Cars Of Which You May Not Know: Hindustan Trekker

You know what I miss about car companies? They used to do this thing where they'd take their most popular car and then turn it into an off-roader by slapping on a 'rugged' body. There was the VW Thing, Austin Mini Moke, Citröen Mehari, Trabant Scamp, and more. Even our pals in India got in on the game, with the Hindustan Trakker.

Like all the other let's-make-a-quickie-jeep cars, the 1982-1999 Trekker was based on Hindustan's most popular car, the Ambassador. There was nothing really to suggest that the Ambassador, based as it was on a 1956 Morris Oxford, was really all that suited to an off-roader, but this was a beautiful era of who gives a shit, give it a shot?

It's amazing how closely the Trekker followed the plan of almost every other of these vehicles — keep the chassis basically the same, maybe beef up some bits here and there (the Trekker did get a real ladder-frame chassis), if you're really lucky there's a slight ride height increase, but that's by no means guaranteed. The big change here is the rugged, easy-to-construct body that looks like it's as complex to make as a clothes dryer enclosure.

Cars Of Which You May Not Know: Hindustan Trekker

The Trekker (which was also what they called the VW Thing/Type 181 in the UK, by the way) seems to have a sibling called the Pushpak as well, though mechanically they seem to be the same. They both share the (I believe) Isuzu-sourced 1.5L Diesel four that makes an astounding 37.5 HP. Plus, I think that last half-horse is the back half, so it kicks well and doesn't eat much.

Cars Of Which You May Not Know: Hindustan Trekker

There seem to be both open two-door and larger, enclosed four-door body styles, the latter of which has been used as a taxi in cities across India. From what I can tell on forums, not everyone is as taken with these as me:

With time and age an ugly thing also becomes a classic. But the Trekker is a rare exception to this practice. No matter how old they get, the ugly Trekker will never get the status of a classic and will always remain an obnoxious vehicle.

These vehicles can still be seen in rural Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand etc.

... though there are some supporters:

Have owned th vehicle from 1982 to 1995. The mahindra commander is infact a copy of the trekker, but cuter.

The engine was the 38BHP HM engine which now powers the Diesel ambys as the HM+ engine. The HM+ engine is a slightly revamped Trekker engine.

The vehicle was not a great looker, but definitely a reliable goer, if not pushed. We have travelled the whole of south india in the vehicle. One should stick to 70kmph. Pushing over 70 would make the top hose go bersek.

I'm guessing "top hose" is probably the upper radiator return hose? Berzerk is always a fun thing for a hose to do, no matter what.

Cars Of Which You May Not Know: Hindustan Trekker

I don't recall seeing one of these when I was in India, so maybe they really all are dying out. There's something about this kind of ultra-spare, rugged, no-bullshit car that I really love, though.