The Maruti Suzuki Gypsy is not a new car, even though you can have a brand new one within three months if you pay an advance and wait patiently in India. The Indian made off-roader, based on the Japanese designed Suzuki Jimny, was introduced first in 1985 with a tiny 970 cc F10A motor that only made 45 HP and sent power to all four wheels via a two speed, free-wheeling transfer case. For a decade, that initial model stayed largely the same and was whipped up by Indian law enforcement and public services, as well as offering an affordable option for car buyers wanting an SUV. In 1993, the track was widened and subsequent improvements saw the addition of a catalytic converter, a 1.3 litre motor from the Suzuki Esteem, as well as fuel injection and minor interior upgrades.
In the year 2000, the highest grade of the Gypsy was introduced—the Gypsy King, featuring the 1300 cc G13BB Multi Point Fuel Injection 16 valve all-aluminium motor. With all of 80 HP available from the motor, the Gypsy depended on two decades of public service in various guises—military truck, ambulance, police car—to sell to civilians without offering anything to offer in terms of creature comfort. When the highlight features of a top-of-the-line model happens to be head-rests and brake boosters, you'd better hope it's an extremely durable and capable machine.
Abir Uddin Akash certainly thinks it is. He bought his Gypsy King at a government auction in Dinajpur—with only 50,000 km on the fuel-injected 1.3 motor, the tiny off-roader needed a bit of TLC on the outside to make it a more than presentable weekend car. Even though Abir currently has a restored Y60 Nissan Patrol and a clean 4AGE swapped AE111Sprinter (among a myriad of other projects), his preference for the Gypsy is pretty high, especially when it comes to going out of Dhaka or for a spot of mudding.
“Bigger off-road cars aren't as fun as this when you're throwing it around in the mud. Because of the length of the wheelbase and how tiny it is, not to mention the good condition of the motor, it's very fun to go off-road with it,” he says.
The engine might only have 80 HP, but the 76 lb-ft of torque is available at 4500 RPM, so the lightweight Gypsy can be described as sprightly. There's no air-con and you don't need it—the Gypsy is open on all sides other than the front and part of the top. The wind-rush into the cabin adds to the drama, making the Gypsy feel much faster than it actually is. The wider, bigger wheels make the non-power assisted steering feel harder and tighter than stock, with a clear impact on the turning radius—Abir doesn't care, since he's used to it and it adds to the Gypsy's style.
“I went to high school in the US, in Utah. Every cool kid in school had an awesome truck that they personalised. After coming back to Bangladesh I saw that no one really builds trucks here, so I decided I want to build a cool truck I could go off-road in. The Gypsy was cheap and I only have to pay TK 45 per year for road tax, since it's a government auction car—it made sense to build it, so I did,” says Abir.
This Gypsy King is proof that you don't need a fast car with lots of horsepower to have fun. It also shows that if it's built right, almost anything can be cool, without being a low slung coupe. Better watch out, kaiju.
Photos: Shadman Al Samee