|4th January 2022, 00:43||#1|
The Island Gurkha | My 2021 Grey Force Gurkha 4x4 in the Andamans | Ownership Review
THE ISLAND GURKHA
A tall, intimidating truck that is the farthest cry from a family car. Poorly appointed interiors with rough edges vaguely reminiscent of times gone by and plastic quality that is at par only with its commercial cousin. A 2.6 litre diesel villain of a motor that manages to cough up a mere 90 horses, when Cute-Utes and high heeled hatches boast of greater figures from tinier motors. No electronic dials, no automatic transmission, no petrol and the cardinal sin - no sunroof! The Gurkha has no business to be on sale in 2021-22, in a market that’s dizzy for tech laden transportation.
And yet it exists.
And boy am I glad it does.
My Force Gurkha BSVI FM2.6CR 4x4 SWB is the first and the only one yet, in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. And this is our story. (Grab your popcorn, we'll be here a while.)
Gurkha-The Master of One.
As a market, we are all collectively and sinfully guilty of demanding car makers to roll out ‘jack of all trade’ cars. We want the cars that we buy, to do everything every time. And that has pushed the market into a hotch-potch ‘do-it-all’ portfolio where sharply contrasted purposes of these cars have often been smeared and smudged into a blurry grey zone. There’s nothing wrong in it- I’m not ‘holier than thou’, we’ve all done it at some point, the market wants what it wants. And the vast majority of car buyers still demand and want it ‘all in one’ : feature rich, tech laden, mileage friendly, spacious car that should strain and stand on stilts and call itself an SUV. The market has exploded with CSUV options that try-to-solve all problems, in a knee jerk response to that demand, to a point where today, you have to only dig out a decent hatch or a sedan from fossilised relics.
But then, there are a few buyers, very few, who live on the fringes of the market and on the edge of sanity, romantically smelling greasy roses in the Gardens of Niche, who pray everyday for one thing - purpose-built monoliths. These prematurely greying, disgruntled old-souls are often seen mumbling away in solitude, or at watering holes in the company of their rare tribesmen, talking to themselves about better times gone by and glaring into the sunny horizon, clinging to hopes of better times to come. And wait they do, patiently, for the coming true of prophecies.
They have no vote or veto, no power beyond their own dreams, for their numbers are few, and dwindling, as they lose more of their kind to the seductive lure of the mainstream. And since they are moderately well read and have a vague idea of economics and the ways of the world, they hold a candle and say a silent prayer for carmakers who have budged and given in to the same temptations, democratising once-upon-a-time niche offerings, to cast their net wider to stay afloat in this cruel, cruel world.
They’re not heard, and nowadays not even seen, for they have retracted into the shadows, beyond the reach of touch screens and massage seats. You can ask around old FNGs and workshops, because they were always their only true friends. Accomplices in keeping alive unique unicorns and niche examples. They always knew a few fantastic beasts, and where to find them - in embassy and army auctions. Even today, they roam God’s green earth, having given up on car companies who care only for cash cows and counter clangs.
Force Motors, is their last solace, a balm to their wounded souls, offering a really rugged, purpose-built, off road truck which can be purchased off the shelf, with a factory fitted snorkel and manual mechanical differentials on both axles, shod with All terrain tyres, and built like a tank with metal all around. What’s more, Force has finally even managed to spruce up interiors beyond their simple, earthly expectations, including thingamajigs like Apple Car Play and a couple of other abbreviations these guys didn’t know even existed or ever cared for. This is the target audience for the Gurkha and Force Motors shares a special relationship with this group, discussing nuances in hushed voices , without TV commercials, advertisements or loud capitalist instruments, lest it garner the attention of the mainstream and quickly be subjected to review of 'experts', followed number wars, fought safely on keyboards, and finally only to be obscurely viewed through the same blurred grey, hotch-potch lenses.
The Gurkha is Force's audacious offering for those who know what it is, and understand what they’re signing up for. Force Motors , has dared , ever since the first generation Gurkha, to shun the jack-of-all-trades, and give us a Master-of-One.
Last edited by vigneshkumar31 : 27th January 2022 at 22:58.
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|4th January 2022, 00:46||#2|
The Island Gurkha | The Maker
Force Motors has been bashed, bruised and battered by many, including yours truly, for their lack of enterprise in the past. While their original ‘Gurkha’ and its subsequent iterations, lit up the eyes of many an enthusiast, there were always harsh edges (both figuratively and literally) which distanced it from anyone, but daredevils who dared to bring one home. The story of Force Motors, at least for gear heads like us, has been one of missed opportunities and poor execution. But there’s another side of the story to the Maker of the Gurkha. A story often ignored, and buried beneath the burden of past apathy. I feel that story needs to be told, and needs to be told, now.
Force Motors - This story goes beyond what you know as India’s largest van maker. The company that coined the word ‘autorickshaw’ and made terms like ‘Tempo’ common parlance, is synonymous with the automobile industrialisation in India. With ‘Hanseat’s rolling off its factory at Goregaon,Mumbai from 1958, this is no new kid on the block. To put that in perspective, this company had dug in its heels firmly, well before the two market leaders of today were even founded- Maruti (1981, India) and Hyundai (1967, Korea)!
The company speaks, from its heart, to millions of Indians, through its hardy, reliable vehicles which tread well beyond the city tarmac, deep into the Indian hinterland day in and day out. This is a ‘Force’ that literally moves the aam aadmi and the country ahead with him.
If you are reading this, chances are, that you have at least one happy memory of a family vacation, chugging along scenic hills in a Force Traveller, or of grinning your way to school in a Force School Bus, or maybe been amazed at counting how many passengers can a Trax on the country side really accommodate, or perhaps even had a loved one’s life saved in a Force Ambulance. Depending on how old you are, you probably learnt to pronounce and throw around cool words like Matador, Minidor thanks to Force. How many childhood memories of snacks shared in Tempo Matadors? No matter who we are, Force has been intertwined with our lives, more than we know.
