Twenty-five years ago, a scale-model of a WWII U.S. army jeep cast a spell on Navjit S. Brar. Tied down to a responsible job in the U.S. arm of a Japanese technology major, he never found the time to hunt down a Willys MB or a Ford GPW. Ironically, while on deputation to India, his long-standing dream was fulfilled.
During a visit to Moga, close to his native village in Punjab, Navjit discovered a thriving business in jeeps. In an impressive row of warehouses, jeeps disposed by the Army were either being restored or pimped up with features of older, more exotic jeeps.
“These machines were at various stages of assembly; in one of the warehouses, I found a jeep, almost complete and one that matched the scale-model,” says Navjit. It was a 1982 military Mahindra CJ3B (a model manufactured under licence from Willys) that had been converted to a low-bonnet jeep and liberally decorated with WWII utilities and symbols. Navjit wanted a few changes and additions, which were carried out promptly.
“There is a huge craze for modified jeeps; these guys work flat out to meet this demand. When they are short of any parts, they turn to Dabwali, a small town located in Haryana and close to the Punjab and Rajasthan borders, where a major segment of the population bank on jeep trade for their livelihoods,” says Navjit.
Since the jeep received a Toyota 3C turbo-charged diesel engine, it lost its four-wheel-drive capability. Navjit has no interest in off-roading, and therefore, does not consider this a handicap. The jeep moves with a swiftness and smoothness of a car. At present, Navjit works for the Japanese company from Chennai and lives on the East Coast Road. And, who would not want a fast-moving vehicle when such a road snakes past his house?