Accidental love

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Bollywood movie, Chalte Chalte, starring Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherji features a Ashok Leyland truck. Released in 2003, the movie is a romantic drama with Shahrukh Khan playing the role of a small truck fleet owner, and Mukherji playing the role of an aspiring fashion designer. From Greece, Mukherji stays with her aunt in India, and has her life well organised. In comparison, Khan’s character is of a person who lives a happy, albeit carefree life. Living life on his own terms, Khan and Mukherji meet quite by accident in the movie. Mukherji nearly crashes her car into Khan’s truck, a Ashok Leyland Comet Gold truck. The two get off to a rocky start. Shahrukh tows Mukherji’s car as it lands in a ditch. As she gets down to shout at Khan, she forgets to pull the parking brake! Past many twists and turns, and a bit of romance and a ride in the truck, the two get married. They don’t stay happily ever after however. Instead, they get into a habit of arguing. Things get bad as Khan sees his business suffer. A happy ending is eventually arrived at, but not without reflecting upon the ups and downs in the life of a truck fleet operator.

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The Ashok Leyland Comet Gold truck that features in the movie was launched in 2001. A 4×2 haulage truck in the 16-tonne GVW segment, the truck is powered by a six-cylinder, 6.5-litre AL 402 H series turbo diesel engine. The engine produces a maximum power of 136 PS at 2400 rpm, and is mated to a five-speed synchromesh manual transmission. Employing pressed steel G45 FES without reinforcement, which helped to keep the kerb weight low, the Comet Gold came to be known for the higher payload it could offer. The suspension of the truck consisted of semi elliptical multi leaf springs all round. Power steering was offered as an option. Equipped with a fully floating single-speed hypoid gear at the rear axle, the front axle of the truck was made up of a forged ‘I’ section reverse elliot type beam. Built robust, the Comet Gold found use in cement and road construction segments.

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Pick-up in Tokyo

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Actress Asha Parekh is shown behind the wheel of a pick-up truck in Tokyo in a classic Hindi movie ‘Love in Tokyo’. Released in 1966, the movie went on to be a blockbuster, and featured Joy Mukherjee and the accomplished Lalita Pawar. The story unveils such that Mukherjee is engaged to a girl Sarita (Lata Bose) chosen by his mother played by Lalita Pawar, in a situation that is not to his liking. Sarita is a minor of 17 years, and pampered. Finding himself in a spot, Mukherjee in a turn of events finds himself on the plane to Japan. Lalita Pawar is informed by her lawyer that her daughter-in-law (wife of Mukherjee’s elder brother) is critically ill in Japan, and wants to hand over her son to her husband’s family. Mukherjee’s elder brother married a Japanese girl much to the dislike of his mother.

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Mukherjee bonds well with his elder brother’s son. They visit a shopping mall where he catches a glimpse of Asha Parekh on the television. He is drawn to her. As the performance comes to an end, Parekh’s uncle played by Madan puri announces her engagement with a young pilot of Indian origin, played by Pran. Parekh is not aware of the plot drawn by her uncle to inherit her father’s property with the help of Pran. Unhappy with the turn of the events that unfold with such speed, Parekh decides to flee. As would happen only in a Hindi movie, she bumps into the little fellow. Haggered by their respective uncles, Parekh and the little fellow take to liking each other. A bounty of USD 5,000 is announced for whoever finds Parekh and returns her. After spending the night in hiding, the two decide to move. In an attempt to do so, the little one accidently bumps into Mukherjee who is on the look out. Parekh gets into action. She hijacks a Toyopet pick-up truck, and the two flee as Mukherjee chases them. The driving skills of Parekh as she deftly maneouvres the Toyopet pick-up laden with hay on the roads of Tokyo deserves a mention.

