In Pakistan, there is a considerably limited choice when it comes to choosing a 4×4 vehicle. The major types are listed below, with a short description and rating for each vehicle. With the older 4×4’s, their off road prowess depends mainly on their owners, while with the newer 4×4’s, it’s mostly up to the vehicle as it cannot be modified much. With these old jeeps, it’s the driver that’s the most important part of the drivetrain, which is what makes them so much fun off the road.
The following jeeps are rated according to Pakistani terrain, where we hardly ever see any mud. We’ve got rocks, more rocks, even bigger rocks, and lots of fine sand! Most of the local jeeps would do terribly in deep mud, so luckily there isn’t any! 4×4 low range can compensate for lack of power in any terrain, but with mud you need raw power coupled with fast throttle response.
The M38 is better known as the “Willy’s Jeep” in Pakistan. Derived from the venerable 1941 Willy’s GP or Ford GPW, the M38 arrived in 1951 and featured a slightly taller and beefier one piece windshield frame, drop down tailgate, larger headlamps, stronger Dana 44 rear axle and upgraded fully waterproof engine and electrical systems which allowed it to operate fully submerged under water.
The Pakistan Army had a large number of these vehicles, which they have been slowly removing from service and auctioning off over the years. They used to be easily available, but now their numbers are declining, and because of their age, almost all are in bad shape. As a result, an M38 in original condition is a bit of a collector’s item, as it has been in the West for many years now.
There are many mechanics and workshops in Karachi, mostly around Lyari and Old Golimar, who rebuild Willy’s Jeeps, but only one of them, the late Dawood ustad, is regarded as a truly original restoration artist. His restorations reside at The Smithsonian Museum, and the New York Museum of Arts. Others, such as Aslam ustad, Shahid and Nasir, closely follow in his tracks. The Willy’s Jeep saw action in the Korean and Vietnam wars (along with many others).
Off road Capability: 10 out of 10
Petersen’s 4×4 Magazine, which is one of the oldest and most reputable 4×4 magazines, in their 50th year anniversary had a listing of the best 4×4 they had come across in 50 years. Most of the list had million dollar custom made machines made for rallies and competitions. The number one 4×4 was the Willy’s Jeep. Unfortunately, this issue is not available online, but I do have a copy of it which I’ll scan and put online in the future. The only other stock 4×4 in the list was the Dodge Powerwagon. Surprisingly, the Land Rover did not make it. The Unimog was also left out as in the US there are hardly any available to the public. The general consensus was that while modern 4×4’s are on paper superior, they lack that certain something which flat fenders have.
Ford GPW and Willy’s MA/MB
The Willy’s MB was the design approved by the US Army Corps during World War II. Ford was also awarded the contract as Willy’s didn’t have the production capacity for the entire US army order. Both Ford and Willy’s produced close to 650,000 jeeps from 1941–1945. The differences between the two are cosmetic, mainly the bolts, the front chassis cross-member, and the embossing on the rear of the body tub. Ford, eager to leave its mark on the anti-Axis war effort, embossed all the bolts and the body tubs they produced with the Ford logo. They also used an inverted U section front cross member under the grill, as opposed to the tubular unit used by Willy’s. All parts are otherwise interchangeable between the two versions.
The Jeep MB is considered an International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark, and changed the way the world looked at and used automobiles. There are more stories about this particular model (the Ford/Willys) than any other automobile.
There’s a dwindling number of these Jeeps left in Pakistan, and any that become available are eagerly snapped up by collectors. Again, like the M38, most are in very bad shape. However, many a brave soul amongst us still uses this World War II relic as their primary camping and expeditionary vehicle.
Off road Capability: 10 out of 10
Same as those noted for the M38. See the following quote from The Jeep, a Real American Hero:
It would “go places where tankers quit and birds would go back exhausted.”
CJ-5 & CJ-7
The CJ-7 was produced from 1976–1986. As the successor to the CJ-5, it was made slightly longer for increased leg room and better handling and stability at highway speeds. Considered the last true classic Jeep, it has a huge cult following in the USA. As is the case with most civilian Jeeps, massive aftermarket support in the US makes them vastly customizable with a whole range of unique suspension and powertrain options offered by companies and cooked up in backyard enthusiasts’ garages. Locally though, most experimentation is limited to engine swaps and suspension transplants from Japanese 4x4s.
