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  • Car #Mahindra-CJ340
    Name John Carroll Age 53
    From Heswall, Wirral
    First classic 1968 Minor 1000 Traveller
    Dream classic 1932 Ford Model B roadster
    Favourite driving song Ramrod Bruce Springsteen
    Best drives California’s Rubicon Trail; Camel Trophy Tanzania- Burundi; crossing Scotland’s Caledonian Canal; retracing the Long Range Desert Group route, Egypt ( August 2012)


    They say ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ and that’s definitely the case with my #1989 Mahindra. I have long adored the lines of classic utility 4x4s from the middle of the 20th century, especially the ‘flat fender’ Jeeps. With hindsight, I realise that it all started decades ago when the opening scenes of Kelly’s Heroes captivated a Wirral schoolboy.

    Mahindras – Greek-assembled, Indian licence-built Jeeps – started appearing in Britain in the late 1980s. I hankered after one to the extent that G193 OYC became my company car. Nicknamed ‘Mad Hilda’ by misspelling its maker’s name, it was red and shiny and dreadfully assembled, but I loved it. I persevered with its dodgy electrics and knew that, underneath, a real #Willys-CJ-3B was trying to get out. Numerous vehicles were manufactured in India after they were discontinued in their country of origin, the CJ-3B being produced as the Mahindra. The licence-built Willys is part of the global social history of the 1950s, in fact: CJ-3Bs have been made in Spain, France and Japan by Viasa, Hotchkiss and Mitsubishi, and assembled from CKD kits in other factories.

    Mad Hilda took me everywhere; I even ventured as far as Geneva in it once. Closer to home, I drowned it in a rain-swollen ford on the North York Moors, which required an engine rebuild and three new conrods. A change of employment and the Mahindra importer going into liquidation enabled me to buy mine as a cheap non-runner in about 1992. I was aware that the parts designed to modernise the vehicle were generally the things that let it down, both in terms of longevity and styling.

    So, on taking ownership, the transformation began; pattern Willys wings replaced the ungainly and rusting Mahindra ones. The red panels had all faded to different hues but a brushed coat of NATO Green sorted that out and a set of autojumble-sourced Jeep CJ5 steel wheels looked better than the white eight-spokes. A pair of crimping pliers went a long way to improving reliability and the Mahindra was great for green-lane jaunts, occasional 4x4 club competitions and driving around with the roof down.

    It has been constantly evolving over the years and gained a Spanish military windscreen, plus a genuine Willys bonnet, grille and tailgate all found in the small ads of military vehicle club mags. Willys seats are visible upgrades, European wheel bearings and propshaft universal joints less so. Replacement springs became essential, a disc front brake conversion comforting and a rearmounted, gearbox-driven winch useful. A pair of freewheeling hubs and a Bestop roof reduced vibration and draughts. Different lights have come and gone and I transferred the private plate from one of my Land-Rovers. Numerous wheel and tyre combinations have been tried out – a lady can have many pairs of shoes – and still get changed depending on use or whim. I’ve had other classic Jeeps over the 20-plus years since I bought the CJ340 – including far more soughtafter WW2 models – but this is the one that I always come back to.

    Years ago, I used to be slightly bothered that some snobby Willys MB owners snubbed it as not being a ‘real’ Jeep, but now I just don’t care. I don’t drive it for them or because I can’t afford anything else. It’s been on military vehicle trips to Normandy, 4x4 adventures to the Alps and The Netherlands, green-laning all over England and Wales, along Scotland’s highest usable road and to numerous pubs on empty moorland routes.

    Best of all, a girl who had a ride in the #Mahindra when it was new was surprised to learn, on renewing our acquaintance in 2009, that I still owned it and has claimed the passenger seat as her own permanently. So don’t expect to see this Jeep in the classifieds anytime soon.
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