Featured many years later in the movie Betaab, albeit in a battered and badly bruised form by the lead actor Sunny Deol to woo his love interest, Amrita Singh, the Toyopet pick-up truck was launched in 1954 in Japan as a competitor to Nissan Junior. Sharing the platform with Toyota Dyna, the pick-up truck was rechristened as the ‘Scout’ in 1959. Known to be produced until 1989, the pick-up truck made for a successful model run. The one that Parekh is shown to be driving in the movie remained a main stream model for many years, and gave the pick-up the identity it deserves. Looked up to as the forefather of Toyota Hilux, the Scout was powered by a 48 hp, 1.5-litre, diesel engine. It could be also had with a 2-litre Type R engine. If the twin headlights set into a large grille attract, it is the positioning of the parking lights at either corner of the bonnet that draw attention. They present a unique identity to the design. A body on frame construction, the suspension of Scout was made up of independent coil springs at front, and leaf springs at the rear. Measuring 4,286 mm to 4,690 mm mm in length and 1,690 mm in width, the Scout made for an interesting cameo in the movie. Allowing Bollywood fans to catch a glimpse of a pick-up truck in the 60s, the movie, ‘Love in Tokyo’ had a happy ending with Mukherjee and Parekh falling for each other.

Bodyguard and a Cheetah

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The 2010 Bollywood movie, Bodyguard, features a Ashok Leyland Cheetah in the shade of purple and white. A Maharashtra Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) Hirkani bus, the Cheetah is shown ferrying lead actor Salman Khan, a bodyguard by profession, on an assignment to protect a girl called Divya, played by Kareena Kapoor. He has been contracted by Divya’s father to protect her from his enemies. Indebted by the help offered by Divya’s father to his mother before he was born, it is an assignment that Salman cannot refuse. He sets on a journey to Divya’s place in the Cheetah. Representing the semi-luxury inter-city public transport buses MSRTC operates, the Hirkani with Salman in it is shown coming to halt under a thick shade of trees by the roadside. The location is claimed to be on the outskirts of Satara in Maharashtra. A comic character in the movie, Tsunami Singh, runs to board the bus as it comes to a halt. He stumbles and falls flat on his face. This attracts the attention of all those on the bus, including Salman. Once on board, the two strike conversation and become friends.

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Featuring a large grille, the Ashok Leyland Cheetah, with a smaller front overhang, is claimed to be preferred by State Transport Undertakings (STUs) because it can seat more people. With a wheelbase of 5870 mm, the Cheetah is powered by a Hino H-series engine that develops 160 hp and 180 hp. High torque is known to present the bus with good agility to tackle hilly terrains. Transmission is six-speed syncromesh with overdrive. Weighing 15-tonnes, the suspension of Cheetah is made up of leaf spring and shock absorbers. Offering a 2×2 layout, the Cheetah Hirkanis, off-late, are said to be fitted with air suspension at the rear. Seating 35 people, the Cheetahs that MSRTC has recently inducted in its fleet are said to have been fitted with comfortable push-back seats. Mostly those that ply on the Pune-Mumbai and Pune-Kolhapur routes. A historical brand from Ashok Leyland, Cheetahs make the main stay of many STUs

in India.

DICV looks at Middle East for buses

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Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) is looking at exporting fully-built nine-tonne buses to the Middle East by the end of the current year, claim industry sources. The company is currently exporting nine-tonne bus chassis to South East Asia, Africa and Latin America. Within the Chennai plant of DICV is a Wrightbus bus body building facility. Claimed to have a 24,000 unit capacity, the facility makes BharatBenz staff, school and tourist buses, and a Mercedes-Benz luxury coach on the O500L chassis. For global expansion, Daimler is looking at Indian built trucks to play a role. It showcased a 37-tonne BharatBenz 3723R five-axle rigid truck at the Hannover CV show. Claimed to have sold over 40,000 heavy-duty and medium-duty India-made trucks since the last four years, Daimler also showcased Fuso TV-R, a heavy-duty tractor made in India. In India, DICV produces and sells BharatBenz trucks ranging between nine- and 49-tonnes.

