Gone but not forgotten
Gone but not forgotten: Maruti Suzuki Gypsy
The plug has finally been pulled on the workhorse of the armed forces, off-road enthusiasts and rally raid competitors
Indestructible. If there’s one word to describe the Gypsy, that would be it. Go-anywhere too, but over and above everything else, it Will Not Die. And I say that from personal experience.
The 2016 Desert Storm. The rally raid bug had bitten me while wandering around the Dakar bivouac in Argentina, and with just three weeks to go, I sent in the entry, rented out a Gypsy and bullied our motorsport ed Aniruddha to navigate for me — all over the phone. Two days before the ’Storm I landed in Delhi and — oh, joy! — discovered I’d rented an ex-Army Gypsy with holes in the body; that was older than me; whose engine had half the horses it once came with. And that was me being optimistic. With borrowed sand ladders and a jugaad fuel tank guard it passed scrutiny and over the seven-hour transport stage we discovered the headlights barely worked, the 4x4 didn’t engage at all, and the suspension was better suited to a bullock cart.
Overnight we had to SOS the service crew to sort out the 4x4. Nothing could be done about the dead horses in the engine and I was dog slow on the first day, dropping something like 15 places. Flat in fifth it barely did 80kmph. My misery ended 10km into the stage on day two when the electricals gave up but, curses, we ran into our service crew while I was figuring out the quickest way to get home from Bikaner. As we wolfed down aloo parathas, they re-wired the Gypsy and sportsmanship meant I now had to tackle the 100km marathon stage. Of course, our Gypsy didn’t have the auxiliary fuel tank and we barely made it to the halfway point to refuel. And since we had, like, 30 horses we spent an hour trying to climb the dune over which our service crew was perched, getting passed by all the Gypsys we’d moved mountains to overtake in the stage. Oh, I forgot to mention, we didn’t even have an auxiliary fan and by the end of the stage, the head gasket blew, the Gypsy spewing steam like a volcano. Topping up the radiator ten times we reached Jaisalmer, miraculously within MPL (Max Permitted Lateness), and then, overnight, the service crew put in a new head. Why won’t you die I screamed at the Gypsy, when the crew woke me up next morning and said we’re ready to go.
But they’d finally discovered a few of the missing horses and I started making time, even setting the second fastest time overall on the last stage. Nowhere in the world will you find a car that gets better and quicker as a rally progresses! Eventually we finished second in class, later revised to third when the organisers discovered yet another cock-up in the timing sheets. As for the Gypsy, we busted a taillamp while ramming a competitor who was blocking us and, with that taillamp dangling and sand seeping out of all the holes, it was driven to Arunachal for the Festival of Speed where, three years later, it continues to make noise in rallies. A Gypsy, after all, never dies.