Force is at its core, an engineering company. It has been producing the Benz OM616 (Oel Motor) engine under license from Daimler Benz since 1982 and this motor has served long and served well and still does duty today in Force’s latest offerings including our Gurkha. Force also manufactures engines and shafts for Mercedes Benz sold in India and has been making BMW engines since 2015.
Rough road vehicles have been embedded in the company’s DNA, with the Trax rolling out way back in 1988, which has evolved over the years into a robust, instantly recognisable house hold name, and a reliable work horse. This rich pedigree led to the birth of the first Force Gurkha subsequently,and its iterations there on, to become the Extreme Offroad vehicle which swallowed tricky terrain for breakfast.
Last edited by vigneshkumar31 : 24th January 2022 at 12:43.
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|4th January 2022, 00:48||#3|
Re: The Island Gurkha | The Gurkha
If names could sell cars, this would have set sales charts on fire. Unarguably, the most aptly named vehicle in India, which manages to compress so much meaning of its purpose into six letters. The underpinnings of the strong hearted, sturdy built Gurkha is synonymous with all that the legendary soldier represents.
In a sea of charlatan SUVs, and hatches on stilts, and fancy electronic gizmos, the Gurkha stands alone as the last bastion of honesty of purpose. It doesn’t pretend to be something else. It simply understands and truly justifies its sole reason of existence. It refuses to trade its resilient interiors for a fancy soft leather dashboard, neither does it give up its mechanical differentials for electronic dials. It definitely doesn’t brag lofty power figures just so that it looks good on the specs sheet, because it doesn’t care to squeeze the last ounce of peak power from a small motor to please the paper tigers. It goes about its job, with a good sounding thrum of its big hearted engine, with low end grunt that literally moves mountains, and can wade through rivers while it’s at it.
Then this is the son of the soil. It is made for those who have a ear to the ground and their feet planted firmly on it. For those who do not need to announce their arrival to the world through fancy badges of snob value. It doesn’t believe in complicating systems to a point of unreliability, just to play to the galleys. In its matured simplicity lies its ultimate sophistication. This vehicle is so elegantly simple and built on straightforward mechanicals , you could hand it down as heirloom to your children.
Unlike other vehicles, it was not built out of haste, or to rake in volumes, or for concealed cost cutting draped in perceived quality. This vehicle was sculpted, savoured and structured to be something much more than the sum of its parts. This was born out of pure passion that transcends well beyond market dynamics and sales figures.
The Gurkha exists because Force Motors breathed life into steel and forged a truck like no other.
Built from scratch while still staying true to its roots, the 2021 Gurkha is a sequel done right. It has learnt well from its predecessor and earnestly makes good on its deficits, while admirably playing to its strengths. The interior layout is a sea change from the outgone model, and is a true coming of age for this generation of the Gurkha.
Inside the refreshed cabin, it just about ticks the right boxes with its airbags, ABS and a touch screen unit and a bone chilling AC keeping you safely on the other side of the missus’ ire, while you dismiss what lesser mortals would call unforgiving terrain comfortably, in the only vehicle built in India with manual, mechanical front and rear differential locks.
With body built like a tank, it is indeed thoughtful in its ISOFIX seats letting adventure begin young, and is generous in its seat bolstering for the young at heart. The rear seat is a place where memories are made, as amused kids peer through the large side glass, which is as wide as their innocent imagination.
This Gurkha, then belongs, as much to the family tourer, as it does to the gentleman off-roader. It is no more reserved only for the recluse or for the rebels. It throws its arms and three doors wide open for all those who can appreciate what it has truly become.
The Gurkha’s sole purpose is to convert diesel into memories. Nothing else.
Last edited by vigneshkumar31 : 27th January 2022 at 21:58.
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|4th January 2022, 00:54||#4|
The Island Gurkha | Chinks in the Armour
Chinks in the Armour
This knight is not without chinks in its armour. After plonking big bucks on its bonnet, my bouquets would be followed by brickbats.
The interior appointment embraces its functionality far too dearly, oblivious to segment standards. It transcends time and tries for timelessness, but refuses to come to terms with the present.
Although the design is classic, old-school, in and out, there is a visible generation gap between the exterior and the interior.
There’s a thin line between timeless and time-worn, as it’s between old-fashioned and out-dated. While the exterior styling has managed to stay charmingly old-fashioned yet timeless, the Gurkha’s interior dashboard still errs on the side of the latter. A giant leap from its predecessor no doubt, but still falls short to keep up with the date stamp on its VIN and the price tag on its chin.
It continues to share the interior with its commercial cousin.
The Pricing Equation.
Niche vehicles like the Gurkha bask in lights of halo, so discussing the pricing equation is tricky business. They are worth whatever the buyer is willing to pay for them. This is a beast of passion and there’s always a premium for passion that one shells out unwillingly and often without choice. The Gurkha buyer in me, is so insanely consumed by its appeal, that laws of economics have been deemed out of syllabus. How then do you measure the intangible without a yardstick? How much of comfort and quality is to be demanded from an off-road truck? Can you afford to choose a hard core off-roader and still have a decent cabin?
They always made us choose.
“Choose!”, they screamed. “Choose between passion and plastic quality”.
“Choose!” they yelled “between four wheel drive and faux leather upholstery”
And we muttered in muted tones and mumbled “safety?”- Quick came the retort “Choose between approach angle and airbags”.
Just like some vegan fallacy that healthy food cannot taste good, it had become an accepted norm that off-roaders cannot be comfortable. You had to choose, one, without the other. An off-roader with park benches for seats or a comfortable iPad on wheels? We had no options, but to choose one.
Then came the new Mahindra Thar.