In the Northern areas of Pakistan, CJ-5’s and CJ-7’s are extended and used as public transport, similar to the Jeepney in the Philippines. Jeep would be horrified, but it is a testament to their build quality that these Jeeps survive such hard use for which they were never intended.
Off road Capability: 9 out of 10
A stock CJ-7 is second in off road capability only to the military models preceding it. In America, a number have been customized to such an extent that compared to a stock CJ-7 it’s like comparing a Formula One race car to a Suzuki Mehran. The point is that the off road capability depends mostly on the driver and how well the vehicle has been maintained. A well kept CJ-7 can easily be as comfortable as a late model SUV, and many times better off road.
The M170 is based on the tried and tested M38-A1. Basically an M38A1 stretched to 100″ wheelbase, the M170 was built to serve as a frontline ambulance and a field radio carrier. According to which estimate one goes with, anywhere between 2500 to 5000 were produced between the mid-1950s and the early 1960s, which makes it one of the rarest production jeeps. Since it had to transport the sick and wounded, or bulky radio sets, the wheel base was lengthened to accommodate stretchers, front and rear anti-roll bars were added, and the rear leaf springs were stretched. These attributes result in the most comfortable ride of all the military Jeeps. The Pakistan Army had a total of 200 M170’s which are gradually being phased out and replaced with Toyota Land Cruisers and Land Rover Defender 110’s.
Off road Capability: 8.5 out of 10
Like all the other military Jeep’s, it’s extremely capable off road, but the long wheelbase can cause ground clearance issues at sharp break-over angles.
Best known as the “Mutt” in US jeeping circles, but better known locally as the Jeep Commando, this jeep has independent suspension with coil springs at all 4 corners, giving it a very comfortable ride. As of late, a large number have been auctioned off by the Army, and it is quickly becoming the jeep of choice to rebuild for new enthusiasts owing to its easy availability.
As the Mutt was designed by Ford, it is not considered a true jeep by Jeep aficionados. The horizontal slats of the grill are a dead giveaway of that fact, but the vehicle features a heavy resemblance to the M38, and as such is eagerly sought by enthusiasts new to the hobby. Replacement parts for these vehicles are easily available, and the independent coil spring suspension allows faster cross country travel and better ride for a daily driver.
The independent rear suspension configuration of the M151-A1 models allowed excessive body roll, causing the wheels to practically fold up under the vehicle under sharp cornering, sending the vehicle into a violent roll. It is a well documented fact that this vehicle caused more GI deaths in accidents than in wartime operations in Korea. The M151-A2 switched to a trailing arm setup which is a lot more stable, and it was produced by Ford, Kaiser and AM General from 1970 till the introduction of the Hummer in 1982. However, so eager was the NHTSA to remove this rolling deathtrap from American roads, that they had the US military cut the suspension out of each and every one before decommissioning them! Luckily, M151s exported to other armies around the world survived the barbarism.
Off road Capability: 7.5 out of 10
Coil springs make the M151 easy and comfortable to drive on our torn up streets and highways, but design flaws in the suspension also make it the Jeep most likely to roll over, especially during abrupt emergency manoeuvres. In capable hands though, it can be a terrific performer. The independent suspension lends itself well to high speed off road driving, and the low center of gravity makes it relatively stable in off camber situations.
Land Cruiser BJ-40
While the BJ-40 may seem like a CJ-7 clone to many people, it is the result of Toyota’s foray into the booming post-WW2 4×4 market. Toyota had a working prototype of the BJ-40 by the late 50s, and offered it to the public in the early 60s, preceding Jeep’s CJ-7 by at least a decade. There is a large number of these vehicles in Pakistan, both in the military and in private ownership.
Off road Capability: 8 out of 10
Since Toyota originally intended the BJ-40 to be a 1/2 ton truck, it really is over engineered and pretty much unbreakable as a result. Disc brakes available on later models are also by far the best of any old school 4×4. The only weakness to worry about are the Birfield joints in the front axle. These tend to break when oversized tires and modified engines are used. Overall this is an excellent, if slightly pricey, all round 4×4, comfortable and spacious with excellent on-road and off-road manners.
