To mark Pakistan’s 73rd Independence Day – I pick the nation’s most important cars
In honour of Pakistan’s 73rd Independence day, I thought I’d pick the 10 most important cars for Pakistan’s motorists and car enthusiasts – to do this I enlisted the help of a few friends – so shout-out and thanks to Mohsin Ikram, Muhammad Arsalan Bela, Shahzad Majid, Shamy Khuhro, Reza Adil, Ali Adil, Farrukh Ahmed, Shaheer Hakki, and Danish Ali – yep the famous YouTube comedian, he’s a car guy too!
Now for those of you that don’t know, this day in 1947 marks the day that the British finally said toodle-pip and left the Indian subcontinent after some er… gentle persuasion. Actually that’s not true, because they finally left India, as it was then formed after partition, the next day. Partition? So before the British left, they facilitated (to put it as politely as possible) the splitting of the Indian subcontinent into two countries – India and Pakistan (and later three including Bangladesh).
So why a day after for India? Because the last viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, wanted to attend both Independence Day ceremonies, so he did India the next day – probably because Lady Mountbatten wanted to spend a bit more time with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru as she had a thing for him – or was that Lord Mountbatten that had a thing for him? Anyway, that’s a whole different story for another time and place. But I’ll do something on India and cars tomorrow – stay tuned!
Let’s count down the Top Ten Pakistani Cars!
10. Toyota Land Cruiser RKR 70 Series
Popular with the army, the police and with off-roader fans – the Land Cruiser is of course a legend the world over for being able to go anywhere, and survive anywhere, with minimal maintenance and upkeep. You can’t go wrong with one of these.
9. Suzuki Cultus
Essentially the Suzuki Swift (although the latest generation in Pakistan is actually a rebadged Celerio) this was your step up from Alto/FX/Mehran ownership once you’d made a bit more money.
8. Mercedes 230
Or indeed any Mercedes – although these are indestructible old tanks that still soldier on around the world whilst retaining their dignity and grand aura. But ultimately if you’ve really made it in life, the only way to tell the world is to get a MarSaDeez!
7. Datsun 120Y
If you’ve been in an old black and yellow taxi – it was probably one of these. You can keep them running with some string and glue for eternity.
6. Volkswagen Beetle
Affectionately they call this the Foxi – which I think derives from how the word Volkswagen must have been shortened to Volksy and then pronounced differently. Regardless, there is as much love for the VW Bug in Pakistan as anywhere else, and whole sub-culture of restoring and modifying Beetles still exists.
5. Honda Civic VTI
Particularly in the late 90s and early 2000s getting a Civic VTI was a big step up the status ladder, but the added bonus was that it also proved something of performance saloon for the market. So much so that it’s still highly regarded and sought-after by the enthusiasts and street racing communities. And Civic remains an aspirational purchase.
4. Suzuki Dabba (Carry)
The tiny Suzuki minivan – known as Dabba (Urdu for box) is just about everywhere, used for everything from a commercial van to family mover. Not the most spacious, comfortable or reliable vehicle, but heck it certainly got the people moving.
3. Mitsubishi Pajero
At one point this was a must for Feudal Lords and politicians – you weren’t really powerful until you had a Pajero (Shogun) with Kalashnikov-equipped guards in the back. It’s a bit passé now, and the cars are positively ancient, but once upon a time it was the Mercedes G-Wagon of Pakistan.
2. Toyota Corolla
Any Corolla will do – it’s the world’s best-selling car, and in Pakistan it’s highly regarded and valued. Most loved of all are the last of the rear-wheel drive Corollas and particularly the early 1980s square-box models. These are positively collectable now!
1. Suzuki Mehran/Alto/FX
It’s known as the ‘Boss’ and with good reason. Everyone has either owned or been in one of these, they will keep driving whilst everything rusts away or falls off, and they’re somehow the most capacious superminis on the planet. They’re also a bit of a laugh to peddle hard.
It’s not just Pakistan’s most important car, but also India’s, badged there as a Maruti. More on India tomorrow – stay tuned and make sure you subscribe!
Honourable Mention – 1922 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost
Oh but before I go – there must be an honourable mention for the 1924 (I mistakenly say 1942 in the video above – doh!) Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, which could be the most important car in the history of Pakistan. It was the car that the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Mountbatten, rode in to the Sindh Assembly Building on 14 August 1947, to formally announce the creation of Pakistan.
It was actually owned HH The Nawab of Bahawalpur and loaned to the fledgling government of Pakistan for the occasion and put in the service of Jinnah as his official car.
I actually met this very car in 2012 (and took these pics) at the Kuwait Concours. It’s now owned by classic car collector Karim Chhapra. Amazingly the car had remained the property of the family of the Nawab of Bahawalpur until 2003 and had only 7000 miles (11,250km) on it from original.
Chhapra bought it in 2003 and painstakingly restored the car in Pakistan over a period of around 18 months, with new interior upholstery and paint, though the car largely remains original. It has a 7.4-litre 48.6hp six-cylinder engine and a four-speed gearbox. It even still wears the original number plate.
At the concours it won best in class taking first place in the 1910-1930 category ahead of a 1929 Cord in second with a 1929 Hupmobile taking third – astonishingly that car also belonged Chhapra!