The new Thar with its updated splash proof interiors which actually look like its time and price, stonker of an engine, petrol/diesel options, manual/automatic options, hardtop/soft-top/convertible options, and topping it all with its ‘wrangling’ looks has finally laid out a plethora of options. And the market has amply rewarded the product with unprecedented bookings for what is supposedly another ‘niche’ vehicle. Suddenly we have an off-roader your wife doesn’t hate anymore. And probably might end up taking for a spin herself. The new Thar is therefore, a revolution in this category. It seems there’s a Thar for everyone
The 2021 Gurkha on the other hand, is only one, and not for everyone. It is an organic evolution of its line. It is only marginally expensive than the model it replaces and packs in a lot more for the difference in pricing. So the new one is indeed great value, in the light of the old. And I agree.
The Gurkha could have gotten away with its pricing, if it were not for this Mahindra Thar. The Thar gives the Gurkha more than just competition, it gives it perspective. Without the Thar, there would be no ‘segment’, and there would be no yardstick.
Through the lens of what Mahindra has managed to package into the Thar, at its asking price, the value equations suddenly tip against the Force. One dares to ask previously taboo questions such as 'Why better interior appointments and materials weren’t bundled into the Gurkha'?
The answer to that difficult question is volumes. Within the ‘segment’ the Thar has returned as the prodigal son, bringing volumes to the company with its new found universal acceptability, so much so that it has become an oxymoron- mainstream niche . The company for its part, can afford to keep the pot boiling with aggressive pricing, slimming down the margins. (However we must realise that long waiting times also mean that booked prospects, run the risk of the dreaded ‘prices applicable at time of invoicing’ caveat.)
The Gurkha on the other hand remains stubbornly, true niche. Force Motors simply doesn’t have the cushion of volumes to price the Gurkha aggressively. Like many of our fellow members, some of my friends did bring up the option of an aggressive ‘introductory pricing’ where we expect the company to absorb losses, take a hit and put more examples on the road.
I quizzed one such friend during a discussion, “Assume, that Force heard you, and introduced the Gurkha at a lakh lesser, would you still buy it over the Thar ?”, He hesitated. “I’ll make the deal sweeter for you and slash 1.5 lakhs off its sticker” I said.
He grinned and did some math and I quickly appealed to his honesty before he begins to blurt out any reply just for the heck of it. He said that he may consider it, but would still end up going for the Thar.
And flip the question around to me, I have test driven the Thar with my family. It looks great from the outside. Its interiors look well put together and the motor pulls well. But inside, the Thar makes you sit literally between the wheels and there was visible discomfort for the second row occupants during our test drive. The access into the second row was also too much to ask of my wife, who I had just ‘surprised’ by bringing her to a test-drive instead of shopping. I personally was not happy with the ride quality at all. No place for luggage and the noise did seep in when I picked up speed. This Thar is the perhaps the most accessible Thar yet, and is a great package but personally, I wouldn’t be able to live with it. Its one of those things during a test drive you know if you know.
So ladies and gentlemen, even within the segment, the Thar and the Gurkha buyers are not necessarily cross shopping. If you are convinced with the Thar, then the Gurkha wouldn’t push the right buttons for you. If you have gone the way of the Gurkha, the Thar wouldn’t tick the same boxes. Price has very less to do here, beyond strictly personal finances.
The Thar is a dexterous Swiss Army Knife, while the Gurkha is a brutal sledge hammer.
And your choice depends on what you want to do. Go camping after work? or Bring down a wall? Choose wisely, because top end is irrelevant when you are wrestling with masonry. Torque delayed is torque denied.
The Gurkha and the Thar perhaps do not need each other, but make no mistake, we need both of them.
My own take? I believe that the blokes at Force have indeed racked their brains into the R&D and put their backs into the engineering. The vehicle is a massive improvement from its old avatar and the company’s efforts do shine through when you see the vehicle in flesh, and their new found passion for this special vehicle. The aggression of the sales team and the ownership shown by the service team instills a sense that Force is perhaps, finally in this, for real. And I see the value in that. And while my bank account would have been happier if it came any cheaper, I still believe I got what I paid for.
Service Intervals. First one is at 05 months, then every 04 months/10k kms. This is too frequent a visit for regular service. Wouldn’t mind getting the vehicle checked up now and then, but it might be a challenge where I’m writing this from - the Islands.
Last edited by vigneshkumar31 : 27th January 2022 at 23:15.
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|4th January 2022, 00:58||#5|
The Island Gurkha | The Islands
These islands are best known as a vacation hub with sandy beaches and sea shells. It rains most of the year and the few months of ‘season’ invites a surge of visitors. Simply put, this is a picture perfect postcard.
But there is so much more to these islands, than just tourists and tender coconuts.
The islands offer a unique combination of tarmac, trail, sand and mud all compressed into the tiny bits of land poking out of the sea. The archipelago has both sandy beaches and rugged forests invitingly co-existing within a stones throw from each other.
There is only one "highway’’ called the Great Andaman Trunk Road (ATR, the old 223) running north-south. This is also called NH4 (that’s cute) by a few optimists and connects four main island groups. It runs some 340 km, sometimes broken, sometimes bridged, from North Andaman to South Andaman cutting through Reserve Forests and Tribal Preserve, through Baratang and Middle Andaman. The Nicobar island group is further south and that’s another story.
If you have no business in the North, then mostly you would find yourself driving around Port Blair town. Four main roads (called ‘Lines’) and a hilly ring around the airport pretty much sum it up. You can get from any point in the main town to any other within 20 minutes tops. If you’re the kind who loves to go soul searching on long drives, you would find your soul rather quickly here.
But the real fun begins beyond town. Just choose a direction and shoot and you will be treated to thick jungle trails, or loose sandy beaches or even better freshly brewed slush handmade by the Rain God himself (4L with diff locks? Yes please!).
The greatest joy for the rough road enthusiast is that you can hit an assortment of nature’s best challenges and most rewarding views within the hour.
And if you run out of road…
Just roll-on onto the ferry and roll-off out the other side. (Short wheel base? Yes please!) The best patches are always guarded by the toughest terrain. If you get past that, you can treat yourself to happy, responsible camping.