Toyota Land Cruiser (60,80, and 100 series)
The Land Cruiser has become a living legend in the 4×4 world. From braving bitter cold and treacherous crevasses over the glaciers of Iceland, to the scorching heat of the desolate Australian Outback, this vehicle has been through it all. Choice of 4.5L petrol I-6, 4.7L petrol V8, 5.7L petrol V8, and 24 valve or 12 valve 4.2 L turbodiesel make it by far the most powerful SUV available here. However, considering its ridiculous price, it is out of reach for most (read: nearly all) people, and used strictly for travel on paved roads by those lucky enough to have one. It is popular with the Arabs, who use the gasoline powered models for chasing prey, and dune & wadi-bashing. The newer models insulate the occupants from much of what is really going on outside, which subtracts from the driving experience.
Off road Capability: 7 out of 10
Its long wheelbase coupled with the wide track and broad tires makes it very easy to drive on and off road. Locking differentials are also available as a factory option. Unfortunately, most examples that arrive here are far from their 4×4 roots, being equipped with street tires and ground hugging body kits that can’t even handle a little sand. Nonetheless, the tremendously powerful engine and nearly indestructible drivetrain work together to make even the most hamfisted buffoon driver look like Ivan “Ironman” Stewart.
Although the Patrol is in the same class as the Land Cruiser, it is not as expensive. Superb high speed performance in sandy terrain is this vehicle’s forte. One of our own members can testify to the excellent off road composure and handling of this awesome vehicle over the roughest terrain. Practically feet of suspension travel allow it to soak up bumps and obstacles that would stop other vehicles dead in their tracks. This one eclipses even the mighty ‘Cruiser when it comes to high-speed desert running!
Off road Capability: 7 out of 10
While excellent suspension helps the Patrol put every ounce of power to the ground, the older models’ naturally aspirated diesel engine just doesn’t have the kind of power that the Land Cruiser makes. However, the later models got a 4.2L inline 6 turbodiesel, and then the real McCoy which is the indestructible 4.8L petrol inline 6. While, this one’s a real heavyweight like the Land Cruiser, it hasn’t strayed as far from its off road roots.
Toyota Hilux and Surf
The leafspring suspension on earlier models makes for a terrible ride unloaded, but otherwise the Hilux and Surf are very capable off road. As with all modern SUVs, the newer models are designed more for on road than off road use. The new double cabin Hilux is priced at Rs. 3.5 million, so it too has moved far up the price ladder for anything more than mild off road action for the average user — a real shame considering the excellent common rail turbodiesel powertrain it packs under the hood. Although newer models are widely seen in every corner of the country, the ubiquitous 1990’s models remain very popular and desirable. Parts for the Hilux are available everywhere in the country.
Off road Capability: 8 out of 10 for older solid live front axle versions, 7 for independent front suspension versions. The seventh generation Hilux Vigo reigns supreme in the rally racing crowd. The 3.0L D4D turbodiesel is easy to modify for big power, and easily available suspension upgrades make it practically unbeatable in its category. The late eighties and early 90’s Hiluxes are considered Toyota’s toughest and most reliable 4×4.
Dodge Powerwagon aka. Kaykra
Kaykra is Urdu for crab. Like a crab, it can climb over or go through almost anything. The Kaykra is a Dodge Powerwagon 2 ton truck. The Pakistan army still uses them, and there is a small number used as commercial trucks in rough terrain. Whilst not easily available to the average off road enthusiast, The Powerwagon has a legacy of its own and it deserves special mention here.
The Dodge Powerwagon has true 6 wheel drive. Used most commonly as commercial trucks in the Thar Desert, The 4×4 Club has not not yet spotted a single one in half way decent shape. The Dodge Powerwagon is called the Kaykra in Pakistan because its headlights are on its fenders, hence giving it a crab-like appearance.
Off road Capability: 8 out of 10
Six wheel drive makes it virtually unstoppable! However, its massive size makes it impractical and unwieldy.
Universally acclaimed as the go-anywhere truck, the Unimog is still in active service in the Pakistan army. Every few years, a few of them find their way into private ownership through army auctions, where they are eagerly lapped up by collectors and diehard ‘Mog fans. The extremely tall tires, high ground clearance, and insanely low gearing make it virtually unstoppable. Unfortunately, there are hardly any available for sale in Pakistan, and the stock engine is underpowered. There are almost none in civilian hands in decent shape, save for a few here or there.
Off road Capability: 10 out of 10
The stock Unimog has 20 forward and 8 reverse gears, so that means there’s always the perfect gear available for any power/speed requirement. The lowest gear ratio is a subterranean 1:4096! Basically that means you have to look for a while to see whether it’s moving or not. Besides that, portal axles locate the center differential within the recesses of the frame far above the ground, which gives it great ground clearance. They’re slow and lumbering on the highway, but Unimogs are regarded as the most capable 4×4 ever made.
