The Defender

Trip Start Sep 28, 2010
Trip End Sep 01, 2011

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Where I stayed
The Mittal's House

Flag of India  , NCT,
Sunday, October 3, 2010

Those of you who know me know that I am a total gear head. In many of my past adventures, a vehicle has played a prominent role – I had an old BMW R100 GSPD motorcycle that I drove around Australia and New Zealand, and two years ago I took my old Porsche 911 across the US. Not surprisingly, the Indian adventure comes with a new vehicle: a 1987 ex-military Land Rover Defender 90 soft top. The learned reader of this blog, versed in car history, should be saying now "aren't those military vehicles from England?" And the learned traveler of India, who also knows about cars, is probably saying “I have never seen those trucks around India. How has he bought one there?”

Yes, those are both very good questions. And the roots of their prompting may prove to make this endeavor disastrous, or absolutely brilliant! Let me explain. I will be testing LFCs all over India, preferably even in rural areas that are only accessible by rough roads. In our last trial, we destroyed the suspension of a Toyota Corolla by simply driving it across Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda, mostly on decent roads. A fundamental requirement of this project was a rugged vehicle that could go anywhere, and survive doing it. The other requirement was a vehicle for a massive overland trip. I plan to spend next summer driving from India to Europe through Nepal, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Russia, and then through the European Union. There will be plenty more about this harebrained idea in future entries.

A Land Rover Defender is a pretty good vehicle to meet these requirements. They are fix-with-a-hammer simple, reasonably reliable, and made to take a beating and last. Through the 80’s and 90’s, the British Military continued using my truck instead of upgrading to newer models and technology because it was so simple to repair in the field. Something like 75% of all Defenders and its predecessors, dating back to 1948, are still on the road. Parts are available for them throughout Asia. And because the truck is coming out of the EU, I should have a lot less trouble bringing it back in compared to a vehicle from India.

But I forgot to mention the primary feature of the truck that made me buy it – it’s seriously badass. You see these trucks all around Africa, and for the past five years while I’ve worked there, I’ve wanted one. The soft top exponentially increases the coolness, hopefully aesthetically and literally – India’s hot!

After only four days in Delhi, I am heading off to Mumbai to pick up the Defender and then drive it back. It’s taken some logistical acrobatics to get it here – for an American to buy a car in England, ship it to India, and obtain driving permits from Canada (long story not worth writing here) was not easy. But it is scheduled to arrive in the Nhava Shiva port of Mumbai on Oct. 3, and I will be there to meet it. Well, meet it I doubt, but starting the customs clearance process, yes. Wish me luck…
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