing materials for promotion of the activities surrounding Long Pasia.
  3. To do join promotion with Travel magazines, Tourism organisations to put Long Pasia as a strong destination for domestic and international tourist.
  4. To produce a certificate of achievement for the Maga Falls trail.
  5. To work out a pricing strategy for tour products including homestay from Long Pasia and work with interested tour operators.
  6. To produce Episode 1 of The Borneo Expedition – Long Pasia Xpedition to promote Long Pasia and Maga Falls.


Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia were kind enough to loan us their all new Mitsubishi Triton for filming of our Episode 1 and we wish to thank MMM for their wonderful effort which without the Triton, we would have not enough cargo space to carry our equipment and rations. We were also given the chance to drive the all new Mitsubishi Triton and we were impressed!  A true workhorse vehicle and we hope to get to use it more on our future expeditions! Thank you Jassie Gan and the Mitsubishi Team for the speedy coordination and approvals!

Big thank you also to GT Radial of Indonesia for providing the mud terrain tyres to fit the Mitsubishi Triton and their performed wonderfully. Thank you Leonard Goh and the team at GT Radial Indonesia for the long term support towards our ventures!

We would like to work with more partners such as corporate organisation, governmental organisation, non-government organisation (NGOs), media organisations to achieve our mission and if you believe your organisation can support and contribute to this CSR project, please contact Mr. John Kong (Hp: +6016 8349888) and Email: so we could share more information with you.




sponsors_logoA photo exhibition themed “MOUNTAIN TORQ – World Highest Via Ferrata by John Kong” was held during the relaunching of the via ferrata circuit on Mount Kinabalu by Mountain TORQ on Jan 19th, 2016 at Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu. The exhibition was hosted by Mountain TORQ, the company that is operating the via ferrata and was officially launched by YAB Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, the Minister of Tourism, Enviroment and Culture Sabah. The event was also attended by 200 invited VIPs and guests which consisted of YM Dato’ Seri Tengku Dr. Zainal Adlin, Chairman of Sabah Parks, YB Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, Chairman of Sabah Tourism Board, Dr. Jamili Nais, Director of Sabah Parks, Datuk Irene Benggon Charuruks, General Manager of Sabah Tourism Board, Pn. Azizah Aziz, Director of Corporate Communications, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, members of the tourism industry and medias.

For this exhibition, 20 prints were exhibited which covers the new summit trail which is now called Ranau Trail and Aki Point, a new observation bridge along the new Ranau trail that has beautiful scenery of the Mesilau peak, eastern ridge of Mt Kinabalu and Ranau town. A 24 page 2016 Calendar was also produced for Mt. TORQ as a momento to guests and 6 VIP Fine prints mementos were also printed and framed.

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Photos were taken during the recent Mt Kinabalu Expedition in December 2015 when the new summit trail was opened to the public. I would like to thank YAB Datuk Masidi Manjun and the tourism industry for the words of appreciation and encouragement towards my work and also all friends and colleagues who has made this event and project a success and another milestone of my work.

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Special thanks to Mountain TORQ who trusts me with my work and hosting the exhibitions, Sabah Parks Board of Trustee for granting us a special permit and assisting our team to photograph the new Summit area, Nikon Malaysia (NPS) for loaning me the awesome Nikon D4s and D810 camera bodies, Pro Art for generous support for sponsoring the exhibition fine prints, Sabah Tourism Board for using my images for future promotions of Sabah and finally to the expedition team members, Wong Hoe Kiat @ Pepsi who suffered AMS during our climb, Lee Shui Khiong @ John who most happy as he made the poster boy, all mountain guides and rangers of Sabah Park and all members of the Mountain TORQ team who has made our stay at Pendant hut and most welcomed and also most importantly to work together with me to capture the best beautiful photographic moments!




REDISCOVERING THE SUMMIT TRAIL – From November 28th to 5th December 2015, the Borneo Expedition team members John Kong, Wong Hoe Kiat and John Lee spent a week at Pendant Hut, operated by Mountain TORQ to rediscover and document Mount Kinabalu new summit trail which is now opened to the public from December 1, 2015.