And the only other predator that the Gurkha has to watch out for in the islands is...
And after sunset (which is pretty early here thanks to spatial separation and IST), you get few quiet, dark hours for night drives even before dinner. With no light pollution or air pollution, the island comes alive in a different hue, to which my camera skills simply sign instruments of surrender.(Full LED Headlights? Yes please!)
(P.S: Check out the Αlpha, my Kumki in the center.)
So if you had always thought that the hills were the Gurkha’s natural habitat, you would be amazed at what a bit of island breeze could do to it. (Would someone please tell our boys doing the Spiti Edition now to come over here later, for an Island Edition for some well deserved sun after the high alt. chills.)
So perhaps it is time for the decision.
Last edited by vigneshkumar31 : 27th January 2022 at 22:55.
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|4th January 2022, 01:10||#6|
The Island Gurkha | The Decision
I have always admired the Gurkha. For its audacity to simply exist. I have loyally test driven each iteration before but I could never muster the courage to bring one home. Until now, I have admired the ‘idea’ of the Gurkha more than the vehicle itself. For the idea of owning one was more enticing than actually having to live with one. Even when I had almost pushed myself towards that tough nut Xtreme 3 door in 2017-18, a Gurkha of my own, remained just lofty dreams loosely held together by drool, until down the line, when BS6 hit, followed later by the pandemic.
The pandemic has hit all manufacturers hard, from a production and chip shortage perspective, but little do we appreciate how much Force Motors got hit from the demand side. With the tourism industry frozen, the company had lost its mainstay demand for the people movers. Few ambulances' sales had kept the counter ticking (Revelations from my discussions with a friendly Force dealer. This may not be accurate or open for generalisation pan India but the facts are logical)
And yet, they went ahead and launched a brand new Gurkha this year, which they well knew wouldn’t bring in volumes or tip the scales. We often complain that enthusiasts’ pleas are not heard and that companies always answer only to the bean counters. In 2021, Force did seem to have heard us and answered with an audacity called Gurkha, which in its own charming way had all that I wanted from my next truck.
Although the company has faced our wrath for things that it could have done better, one thing you can't take away from Force Motors, is that they have kept the Gurkha alive, through thick and thin, and always improved it with every iteration. Look closely at each generation and you will see honest efforts to add value with each refresh. The solid front axle, factory lifted beast with a hearty engine was a treat, let down largely by sad interiors and lack of cohesive effort from the company. But much has changed now. The latest BSVI avatar, is the true coming of age of the Gurkha line. And I am ready for it, as it is ready for me, finally.
In my case, the Gurkha has large shoes to fill, quite literally.
It replaces my trusted first gen Safari Storme which is another beast of character. It has been our daily ride and has never let us down. It has made a lot of memories with us and only in really sticky situations have I seen it get bogged down. With acres of space and tough underpinnings, it was last of the great Safari lineage and here’s why the Gravitas couldn’t have replaced it for me.
https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/test-...ari-owner.html (New 2nd-gen Tata Safari | Perspective of an Old Safari Owner)
The next car that replaces my Safari had to have 4x4. I have lived with the Storme 4x2 long enough and have had enough moments of regret where I sorely missed the ability to power-turn all wheels. So 4WD was a non negotiable requirement. Our family road trips in India and overseas have only made the off-road bug bite harder. The Safari has taken us places, but it could only go so far with only two wheels being driven. I've found streams and followed it to land's end, only to lose it to the sea again.
In the absence of a 4x4, my other ride does sneak me into beautiful trails, and this is how I get my fill, but the family has to stay back and miss it.
I have always dreamt of having a purpose built 4x4 for overlanding and rough trail excursions. Without a thriving culture or demand for such vehicles in our country, the options have always been at the extreme ends of the spectrum. On one end are the Overpriced CKDs/CBUs that, even if you stretched to afford, might not be abuse tolerant and end up being expensive to repair their war wounds. On the bottom end are the overpriced off-roaders that are too barebones to digest despite the sticker price.
Since we had sold wife's Figo many years ago, the Safari had also become our one car do all. It’s our family car and I’ll admit it is a fairly bare bones SUV (with a single-DIN CD player). We were finally hoping for some cajoling creature comforts at least in the next family car. My son had a non negotiable sun roof requirement (I decided to let the kid have this one). We were also looking for an automatic transmission. If we had to continue with a one car garage format and still tick all our boxes, we were squarely staring at the D2 SUV territory. A segment I have dissected in great, excruciating detail here.
https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/suvs-...-shootout.html (The definitive full-size 7-seater Premium SUV shootout)
Only Safari owners would empathise when I say that the Storme is a very tough car to upgrade from. Car prices today are obscene. Any worthy replacement to my Safari that I can think of today costs twice/thrice as much. The only two cars that I would’ve traded it for are unfortunately not on sale anymore.
Recent developments in professional and personal life, also dictated the need for a second car for my wife. So we had been looking for a small beater hatch for quite some time now. I contemplated many options and then the 2021 Gurkha came like providence, just in time. It made so much sense for me, and in many ways, it found me and not the other way round.
I upgraded the requirements of the secondary car from a budget, beater hatch to a proper premium hatch (Chose the Hyundai i20 Asta(O) 1.0 Turbo DCT - Read that decision here - https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/hatch...etrol-dct.html (Small, feature-rich car for the Mrs | EDIT: Booked Hyundai i20 1.0L Turbo Petrol DCT) ) This would take over the comfortable family car duties, which relaxed the requirements of the primary SUV and made space for your friendly neighbourhood off-roader. A proper 4x4, finally with which I could chuck the truck around without guilt, never possible if I had gone with a D2 segment SUV. And as I said before, the Gurkha would be in its elements in the islands and that's an opportunity not to be missed.
So I decided to bring a Gurkha home, but not without a challenge.
Last edited by vigneshkumar31 : 24th January 2022 at 13:05.