The now discontinued Pajero/Shogun/Montero was Mitsubishi’s flagship 4×4 machine. A light duty SUV designed to compete with Toyota, Nissan and Isuzu, its fatal flaw was that it was ACTUALLY a light duty vehicle nowhere near the high benchmark for toughness established by Toyota and Nissan. A large number of Pajeros were imported to Pakistan, mainly in the 1990s, where they still happily ply the roads to this day.
Off road Capability: 4 out of 10
Some people seem to be under the misconception that the Pajero is a capable 4×4 vehicle. Evolution race versions aside, they should be aware that the only relation a Pajero has with the one running the Paris-Dakkar rally is the name. The 1970’s Toyota Starlet has more off road capability. And yes, the author has bested a Pajero with the Starlet.
Anecdotal evidence aside though, the Pajero is hamstrung in tough off road conditions by small tires, independent suspension that runs out of flex very quickly, and low ground clearance. While these attributes make for a very pleasurable drive in mild conditions likely to be found only on country estates in the UK, they become a liability on any real off road trail. While aftermarket suspension parts and larger tires help, they’re still not enough to deliver the same performance offered by Toyota and Nissan SUVs. In the hands of a capable driver, the Pajero can be a spirited high speed off road machine, but it just doesn’t deliver where finesse is required.
Dewan motors was importing the Gen 3 Pajero, which according to Mitsubushi is based on the “lessons learned” from the multi-million dollar machine which consistently won the Paris-Dakkar rally for a number of years. So it probably deserves a higher rating, but the overall club impression of this car is pretty dismal.
Pajeros remain plentiful in Pakistan, and off road handicaps notwithstanding, their affordability, comfort, and good road manners make them excellent first time 4x4s for most drivers.
Suzuki SJ 410/Samurai/Sierra
The Suzuki SJ-410 is an extremely capable off-roader. Small, nimble and lightweight, it gets around easily on its tiny 1.0 liter four cylinder engine. However, it has the worst ride of any 4 wheeled vehicle ever made. Donkey carts and tractors may ride better. Driving it on the highway is plain torture, for on every bump it bucks like a bronco. On bad roads where heavier vehicles can speed on, the Suzuki gets airborne on every bump and comes down with a bone jarring crash. Not recommended for people with bad backs. Otherwise an excellent machine which can take as much a beating as it hands out to its occupants.
The Samurai is the imported version of the SJ-410 and it was available with a larger 1.3 liter engine, 5 speed transmission, front disc brakes, and slightly lower ride height with softer leaf springs. The interior and exterior are also more attractive, and the seats more comfortable. The Sierra is the coil spring suspended version of the Samurai, and predecessor of the Jimny.
Off road Capability: 8 out of 10
The 1 and 1.3 litre petrol engines are a bit underpowered but get the job done due to the vehicle’s light weight. Requires excessive use of the clutch.
This is the successor to the Samurai/Sierra, and remains an extremely capable off-roader. It switches from leaf springs to coil springs, resulting in a decent ride. The engine is a peppy 1.3 aluminium EFI 4 banger and has more ‘go’. This is the perfect first entry into 4 wheeling — highly recommended to all and sundry. Whenever anyone asks me what jeep they should get, I point them to the Jimny. Suzuki is officially importing the Jimny, so all spare parts are readily available.
Off road Capability: 7 out of 10 for the auto, 8/10 for the manual.
The Jimny has all the essentials: A ladder frame, low range transfer case and solid axles. Off-road, the Jimny holds its own against far more expensive rivals.
Jeep Cherokee XJ
The Jeep Cherokee XJ was rated the best 4 wheeler of the year more than 6 times in the 1990s. About 50 odd right hand drive Jeep Cherokee Country’s were also officially imported into Pakistan, but the local dealer has packed up since, so there aren’t many on the roads anymore. This Jeep is classified as a mid size SUV, and is widely considered the best in its class. Beginning 2002, Jeep replaced the Cherokee brand with the Liberty. The Cherokee XJ is now destined to become a classic like so many others before it.
Off road Capability: 7 out of 10
Small exterior dimensions, ample ground clearance and minimal front and rear overhang make the Jeep Cherokee a joy to drive off road. The I-6 4.0L petrol engine is one of the best mills to find its way into a jeep and makes for an awesome power-to-weight ratio.
