Being the ‘auto guy’ is fun. Women love you because you’ve got a motorcycle. People reckon you’re the outdoorsy type – hungry for adventure, and an expert in survival tactics. Show up at a party with grease-stains on your jeans and men will loathe you, while you’re busy chatting up cleavages of varying dimensions.
You make good friends with the opposite sex. And when the holiday season arrives – and it happens thrice in India – you’re the one who gets to keep the wheels. “Love, my boyfriend’s taking me to the Andamans. I wish you could come too. Have a lovely Christmas. Oh, and here, just keep her running, will you? Muah!”
The ‘her’ is obviously a car, and not, as would have liked, her horny seventeen year old sister. Being a dyed-in-the-wool, you find it hard to refuse a chance to drive anything at all. So you’re there, in a battered black Mitsubishi Lancer Sfxi, wondering why it has that big spoiler on the boot, and a stupid python teddy on the parcel tray. Women do strange things to cars. But unless you’ve got embroidered seats, consider yourself decently fortunate. Oh, and don’t bother with that jar of Elle 18 nail enamel that has just rolled out from under your seat. It will jam itself behind the brake pedal, and is going to kill you.
Now, I’ve often been accused of having a fetish for bad news, and Mahindras. It’s no secret that I love all Mahindras except, perhaps, the Scorpio. I will write good stuff about their cars even if they come with lizards in the glove box and occasionally spray battery acid into the cabin from the air-con vents.
Much to my delight, hence, an English lady in her fifties left behind a car I was rather looking to drive. It’s an MM 540 DP, and it’s featured on my shopping list for ever. It’s got the works - short wheelbase, two doors, a canvas top, a rugged diesel engine and its party piece, a four wheel drive unit. I’d like mine with a camel-beige (or deep blue) body, and painted-white wheel rims.
This one, however, is a colour that, as Jeremy Clarkson once put it, should be called ‘old’. Oh, and it’s not a four wheel drive either. In fact, it’s a no wheel drive.
Well, okay, it works. But we barely reached 30, in fourth, when the clutch caught fire. And then there is the braking. Or rather, there isn’t.
You have to hold opposite lock for the simple task of travelling in a straight line. Oh, and you daren’t get out at night even if you have murderers helping themselves to your cash and your daughter; the headlamps are pathetic. And if you crash into something (which you will), the steering wheel will gatecrash your anatomy, leaving you crippled, and homeless.
And for this very reason, I absolutely love it. Drive a Honda CR-V, and you will fall asleep in a couple of hours. At 180kmph. On the expressway. Eight minutes later, you will have rolled over onto a field, covered in some blood and six airbags.
But in the MM 540DP, sleep is impossible. And if you do roll over, it will simply plough on, as if nothing happened. In the slushy stuff, it is better company than Chitrangada Singh. And if you ever run out of fuel, feel free to relieve yourself in the fuel tank – it will run, no sweat. You may as well be dead and decaying in the cabin, but as long as the engine’s running, you’re unstoppable. And Evo san, here’s my retort to your ‘flames or no flames’ comment to my previous rant.
There is an unbelievably large difference between being on fire, and not being on fire. So if you want a car for a lakh, buy a used MM 540 DP. You couldn’t be more politically incorrect, but at least you won’t be on fire.