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|4th January 2022, 01:12||#7|
The Island Gurkha | The Challenge
We do have a Force dealership in the islands but it services only commercial vehicles. The Force Traveller is obviously a hit with the tourism industry here and therefore, there is an established touch point for the Company. I called the dealer and he expressed his regret in not being able to offer the Gurkha here. The company’s product differentiation initiatives would require setting up dedicated facilities for the Gurkha in terms of sales and service, and therefore I was informed that at least for the near future, a Gurkha in the islands would be a tough ask. To keep my hopes alive, he did assure me that there are ambitious plans and he would eventually expand to include the Gurkha as well. He was very positive and shared my enthusiasm for the Gurkha. The dealership was my first contact with any form of Force Motors, and they (Mr Shibu and Mr Subbaraj of A.G.Motors, Port Blair) surpassed my expectations for what I wrongly assumed would be just your average van dealer. Before I could spiral down the sink hole of sulk, their positive vibes gift wrapped and bow-tied a fleeting remark - “If the vehicle can come here, we can take care of everything else, No issue”.
Hmmm. Come here? Eh? ( Rubs palms schemingly)
Ill let the picture do the talking.
The vehicle has to be moved across 3000+ km from the Force Factory at Pithampur to Port Blair. To put it in perspective, the farthest Force Motors dealership in the mainland is at Imphal, Manipur, if I’m right, and would take about 2500km for delivery, by road.
This island Gurkha would then be, officially the farthest Gurkha from the Factory. Even if I did manage to somehow teleport it here, who would support this unicorn in the island?, what about service? what about warranty? , who would be at the other end of my distress call if the vehicle ever breaks down? These questions haunted me.
And that, fellow gear-heads, is the challenge.
Did I mention the obvious drink in between?, there is the small matter of an ocean that needs to be addressed.
Last edited by vigneshkumar31 : 7th January 2022 at 22:21.
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|4th January 2022, 01:17||#8|
Re: The Island Gurkha | The Force Awakens
The Force Awakens.
Now that I had decided to bring the big boy home, I’m not letting anything, not even an ocean get in the way.
The next fine morning, I shot an email to Force Motors about my unique challenge, with very less hope, to what seemed to be a not-so-inspiring email id I had dug up from their website. I forgot about it and drowned in the daily din.
The very same evening, about eight hours later, I get a call from an unknown number. And just when I was about to hang up saying that I don’t need life insurance, the gentleman identifies himself as Mr N.Sankar, National Head (Sales) Force Gurkha, and wanted to help me find a solution. Before I could realise the quantum and momentum of their service, he requested me to take on Mr. Prakash, M.P.C Motors, Chennai Force Gurkha Dealer, on conference call!
And guess what?, they were not calling me first to find a solution. They had already done the ground work and were calling me last, to just present the solution.
Mr Sankar assured me that they had discussed my specific case at HQ level and decided that Andaman service team of Mr Shibu, would be able to do the first line maintenance and general service and all spares required specially for my Gurkha would be stocked up at Port Blair before my vehicle reached there. For any special maintenance or specific issues that may come up, they would assign two technicians from Mr Prakash’s Chennai team, who would be on call to help out the Andaman team (especially with transfer case, airbags and differential locks which the team at Andaman would have not encountered in their commercial vehicle experience) and if issues still remain unresolved, the technicians would fly down and attend to it, and they have already obtained clearance for the same from HQ, and hence giving me this specific assurance.
I did quickly shoot my other nagging doubts about the vehicle and they were addressed by Mr Sankar and Mr Prakash. Since not many ownership reports of BSVI Gurkha were out at that time, I had only few specific points of reference to compare against/ highlight issues reported by existing owners. I flagged my concern with the warranty coverage spread across separate agencies/OEMs, (enlightened by BHPian Mohd.Eeza's onwership thread) and it was clarified that the warranty would still indeed be applicable as scheduled, and would be handled at the authorised dealership level irrespective of the individual OEM. I suggested that the terms and the coverage should be better spelt out pre-sales for clarity and confidence.
They assured me that Force Motors, Force dealer-Chennai and Force Dealer-Andaman are all in sync, and on the same page and will take care of me and my Gurkha.
We spoke at length about the logistics of it and with the Sales Head himself, on call, I used the time to pick his brain about the future plans for the vehicle. I realised I was bearing witness first hand, to the new Force Motors. The Force Awakens
Booking and Purchase Formalities
It was decided that I would book and purchase the truck through Chennai dealership and they would be the front end for all documentation. They would do a temporary registration in my name and I would have to get the truck shipped at my expense at actuals, and permanent register it here in the Islands. All this in remote, while I'm sitting on this side of the ocean. I couldn’t afford even a quick weekend trip to Chennai because of the very dynamic covid + quarantine rules in the Port Blair airport. I had to trust the process and go completely remote on this one.
That means everything in remote, including documentation, and most importantly PDI!.When I was contemplating under gloomy clouds of doubt, the Chennai dealer Mr Prakash assigned his General Manager Sales, Mr Chandrashekar as an exclusive single point of contact for all my inspections and requirements there on. Mr Chandrashekhar (henceforth No.1 on my speed dial) with his keen enthusiasm and interest displayed during our discussions reinforced my trust in the brand, the vehicle and the dealership. And I took a giant leap of faith.
I made the booking with MPC Motors, Chennai by transferring INR 25,000/- online and had to choose the colour. I’m a big Defender nut and love the Corris Grey on the old Ninety. So chose the Gurkha in grey. (Note to self: Will see if I can later black out the alloys and go for the classic black and grey of the Ninety).
I spoke to my ICICI Bank, Port Blair and I was informed that I had a pre-approved car loan against my account. So the Port Blair Branch bounced me off to the Kolkata branch (which supports the Island branch) over phone and what followed was the smoothest loan disbursal I’ve seen. I’m not aware if procedures have been simplified after the pandemic, but I was on phone with the ICICI representative and a few OTPs and text messages were quickly forwarded, and within the hour, the loan was done. The amount got disbursed the very next day. As all hopeless enthusiasts suddenly turn spiritual, I too was seeing the Universe pushing the Gurkha towards me.