Leyland Boxer to the rescue

Bollywood movie Suhaag was the highest grosser of 1979. Directed by Manmohan Desai, Suhaag is reminiscent of Hindi cinema in the 70’s. Contrary to Suhaag meaning good fortune especially for a married woman, Durga’s (Nirupa Roy) married life is a stark contrast. Her gangster husband played by actor Amjad Khan abandons her and the two infant sons out of their marriage. To add to the drama, Amjad khan’s rival gangster Jaggi kidnaps one of the babies only to pass the baby on to a small time bootlegger Pascal. The brothers grow up to carry forward the plot. Shashi Kapoor (Kishen) is the honest cop while the kidnapped baby turns a petty criminal played by Amitabh Bachchan (Amit). As fate has it, the estranged father unknowingly hires one son as a contract killer to kill the other (Shashi Kapoor). A failed attempt to foil Vikram’s bid has Kishen losing his eyesight. Amitabh joins the police force as his replacement. Donning a cop’s guise, he sets out to nab Vikram. The next leg shot expansively in London shows inspector Amit gatecrashing into Vikram’s celebrations. After a brief exchange of bullet rounds between the two atop a terrace, Amitabh runs out of bullets. Just when he is reloading the gun, Vikram rappels down the building wall. Amit takes a shot at the rope. It gives way. It is here that the 1973 Leyland Boxer G-Series truck arrives on the scene as the villian’s wheels of escape. What follows is an action packed climax scene.

In 968, under pressure from the Wilson Labour Government to consolidate operations in a bid to sustain, British Motor Holdings (BMH) merged with truck and bus maker Leyland Motor Corporation Limited. The resultant Company, British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC) absorbed designs from both BMW and Leyland. BLMC fitted the erstwhile BMC models with the altered FJ cabs. Constituting Leyland’s redline range were Terriers, Lairds, Mastiffs and the middle-weight Boxer. Based on the old Laird chassis, Leyland’s Boxer series featured an improved cooling system for vertically mounted engines and an all new spring-type parking brake. It was in 1973 that the revised FJ cab was christened as Leyland Boxer G-Series cab. Available in two standards of trim; standard and GX, the truck featuring in Suhaag was the standard Boxer with G Series cab.

The tilt-able all-steel cab of the Boxer was indicative of the enhanced safety. Big on ergonomics, the cab interior featured dual sun-visors. Driver seat was tilt adjustable. Powering the truck was a Perkins 6.354, a 5.8 litre, six-cylinder diesel engine that developed 126 bhp. Mated to the engine was a five-speed transmission. Available with an option of a single and two-speed axle, the Boxer featured pneumatic brakes, which were actuated through the spring-brake chambers on the driving axle.

Tata L1210 turns saviour

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One of the spine-chilling disasters in the history of modern India happened at Chasnala coal mine near Dhanbad in 1975. Flooding of mines caused death of 370 miners. Four years later, film producer and director, Yash Chopra took the initiative to recreate the tragedy through his Hindi movie ‘Kaala Patthar’. Featuring a list of actors like Amitabh Bachhan, Shatrughan Singha, Shashi Kapoor, Rakhi Gulzar, Parveen Babi, and Neetu Singh, Chopra entrusted Salim-Javed duo the task of writing the script. Projecting the hopelessness and susceptibility to injuries that miners are exposed to as part of their work, the film had Prem Chopra playing a ruthless mine owner who weighs money over the lives of the people working for him. Living a life deprived of even the most basic necessities like medical supplies and good equipment, mine workers Vijay (played by Amitabh Bachhan), Mangal (played by Shatrughan Sinha) and Ravi (played by Shashi Kapoor) come forward to rescue their fellow workers when water floods the coal mine endangering the lives of numerous fellow mine workers. As Vijay, Mangal and Ravi toil relentlessly, a Sikh truck driver played by Parikshit Sahni comes forward with his Tata L1210 as the rope of the hoist that is fetching the mine workers breaks during a critical rescue operation. He attaches the rope to the back of his truck, turning himself and his trusted truck into a saviour. The lifting operations resume.

