Driving the Maruti Suzuki Jimny and Gypsy on the same day.
The Maruti Suzuki Jimny has just been launched in India and the discussions and the debates are quite rightly focused around its price, value, etc. I will leave all this talk to the auto analysts, but being a hardcore auto enthusiast, I want to share my recent experience of driving the new Maruti Suzuki Jimny and an old Gypsy, on the same day. A day I must say that felt like I was in paradise.
First I drove the new Maruti Suzuki Jimny in a river bed in Uttarakhand.
This was about a fortnight ago. The day started with me getting into the Maruti Suzuki Jimny in Dehradun just as the sun was coming up. I then drove through this fast growing city that was just beginning to wake up, to a farmhouse on its outskirts overlooking a large riverbed. Being summer, the riverbed was mostly dry.
Later in the day I was fortunate to get behind the wheel of an old Maruti Suzuki Gypsy, also in a riverbed.
After a quick breakfast by about 7.30 am I was tackling the mainly natural off-road stages that Maruti had selected to let some of us feel and experience the off-road capability and performance of the Jimny. I have already written about this in my feature story - Can the Maruti Suzuki Jimny step into the shoes of the Gypsy?
The Jimny is a great performer and extremely capable off-road.
Once I knew I would be in Uttarakhand to drive the Jimny, I contacted my old friend Manoj Kulshreshtha and asked if I could also meet him and visit his rustic jungle lodge Wild Brook Retreat (www.wildbrookretreat.com), which is situated in the Gohari range of Rajaji National Park.
Its ancestor the Gypsy may not be as comfortable, but still its off-roading abilities are legendary.
Manoj is a wildlife scientist and bird watcher and said he would fetch me in his vehicle after I finished test driving the Maruti Suzuki Jimny. All through our two odd hour's drive to his lodge, the conversation revolved around the Jimny and its performance. The last 8 kilometres is quite rough and you have to drive through a river bed to get to Manoj's simple lodge. This riverbed was quite similar to the one in which I had driven the Jimny a little earlier in the day.
Fortunately the Jimny gracefully carries forward the design DNA of the Gypsy.
The moment we climbed up a bumpy and steep slope and reached Wild Brook, I was both surprised and delighted to see a Maruti Suzuki Gypsy parked there. Manoj told me this was the same Gypsy in which he had taken me for a jungle drive some two decades back! But now that he did not live at the lodge and visited it infrequently, his Gypsy was disused and stayed parked almost all the time! In fact it had not even been started in almost a year or more! Manoj also mentioned that over the years, many alterations had been done on it by local mechanics, with several original parts being removed or replaced.
Look closely and below the A-pillar you can see the twin depressions, which are a tribute to the air vents in the bonnet of the Gypsy.
Having driven the Jimny just a few hours back, I was extremely keen to get behind the wheel of its ancestor, the Gypsy. Seeing my enthusiasm, Manoj asked his staff to fill a couple of litres of petrol in the Gypsy from the fuel can they kept for their two-wheelers.
These are the Gypsy bonnet air vents that the Jimny pays tribute to.
Then we swapped the Gypsy's completely drained battery with one from a Maruti Dzire and after checking the oil level, I gently cranked the engine. The engine turned sluggishly, but even after a few attempts it did not fire. We then opened the distributor cap, cleaned the rotor and the contact point and also wiped the insides of the cap before refitting it. The sparkplug wires were unplugged and refitted and I asked one of the staff to even pull on the petrol pipe to draw up the fuel from the tank. Once petrol could be seen in the pipe it was reconnected to the carburetor.
Manoj Kulshreshtha has used his Gypsy extensively for bird watching and wildlife photography.
Then I pumped the accelerator pedal a few times until some petrol fell into the bowl of the carburetor and as the bonnet was open all this time, one could smell the vapours of petrol. I again turned the ignition key and after a few attempts and some vigorous pumping of the gas pedal, the engine fired for a second and then coughed and shut down again.
As you can see, this Gypsy is in need of some tender loving care.
Now I knew we were on the right path and after a few more attempts, the engine fired up and started spluttering. With every push of the gas pedal it coughed and sneezed and then revved a little more. It almost felt like after waking up after such a long time, the Gypsy was clearing its throat and getting rid of the accumulated phlegm, in this case carbon and dirt.
But despite the fact that it had not been started for over a year, with a little coaxing it sprung to life.
Gradually, it settled into a coarse sort of idle and what is amazing is that a Gypsy that had not been started or used in such a long time, sprung to life just after it was given a bit of fuel and a spark. This is a testimony of its reliability and strong mechanicals and as the tyres had enough air too, I decided to take it for a drive.
And it was such a joy to drive it off-road.
Initially the gear shifter, clutch, steering, accelerator and brakes, felt really hard and as if everything was stuck to something, due to the very long period of inactivity. But as the heat from the engine spread to the other mechanicals, with a little gentle prodding and pushing, things started freeing up.
The Gypsy is a great vehicle for exploring the wilderness.
Soon I found myself driving in the riverbed and laughing in joy. The old Gypsy was more than game to play and I consider myself truly fortunate to have driven both the new Jimny, and its predecessor the Gypsy, in the same day. And that too in different riverbeds, some 100 kilometers apart. When such unplanned things this happen, I can't help but believe that, "Coincidence is when God chooses to be anonymous".
And also for photographing wildlife. Photo Bob Rupani.
Gypsy photos courtesy Manoj Kulshreshtha