The car was billed the next day, and Mr Prakash, Chennai dealer, kept me updated with screenshots and pictures. Like this one, which for the first time made me realise that there’s finally a Gurkha out there, meant for me.
The car was despatched from the factory and set off on the first leg of its long overland-oversea expedition.
On the day of the New Year, I got my wishes bundled with first pictures of my Gurkha.
After a remote PDI, the Gurkha was invoiced in my name, and I managed to cut in before the price hike, which came a few days later. I was obviously excited to see its pictures finally. Especially in the grey colour which you don’t see many examples of.
With steel wheels and no armour, the truck felt grossly incomplete, so I decided - Let’s kit it up!. But first, in keeping with the finest traditions of car buying, we need to give it a name.
Last edited by vigneshkumar31 : 22nd January 2022 at 15:31.
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|4th January 2022, 01:26||#9|
Re: The Island Gurkha | What's in a Name?
What’s in a Name?
I always name my rides. My wife doesn’t always get it, but if you ponder and maybe squint a little, cars really do resemble people. Our brains are wired to anthropomorphize them. *Pareidolia is what it’s called by geeks who felt compelled to give that a name too (See?, we are not alone), As enthusiasts we can’t help but see these machines as endeared persona. So I see not why they shouldn't be given names.
Then what should I name my Gurkha?
T.A.N.G ? - Acronym for The All New Gurkha? No.Too tacky. TANGO?, Still No.
Gandalf ? - Why because its grey and old ? Nah.
Bullit ? - To honour the original αlpha male, McQueen, and my favourite car chase of all times? Nah, the Gurkha and a car chase just sound very wrong in the same sentence.
Dugong? - It’s a sea cow, a manatee cousin. Large, grey and native to these islands. Its the state animal of Andamans. But its too gentle and doesn’t quite roll of the tongue so well. (This was my wife’s choice, but I dared to veto)
Khukri ? - A formidable weapon in the hands of the Gurkha. Suits the vehicle aptly, even comes with its own factory embossed symbolics everywhere on the vehicle, but a tad too obvious for my taste. I need Personification - I need a name, that rings a bell, rushes memories and tells a tale.
A century ago on the low hills along the border between the southern states and turbulent Mexico, a mystery man appeared... a man with a sad, impenetrable face. Who was that man? What was his secret? An audacious man of action, capable of a tender, hopeless love which could only last a day... But a day which was worth all eternity. He was pitiless in revenge, quick to decide, and a master of every weapon…A lone, greying gunslinger, always drenched in mud. (Hmmm, Sounds just like the grey, off-road truck we have here)
The name is also an ode to my late father - an expert driver, my driving teacher, and an avid car-enthusiast himself, who rated it as one of his all time favourite movies. I have happy memories of watching it with him and bursting in joy when Franco Nero pulls out the Mitrailleuse- Maxim machine gun from the coffin.
(If you have not watched the classic Corbucci original, please do. The intro theme alone is wicked, will get you hooked.)
So Django, it is then.
I got a custom cut stainless steel name tag that would go well on Django. I got this badge with a specific location on the truck in mind. So I needed the exact dimensions.I got it measured by the dealership on my actual Gurkha in Chennai, and manufactured in Bangalore and shipped to Andaman where it would eventually meet its bearer.
Now, let's proceed with the kit.
Last edited by vigneshkumar31 : 20th January 2022 at 14:47.
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|6th January 2022, 21:57||#10|
Re: The Island Gurkha | My 2021 Grey Force Gurkha 4x4 in the Andamans
The Kit - Accessories and Accoutrements
In Car Entertainment System. The Kenwood ICE is an accessory, strictly speaking. But it comes bundled in the ex-showroom price.
I decided to get this windshield guard for more than just the neat looks. I also reckon they would be useful while bark busting through narrow trails.
(I found a trail like that later to arm wrestle with the Gurkha, and the design of the frame actually made sense, the handle like thingies on either side, engage and part the bushes and barks while the frame keeps the whiplash from hitting the screen, found it very useful and glad that I had installed it. You loose a wee bit of visibility around the A pillar because of this protrusion though).
Fun fact: The most common windscreen damage in the islands is due to falling coconuts! I have had to replace my own Safari’s windshield after bearing the wrath of a rogue kernel. The replacement windshield took about 3 months (like every big spare-part does) to ship from mainland , and needless to say those were excruciating times of looking through spiderwebbed glass held together by cellotape. Troubled by that trauma, I went ahead with the windshield guard, to make it a tad more difficult for the projectile coconuts to target my shield.
Roof rack. The roof rack was a no brainer. It’s a neat fix for additional luggage space on a SWB Gurkha. It does make the vehicle a tad too tall, but a useful accessory none the less.
I do not understand the noisy clatter that is the jerry can holder and its over protective latch which raises hell when loose.
Rear Ladder. The rear ladder was of the least utility especially in the half-size they are at presently. But the blanking screws at the back of the truck meant for mounting these, kept staring at me (Refer earlier picture of Django's rear in the showroom). I see the ladder as a good place to latch on additional gear or a jerry-can later, (maybe sand ladders would sit perfectly there, and would be quite useful in this terrain). The ladder does help to add character to an otherwise bland rear end, differentiating the Gurkha from its commercial cousin. I paid INR23375/- for the package (Roofroack+RearLadder+WindshieldProtector). With each accessory addition, Django was gaining character.
Reversing Camera While the truck was there, I got a good setup of reversing camera installed from the dealer itself and integrated into the HU. The dealer charged me INR 3800/- for it, which was acceptable for the price of convenience.