A result of a collaboration between Telco and Daimler AG in the early 50s, the Tata L1210 soon became a popular truck in India. It came with round headlights placed in their shells on the mudguard. The long bonnet between the mudguards housed the OM 312 engine. Located longitudinally, the 4.6-litre four-cylinder diesel engine produced 110 hp of power, and was mated to a five-speed transmission. Brakes were service hydraulic assisted by single chamber air pressure booster. Steering was of the recirculating ball type. Suspension was made up of semi-elliptic silicon-manganese leaf springs with hydraulic telescopic shock absorbers. The front had 12 leaves; rear had wider and thicker 10 main leaves and seven auxiliary leaves.

Gold rush

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DC Design has developed India’s first mobile jewellery showroom to help Thrissur-based Chemmanur Group to expand its market reach.

Story by:

Bhushan Mhapralkar

Photographs: DC Design

Gold rush in the state of Kerala is well known. The New York Times in 2012 published a story on Kerala’s obsession for gold. It stated that Kerala values nothing more than gold. It stated that it is comforting for the people of the state to know that their erstwhile rulers too had a fascination for the yellow metal, which they stored in the temple as an offering and as an insurance against famine. The story mentioned that Kerala is gold’s own country. Claimed to gobble 20 per cent of the country’s gold consumption despite having just three per cent of the population, Kerala has over 5000 retailers of the noble metal. Contributing to India’s reputation as the largest consumer of gold in the world – India consumes 30 per cent of the world’s gold, the sky-rocketing prices have failed to deter the people of Kerala from buying gold. To them, gold simply does not cease to amaze. The village of Koduvally near Kozhikode for example, has nearly forgotten its tradition of pottery-making for gold. It boasts of over 100 jewellery shops. Clients include families who have relatives working in Gulf countries. Apart from exposure to foreign countries, the state’s obsessed for gold is claimed to date back to the Roman era. Kerala then, and in particular Kochi (Cochin), was a key port among the channels of trade and frequented not only by Roman ships but also by Greeks, Jews, Arabs and Chinese. The foreign merchants and their customers were so besotted with Indian pepper, cardamom and cinnamon that they were quite happy to part with increasing amounts of gold in exchange.

If the growing remittances by 20 lakh (and rising) non-residents and a steep increase in the price of rubber is claimed to fuel the state’s gold rush, for India’s savings-conscious society gold has always found a way of translating into an insurance against cloudy days. It is similar to how governments buy gold for the amount of currency they print, to ensure that their currency is valued and respected. Worn during family functions, the obsession for gold in Kerala has been greatly complementing India’s consumption at 746-tonne every year according to the World Gold Council. Attracting film stars and sportsmen of repute as goodwill ambassadors, the obsession for gold has ensured that the industry, which employs over two hundred thousand people, finds new ways to reach out to the buyers. In what could be termed as the most striking way of reaching out to buyers thus far, Mumbai-based DC Design has delivered India’s first mobile jewellery showroom to Thrissur-based Chemmanur Group. It is based on a semi-trailer (truck), and painted in a striking colour of yellow and matt gray. A head turner, the tractor-trailer combination, according to Dilip Chhabria, Chairman and Managing Director, DC Design, was developed with an intention to transport gold to places where people are short of time; to make it convenient for people to buy gold, and to also facilitate impulsive buying.

Stunning looking

To power their mobile jewellery showroom, the Chemmanur Group chose a 410 hp Scania G410 6×4 tractor. The mobile showroom is built on the trailer. It took a good five months for DC Design to execute the project. The semi-trailer measures 40 ft. With the earlier creations of DC Design based on a rigid inter-city bus chassis measuring upto 14.8 ft, the use of a Scania tractor-trailer combination comes as a surprise. So, what prompted DC Design to use a Scania truck for the job? According to Chhabria, the decision to use a Scania truck as the basis for a mobile jewellery showroom was entirely of the client, the Chemmanur Group. “Cost was not an issue with the client. What he wanted was the best and the most striking,” he added. One look at the rig, and it is clear that a lot of effort has gone into the making of it. The shade of yellow with a streak of gray running throughout the length of the whole vehicle makes the Scania semi-trailer looks like it has come from Mars almost! The colour scheme was dictated by the client according to Chhabria. A bright colour along with the highly voluptuous shape helped to achieve a stunning look. Stunning looking the mobile jewellery showroom is. If the Scania G410 6×4 prime mover attracts attention, the semi-trailer simply commands attention.

