The trip to see the red panda was amazing for two reasons one the eastern Himalayan forests and second the drive in the well preserved 1954 & 1957 Land rovers series 1 models. At Manebhanjan the entry point to Singalila national park one can find a lot of these jeeps parked to take tourists into the park. I started a conversation with my driver Tashi and he was a wealth of information as he was very passionate about these jeeps.
He owned 2 of these cars. I asked him about spare parts and he said it is difficult to get them, as the originals are difficult to find and have to be imported from UK. Most of these jeeps are modified and are fitted with Mahindra bolero engines.
Tashi said these vehicles are very sturdy and relatively maintenance free and things like wiring, oiling and other things expect work related to the engine are done by the drivers themselves.
These vehicles are relics of the British era. The British left behind most of them and they had donated them to UNICEF. Later UNICEF. Sold them at scrap value and the locals bought them to use as local taxis. There are around 46 of these series 1 Land rovers left in Manebhanjan. All expect 6 have been modified to run on Mahindra engines. Was proudly told by Tashi that the bodies of these vehicles are aluminium and most of the parts like doors windows and windshields are modular so don’t crack unlike the new vehicles where it is all moulded and develop cracks easily.
These vehicles that were available for around 17000 in 2000 and is costing anything between 8 to 15 lakhs depending on their condition today. Tashi also told me that there is a collector in Mumbai who owns 30 of these Series 1 vehicles.
He also proudly told us that last year some media people had driven down in the new Land Rover discovery model to do a film on these series 1 beauties.