Land Rover Defender
There are a few old Land Rovers in Pakistan, but the ones I’ve seen or heard of have all been in terrible shape. I haven’t seen or even heard of one been used off road. Evidently, Land Rovers just aren’t very popular here. That might be changing soon though. The Pakistan Army had received 5000 Defenders by the end of 2003, and there were rumors that they were going to replace all their older Toyota Land Cruisers with Defenders. That fact says a lot about the capabilities of the Land Rover. Sigma Motors is selling Defender 90s and 110s in the Rs 2.2–3.2 million price range.
One major drawback about the Land Rover is that they fall apart very quickly (at least in Pakistan). There were several Discoveries over here in the 1990s, and they have just about disappeared off the roads. The few that remain in running condition are noisy, smoke belching rustbuckets in far worse condition than many comparable vehicles several times their age. 90 percent of the Land Rovers I’ve seen in Pakistan have been moving corpses just waiting to be buried. (excluding the brand new Sigma Motors ones). It’s a testament to the quality of Jeep and Toyota that they can survive Pakistani maintenance and still keep on ticking. No matter how old and roughly used the Jeep or Toyota, they remain capable off road vehicles, while old Land Rovers just keel over and die. Land Rover claims that 70 percent of all Defenders ever made are still running, so it’s a bit strange why they don’t last here. A British telecoms engineer who worked in the bush in Africa for many years told me that everyone there preferred Toyota Land Cruisers and Hiluxes, and while his company did have Land Rovers, everyone used the Toyotas. Furthermore, they would scrap the British cars at 60,000 km and the Toyotas after 100,000 km.
I test drove two brand new Defenders — I was only going to test one but the first one was so bad that I thought there was something wrong with it so went back and got another one out to test that — it was the same. After years of watching them on National Geographic thundering across the African desert I had a lot of respect for them — but no more. It is underpowered, expensive and tiring to drive.
Off road Capability: ??
Land Rovers are were the most used 4×4 vehicles in the world, so obviously they are quite capable. A colonel in the Pakistan army told me that the 4.5 litre petrol engined Land Cruiser II the Land Rover is replacing is more capable off road, probably because the largest and only available engine in the Land Rover is a direct injection 2.8L intercooled turbodiesel.
Basically a re-badged BAW Beijing BJ212 Chinese military 4×4, the Zabardast was Adam Motors attempt to take market share from Suzuki’s Potohar in the locally assembled 4×4 market.
My initial test drive of the Zabardast Jeep in a pre-production prototype was not exactly favourable, but overall the vehicle seemed be a fairly acceptable utilitarian 4×4. It rode a little better than the Potohar and carried 4 people to the test site near Hawkesbay in reasonable comfort, but the 4×4 transfer case failed while climbing a dune and the vehicle also suffered a punctured tire. While I assume production versions were not plagued with these issues, Adam Motors needs serious help in marketing these vehicles. For starters, they need to fire whoever came up with the name ‘Zabardast’ in the first place. The Zabardast is not the least expensive (new) 4×4 in Pakistan; the Potohar is cheaper, but it’s lack of on road poise means its not in the same category. Expect a write up on this vehicle soon.
Update: Shortly after this article was first published, the Adam Jeep won its category in the ‘Freedom Rally 2004’: http://offroadpakistan.com/news/freedom_rally_2004_at_gwadar.php in Gawadar, and came third overall — which is a pretty good.
Basically a first generation Mercedes MLK under a different brand, this is a powerful 4×4 with a ladder type chassis, solid rear axle, independent front suspension and selectable four wheel drive. It has practically every feature known to man — from rain sensing wipers to parking radars to heated seats. The Ssangyong Rexton was imported at the beginning of the 2003 by World Automobiles in Karachi, and it remains a relatively rare and unknown vehicle. Current prices range from 27 to 36 lakh rupees.
Off road Capability: 6 out of 10
ABS is a liability off road. None have been spotted off road by the club yet.
These are cars which look like 4×4s, but are actually just jacked up cars in disguise, and are based off unibody car platforms which are best left on the pavement. They include the following:
- Toyota Harrier
- Lexus RX330
- A bunch of others
A good analogy is that they are like sheep in wolves’ clothing — they have the look but they can’t tackle the rough stuff. You can drive them to surprisingly rough places, but they don’t really survive as luxury vehicles after a journey in the Pakistani offroad.