My Tryst With Willys, Jeep and Mahindra 4x4's

by Dr. Anjan Chatterjee
(Nagpur, India)

My 1980 Mahindra CJ4A

My 1980 Mahindra CJ4A

The Indian Mahindra CJ500D 4X4 (even the 2 WD) with the International diesel (MD 2350) was the crudest jeeps of all. When in the 1990's I changed over to a Mahindra 540DP I felt very civilised with the metal doors and the bit of car like feel.


Though noisy while driving it was a great pleasure as the bones would not rattle even after hundreds of kms of driving. But both the CJ500D and the 540DP had lower ground clearances.

Feel now that the Willys CJ3B (earlier LHD versions) with the short chassis (later used in the Mahindra Classic) was the best jeep of all. Sadly, I could drive it for a very short while before it went away.

And then even the Jeep/ Mahindra CJ4A, the Willys CJ3B's replacement with the Hurricane petrol engine, had all the ingredients of a true offroader and also a better ground clearance. However, the Indianisation of the engine and gearbox meant a little lower performance quality.

Offroading would cause body sheet metal cracks, especially near the chassis-body links, and welding jobs would have to be regular, or else one would face squeaks and rattles.

Another sore point was the fuel pump of the CJ4A that would heat up during long road journeys asking you to have a tea break. Wet cotton waste application would soothe it and coax it to restart the onward journey. The on road speeds would be quite sluggish and I remember having driven 110 kmph at full throttle on the petrol Mahindra CJ4A. That was the maximum speed one could extract.

Also remember getting habitually overtaken by even the sluggishly moving cars . The Mahindra CJ 500D was no better and even more sluggish. Touching even 80-85 kmph was an achievement. And the engine noise and mega diesel rattle was deafening and shattering respectively. But it was very, very rugged (the mechanicals did not at all need to be cared for) and very reliable.

With the Mahindra 540DP around, overtaking was a breeze and on road journeys were of better quality. The soft canvas hoods and the rugged metal bodies of these offroaders I miss and can't feel anything can replace such ruggedness with those softly sprung, metal bodied and air-conditioned offroaders which abound today.

The Mahindra Bolero 4X4 (with the Peugeot 2498 cc XD3P engine) that I used later was the best in terms of comfort and on road movement. Its ground clearance is still lower than the 540DP and the metal body and glasses all around would often deter me from taking if farther during the off road driving. Here I would prefer to get parked with the Bolero and walk down, rather than drive further.


Larry's Comment: I like the CJ3B look of your Mahindra CJ4A...tall hood and all!

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