Sand Ladders This is one accessory that would find utility here in the islands, as I have seen jeeps bow down to sandy stretches quite often and scrambling for raft-boards to shove under wheel. It would work out too expensive and take too long for me to ship it direct to Andaman. So I ordered a set and had them couriered to the dealership, and I requested them to stow it in the truck prior loading.
Alloys and Tires.
If Clothes Maketh a Man, then Tires Maketh a Truck.
Look at the stock Gurkha pictures above, and you know it desperately needs new shoes. No wonder the company and the dealers discourage deliveries with steel wheels.
Alloys. I decided to retain the OE supplied alloy wheels (Neo Wheels Killer) and did not wish to play around with wheel changes just yet. I did not want to upsize beyond 16” and compromise ride quality. So I bought the alloys from the dealer as OE accessory. I'm not a big fan of the design of these Neo Killers. I don't like chrome and these look a bit too flashy, at least when new. But that's what's on offer and may be I'll black them out later. These alloys are offered additional, as an official accessory, for a set of 5, above ex-showroom price for a pretty penny at INR38,000/-
(For reference, in 2017 the official accessory alloy set with old Gurkha for a set of 5 costed INR 28610/-)
Tires. Force Motors had the good sense to provide A/T tires on the truck as standard, as it should. The truck is plug and play from the get go, even with the stock configuration, but I was looking for a better set of shoes than the stock Ceat Czar 245/70/R16 A/T.
I was looking for decent on road manners but wanted superior grip and traction with an offroad bias. I have driven a decade with AT tires and I know what they can and cannot do. They have been great on roads, good and bad, for my usage and the terrain. But I have ended up painting my AT tyres with slick mud quite quickly in some excursions here in the islands just after the rains, only to find the wheel spinning away, coated smooth as butter. So, I was willing to compromise on some road noise for better off road traction, so some good MT or even better, if I could get some hybrid tyres, that would be the dream. I was keen to incorporate some more rubber into the profile to help the ride on rough surfaces, while also helping aesthetics of the truck’s profile filling the wheel wells. I did like the Maxxis Bighorns which came as an official accessory with the older Gurkha. Would be nice if I could find that set. These tires have good reviews online, especially from Down Under and seem to do tough duty in the 'bush'.
So I decided to source 245/75/R16 M/T or Hybrid or A/T based on availability, (in that order of tread). With this combination, I was only a wee bit over the 3% tire-size deviation thumb rule (somebody's thumb said 3%).
The tires were the most difficult challenge for me to source, in my entire mission to bring the Gurkha home. Please read on.
The market is sadly deprived of good tires, especially in the wake of the rubber import ban. I was going for 245/75/R16 and it was so hard to source them, especially sitting in the islands.
We have exclusive showrooms of Bridgestone, Apollo, Falken, Ceat and MRF here in Port Blair. The market here in the islands, sells tires (like everything else) at a steep premium and holds only stocks of popular sizes. So I quickly dismissed the idea of swapping tires once the vehicle reaches here. I decided to source and remote swap the tires at the Chennai dealership itself. Thus began, the quest for better rubber.
Although there are a million tyre aggregator websites popping up on online search such as tirezone, tyrebuzzar etc., the options they offered were very limited and sometimes misleading towards out of stock dead ends.
We will have to go old school- hustle on this, with good ol’ tring tring.
So I called up pretty much every dealer of every popular brand that came to my mind. Ended up educating half of them about the new Gurkha, decided to save time and tell the other half that it was for the Thar. Beyond the big dealerships, it was difficult to find contact numbers of many dealers directly online. So I pounded instagram handles also and slid into their DMs.
Someone must have been wise when they said “The only thing between the road and the car are the tires”, so I didn’t want to plunge into risk with unknown/lesser known brands with no proven track record anywhere, and I rejected those options as they came up.
Tire Hunt Strategy: The attack plan was to exhaust Chennai tire dealers first to save time and shipping costs to the Chennai Force dealership where the swap was planned.
If Chennai returns no joy, then proceed to Delhi and then move to the west coast and approach Bombay. The B-towns would be rummaged through next if I survive beyond Bombay, to hunt for unsold stocks from ambitious but unlucky dealerships holding onto this treaded gold. Kerala gets my vote for most tasteful mods (Mods Own Country, eh?), so I decided to sieve through that State as well, somewhere during the middle game.
Options Discovered. These are the options of tires I could find, available anywhere in India, in this size. So in case you are looking out, don’t fret, save the toil, and the buck might as well stop here. Note: If you want contacts of any of these elusive dealers, please do PM me.
JK Elanzo Supra A/T 245/75/R16 (INR 6900/- per tyre, found them available in at Indore at this price and Chennai for cheaper).
Ceat Czar A/T 245/75/R16 (INR 6800/- per tyre Stocks available in Chennai, but didn’t want to upgrade to CEAT).
Apollo Apterra AT2. 245/75/R16. Best price I got was INR 7600/- per piece from Central Tyres, Mount Road, Chennai. I already use this AT2 model on my Storme and I’m happy with it on road. But it hates mud and slush. I had struck a deal and finalised this as the fall back Plan B if nothing else works. i had a team ready from Central Tires, thanks to Mr Purushothaman, who would swap the tires in exchange for the installed ones at the dealership on my cue. A decent tyre buy back price was also negotiated for the installed OE Ceat tires.
MRF Wanderer AT 245/75/16 (INR 7800/- per piece)
Continentals - My favourite brand for AT tires. Took my safari through thick and thin with it. Not available in this size though.
Dunlop Grandtrek- MT2 245/75/R16 (Mud Terrain,. INR 14800/-piece.) Yes, I dug so deep, I even unearthed a Dunlop.