Averred Chhabria, that the brief was to create a standout mobile retail outlet; the one that does not look like a plain Jane fabricated box on wheels, but is designed through the exacting automotive development process, which includes concept sketches, a 1:5 scale model, computer aided design and engineering, analysis, milling the plugs and generating composites including carbon substrates. “The process allowed for extreme contouring on all the axes, an important factor to help differentiate and create a distinct unique style that was more spaceship than vehicle,” he stated. The structural challenge was the manufacture of a highly curvaceous and complex outer skin. It did not allow for the usual tubular superstructure route. DC Design had to create skin panels like cars and reinforce them at vantage points with structural members. Revealed Chhabria while touching upon his earlier projects, that this is the first time where the exterior design of the vehicle is of greater prominence than the interior.

Interior

Acting as a substitute to a brick and mortar showroom, the interior of the mobile jewellery showroom is well crafted and imposing to say the least. Away from the exterior design brief, which called for jaw dropping style coupled with the rather huge dimensions of the semi-trailer combination, the interior involves a two-level showroom. If the trailer facilitated a large bed size, the interior includes a hydraulic expanding side section with hydraulic opening stairways akin to private jets. Divided into two sections – diamond and gold, the showroom also includes a billing section, a conference room and a rest room. Expressed Chhabria, “In the case of the interior, the challenge was to balance aesthetics with various functions. There was also the need to manage the expansive sizes of substrates, the combination of disparate materials like aluminium, steel, carbon, glass, plastics, fabrics, leather, etc.” To create the right ambiance, stress was laid on lighting. Considering the nature of activity, stress was also laid on tighter tolerances. The standards of fit and finish are high therefore. Interestingly, the hydraulically opening stairways, when closed, form the outer skin. They have their own hand rails which fold open. They have their own fail safe devises to ensure safety. Heavily fortified with security contraptions, the mobile jewellery showroom has the best vehicle security that can be had. There’s high resolution cameras that have remotely actuated swivel and night vision. Also fitted are proximity sensors and more. The vehicle, measuring 2.6 m in width, can be remotely immobilised, its door and racks can be remotely secured.

On the move

Expected to be a fitting alternative to brick and mortar showrooms that may not always turn out to be viable in the wake of competition, the mobile jewellery showroom is claimed to be the first of the three such vehicles planned. The other two would find their way to Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Considering the length of the tractor trailer, it may be logical to think if it will travel over the ever winding roads of Kerala. Explained Chhabria, that much to their surprise they found the vehicle to be capable of manoeuvring through narrow and tight spaces where a bus or a rigid truck would find it difficult. “The articulated nature of the vehicle makes it possible,“ he added. At DC Design operations in Pune, it was surprisingly easy to manoeuvre the Scania semi-trailer as compared to several 14.8 m coaches that the company has worked upon. Trucks are about business, and the Chemmanur Group’s mobile jewellery showroom is no exception. A head turner, the vehicle could do away with the need for a brick and mortar showroom, which in the face of the competition has the risk of becoming a white elephant. A unique and stunning visual provides an excellent advertising real estate that is also dynamic. Certain to offer the Chemmanur Group a front runner advantage, the Scania-based mobile jewellery showroom has a white dome on the top of the cabin. It denotes a football according to Chhabria. Perhaps hinting at the Chemmanur Group’s association with legendary football star Diego Maradona, the football also speaks about Kerala’s love for the game. There’s little doubt, that the Chemmanur mobile jewellery showroom is set to be a

game changer in gold’s own country.