Vishal Narayanaswamy is preparing his 1967 modified Mahindra jeep to be a modern machine and a sturdy off-roader
The powerful thumps of techno artiste Deadmouf drown the drone of the Peugeot diesel engine in this 1967 modified Mahindra jeep. The aural treat comes as a surprise since the military jeep does not appear to have a music system. Vishal Narayanaswamy bends low and points to a space under the dashboard where the music player, complete with speakers, is installed. Fear of theft has led him to do this. For the same reason, he has glued strips of flashing bulbs behind the grille.
Without the electronic music and the flashy red light, the jeep would be lacklustre. It creaks and groans from years of abuse. The portion of the bonnet where the hinges are fastened is rusted. But Vishal is unworried, having seen worse. “In peak-hour traffic on Lattice Bridge Road, the steering wheel came off. To explain what happened to impatient honkers behind me, I lifted up the wheel. Almost everyone went into a tizzy of laughter.”
It has been six months since Vishal bought this jeep. The vehicle was parked at a mechanic's garage for two months for repairs including engine re-boring. “Even today, it has returned from a brief visit to the mechanic,” says Vishal with charming resignation. “When you buy an old vehicle, you should know that your mechanic will see more of it than you.”
Despite the many things that are wrong with the jeep, Vishal loves it with all his heart. It has fulfilled a long-held dream of owning an all-terrain vehicle. As a boy, Vishal went dune-bashing in Dubai, where his family lived for a long time. After moving to Chennai, he went regularly to an All Terrain Vehicle Sporting Centre at Mahabalipuram.
Now 23 years old, Vishal is a student of aviation management at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (Florida). When he comes home , Vishal takes the machine to beaches off East Coast Road. “I have to drive this jeep for at least two hours daily.” He says the jeep will be fit soon for full-scale offroading. In anticipation, he has installed a roll cage, which also helps fix a tarpaulin on the vehicle.
He is determined to establish contrasting features in the jeep. “I want it to be a modern machine as well as a sturdy off-roader,” says Vishal. “I am in the process of installing a mike. There are more plans.”