Mount Kinabalu, which stood strong after the June 5th earthquake with a magnitude of 6.0 rocked the mountain and took 18 lives. Since that day, the summit trail to the peak was closed by Sabah Parks for maintenance and to rebuild a much better and safer trail. The daily lives and incomes of the silent heroes of Mt. Kinabalu, the mountain guides and porters were greatly affected by the quake with the closure of the park to climbers. Risking their lives, they worked with Sabah Parks rangers to rescue stranded climbers during the quake by bringing them and carrying some to safety. Take note that all the facilities and amenities at Laban Rata; the chalets, the bed, the food, the wood that makes the steps and all luxury comfort and utility items are carried by them, piece by piece, day by day like human ants. We had the opportunity to meet up with Ridzuan, one of the 3 Sabah quake heroes during our visit and had to opportunity to photograph him.

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WE HAD A BLAST! During our expedition, we managed to catch up with Sabah Park’s first climb to the summit lead by Y.B. Tuan Kamarlin Bin Ombi – Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture & Environment Sabah, Sabah Park’s Chairman, YM Datuk Dr Tengku Adlin and Director Dr. Jamili Nais, Deputy Director Dr Maklarin Lakim together with MOTCE, Sabah Parks management and other members of the media. We also get to join YM Datuk Tengku Adlin on his attempt on Mountain TORQ’s “Walk The TORQ” via ferrata route to kick off the start of the mountain activities! Not only did YM Datuk Dr Tengku Adlin did the via ferrata, he also led a group of para gliders to fly from the summit plateau of Mt Kinabalu to Kundasang, Ranau early in the morning on December 2nd, 2015 and what an awesome view!

We went up and down the new summit trail over the next few days and thanks to Mt. AKI, we had beautiful sunrises, sunsets, morning and evening weather to enable us to really capture the true beauty of Mt. Kinabalu even surpassing our own expectation of the weather! Thank you Mt. Aki for letting us to capture you, the new and true beauty of Malaysia’s and Sabah’s pride to the world.

Most of all we would like to thank Sabah Park Board of Trustee (Pn Rimi and En. Rodzan) for granting us a special permit to document the new summit area, providing assistance by Sabah Park rangers and most of all providing medical assistance to one our team member who suffered AMS during our expedition. Our appreciation to En. Engelbert of Sabah Parks, Dr Nazim and his team members to provide voluntary medical and emergency services for climbers up on the mountains! Our solute to the great effort of Sabah Parks and the emergency team and this has really bring Mt. Kinabalu’s climbing to higher safety standards.

We also wish to thank Mountain TORQ for hosting our food and accommodation at Pendant Hut during our stay and we wish to thank Wilfred, I-Quek and the team especially trainers Ali, Pody, James and Sudin and the rest of the Mountain TORQ team members for making our stay most comfortable and enjoyable and we hope to stay longer! We really hope that the via ferrata will be up and running soon and with our pre-photo session of the via ferrata routes, WE WANT MORE!!

Powerful images need powerful camera and equipment to capture them. We also wish to thank Nikon Malaysia and Nikon Professional Services (NPS) for loaning us two of Nikon’s top of the line professional camera bodies, the Nikon D4s (16 Mp) with the ability to capture even small details in the dark without noises and the amazing Nikon D810 (36 Mp) with images created with such awesome details beyond my expectation.

Most of all, we would like to thank you, yes you for looking at this album  and we hope you enjoy the images generated by our team during our expedition and YES, please like and share our album to the world over to let them know that Mt. Kinabalu, Malaysia’s 1st World Heritage Site is up, ready and much more beautiful than before to welcome visitors!!

For those who are interested to climbed Mount Kinabalu, please make this your NEW LIFE LIST to climb Mt. Kinabalu to enjoy the true beauty of mother nature as well as to support the daily living of the mountain guides and porters to make this a truly sustainable eco-tourism product for the local communities surrounding Kinabalu Park.

John Kong – Photographer / Expedition Leader / NPS Member