Jonga dreams for the retired captain
The entire country knows former captain of the Indian Cricket Team, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s love for automobiles and he has just recently acquired a modified first generation Nissan Patrol better known as the “Jonga”.
Once used by the Indian armed forces, the vehicle was also called as the Jonga 1 ton or the 4W73 series truck and after quite a long service period was retired and its production was discontinued a few years later. Owing to its size and massive road presence, it’s easy for the Jonga to drop jaws in its wake. It has an intimidating stance and as a rare automobile, not easily found with even the most avid jeep enthusiasts, head turning comes naturally to the Jonga specially when driven at a really slow speed on the average city streets unused to marvels of this category.
The name Jonga is actually an acronym for the Jabalpur Ordnance and Guncarriage Assembly factory, also known as the Vehicle factory, and is the place of its origin as a military use vehicle.
The one that Dhoni has picked up is a heavily customized version complete with a winch and towing bar mounted on a custom built front bumper. It wears oversized knobbly rubbers on all four wheels that give it the appearance of a serious off roader and frankly speaking, look quite butch.
The vehicle in question finds its origin in the mid twentieth century and shares its lineage with the Dodge M37. Built on the M37’s chassis, it used a Four wheel 4W60 series Nissan Patrol engine along with other tidbits and several body parts being redesigned for its purpose.
The modification job comes as a courtesy of SD offroaders Nakodar, a customization house with an expertise in redesigning and rebuilding Jongas and 1 tons among other off road vehicles like jeeps, gypsies and what nots. Every street, every neighbourhood, market area, residential society in Ranchi was filled with people gaping open mouthed and awestruck at the sheer beauty of the car when Dhoni was driving it around to get a feel of his latest toy and addition to his growing collection of them in what he likes to call his “custom garage”.
Before being discontinued however, the Jonga was also made available off the shelf, to the general public but only for a short span of time. Sadly, it didn’t gather much of an interest amongst the not so enthusiastic civilian crowd. It is very difficult to find a stock production spec Jonga and any models that are around have almost all had some or the other modification done on it starting from the very basic – wheels and tyres.
Once discontinued, they started to vanish up until vintage and classic car restorers began rediscovering and restoring them to fully functional yet rare working vehicles.
How did Dhoni land himself the Jonga
Except for a brief spell of public availability, the Jonga was never meant to entertain private buyers and hence cannot as easily be found as the likes of the Maruti gypsy, the Mahindra 540 and 550.
It seems fair to assume that our captain cool – as he’s lovingly called – must’ve had feelers out for this jeep and when they sent back affirmative signals, he jumped at the first chance to get one and have it customized to his taste.
The SD offroaders built version comes with a lot of present day elements from the forementioned front bumper to the doors that look suspiciously like the ones from Mahindra bolero and a bright green paint job that give it the appearance of a military vehicle and somehow adds to the whole rugged character of the automobile.
Power and appeal
Although the technical spec sheet of this variant hasn’t been shared with the public, we’ve managed to discover that it is propelled by an inline six cylinder petrol engine which sends out its power to all four wheels in a 4×4 layout.
The interiors on the other hand, have been completely re-done partially owing to the lack of availability of fresh stock parts for the Jonga, and the need for a fresh passenger experience demanded by a custom built vehicle. The dashboard and the instrument cluster are borrowed from the Thar. The steering unit comes from a Nissan SUV and the seating, the infotainment unit and other bits and pieces are all aftermarket accessories.
The former cricketer arrived at Ranchi’s JSCA stadium which is currently hosting the third and last test match between India and South Africa, in his custom built, pre-military jeep and was immediately surrounded by excited fans who, owing to the lightning speed of the digital era social media, had been waiting long before his arrival to be able to get a chance to have their picture taken with him and his new acquisition.
The Captain’s collection
For those who aren’t aware of Dhoni’s fondness for unique SUVs, he has just recently bought himself the only Jeep grand cherokee trackhawk in the country for a whopping 1.5 crores. His collection also includes a Ferrari 599 GTO, an imported GMC Sierra pickup truck, and the only too popular Hummer H2.
His motorcycle collection includes the Confederate Hellcat X132, Kawasaki H2, Kawasaki Ninja ZX14R, Yamaha YZF600 Thundercat, Suzuki Hayabusa, a BSA and a Vintage Norton motorcycle among other more common ones.