BF Goodrich 265/75/16 only available in Kerala for INR 27000/- piece.(Over size, over kill. At that price, I would never have the heart to drive them off-road). Funny thing about buying tyres is that there are 5 of them and the quoted price hits you 5X when you loosen your wallet for actual payment. I stumbled later on 255/70/16 BFs in Noida, but they had only 4 of the set, for INR 18725/- a piece. I was tempted at that price but then, besides the size variation, I wanted to buy a set of tires whose supply in the future is not a big issue. With these elusive KO2’s I was not sure if I would get a replacement at short notice in the future. This was one more aspect I had in my mind for consideration.
Cooper Tires Discover STT (Found the dealer’s contact by unearthing an old TBHP post in the 4x4 section, but no stocks).
Triangle AT 245/75/R16 - Got a quote for 32500/- for 5 pieces. Beyond the obvious geometric incompatibility of a circle being named triangle, I didn’t like the tyres. I rejected it.
Wanda AT was available in Kerala but I rejected it.
Arivo TerramaxPro A/T 245/75/R16 - Had not heard much about the brand. Did not like the tread blocks (INR 8200/- per piece).
Arivo MT 245/75/16 (INR 10500/- per piece)
Radar Renegade 245/75/R16 RT+ (Sourced for Asterix by Manuuj, I tried contacting the Lajpat Nagar dealer at Delhi but he didn’t have any stocks/ at his source. I tried to find the source based on the tip-off of some ‘jeep tyre dealer in Bombay on instagram’. I found some pics of Thars shod with Renegades and picked up the name of the dealer from the name board in the back (Yes, I know. Perseverance is the name of the game). After hitting roadblocks with different namesakes of Gobind tires, I reached what appeared to be another dead end.
Read that line again about perseverance.
I went ahead and e-mailed Radar HQ at their Singapore Corporate office and they promptly bounced my mail around to Global through Asia followed through by India and then spiralled down to the actual, real, original Gobind Tires. Spiralled further in and got the telephone contact and spoke to the very busy dealer. I was informed that the stocks are in transit by container and would take some time to reach (about a month). Patience is a virtue, I told myself unconvincingly. i did find some larger sizes of Radars in stock in Kerala and Bombay, but didn’t want to upsize too much or too wide.
Maxxis Bighorn 764 M/T 245/75/R16. I reckon, the larger profiles of these Bighorns were quite popular among the off-roading community, but these are getting harder to come by now.(I'm not aware of import restrictions effect on Maxxis, because I'm not entirely sure if Maxxis has started making four wheeler tires in their domestic two wheeler factory). Bighorns come with tread pattern called 'Eagle' and come with special mud-stone ejector lugs and triple side wall with extra strengthened shoulder and side walls. These can take a thrashing and then some, they say. I had almost given up in finding them because after running in circles, I was being offered Maxxis HT only by some stockists. The best I found was Maxxis in 245/70/R16 in Calcutta and Bangalore for INR 13000/- a piece).
Don’t worry, We are not giving up yet. One morning, that paper rocket on instagram, had a happy dot, because a tyre dealer’s son in Palakkad decided to return home on leave and check his dad’s store’s instagram inbox. And guess what? He found my message (read frantic cry for help) and replied that he indeed had a set of Maxxis Mud Terrain 245/75/16 in stock!. Trust me, as on date, these were perhaps the last set anywhere in the country in this particular size. I was very thorough in my hunt. They seemed pricey based on his initial quote, but Mr.Anandhu, from Sreehari Tyres, Palakkad was a good hustler and kept in touch with me through the next few days and gave me a good final deal at INR 15000/- piece. It perhaps was not the last set in India, because I found the same size in Bangalore that evening, but for 16400/-piece. Later in North Kerala again. Seeing how they were popping up here and there and after satisfying myself that sizes and supply would not be a big issue in the future, Maxxis won the round.
For reference, in 2017 for a set of 5, MT Maxxis (smaller OE size 245/70/16) Force offered it as an official accessory at INR 78720/- (that’s INR 15750/- for a piece)
This is the first time I’m running Mud Terrains and I have no idea how they would perform under the Gurkha. I am going ahead with my choice, well aware of the demerits of MT precisely because I want to exploit their strengths. This is a big gamble and I’m hoping they impress. If there ever was a truck and terrain combination that would do justice to the MTs beyond aesthetic appeal, it is this particular case. So I went for them. I will surely update it here with a report after adequate real world usage. Watch this space!
Note: The image below is the OWL (Outlined White Lettering) which comes in OE size (245/70/16 with 8 Ply Rating). Maxxis in 245/75/16, which we want, comes with 10 Ply Rating with RWL (Raised White Lettering), which is an easy way to tell these sizes apart even from afar.
I had Mr Anandhu ship these tyres to Chennai Force Motors dealership. I had requested Mr Prakash and Mr Chandrashekar (GM Sales, MPC Motors Force Chennai) to swap the tires for me for a nominal charge at their workshop itself so that I could reduce one more remote operation. Since time was of the essence and I didn't want the truck to wait at the dealership just for tyres, I requested Anandhu to do his fastest route. The guy was a gem. He said his tyres would reach in 04-05 days if he shipped from his Palakkad godown as then it would do hub-hopping from Palakkad- Coimbatore-Salem-Chennai. He instead shipped it from his friend's stock in Kasargod, which would instead travel through frequently serviced hubs of Kasargod-Mangalore-Bangalore-Chennai, which would be faster and reach in two days. I kept thinking about the routes, but he had got the tyres loaded the same night and despatched form Kasargod, before I finished my thought. I'm grateful that he saw my earnest efforts and partook in my troubles. It did reach bang within 48 hours of loading at Kasargod to the last local hub at Chennai. Lethargy and apathy from the local hub at VRL Ambattur, meant that the tires stayed stuck for the want of last mile connectivity and final delivery to the Force dealership, a mere 2km away. I called the dealership and requested to send someone to pick up the tires, but they conveyed regret, as their men were engaged elsewhere. The VRL guys were willing to deliver maybe after hours, but the dealership closes by 6PM. I waited for a day, and then another, and checked if the gap closed, but in vain. So near, yet so far.
Again, we are not giving up.
I had to bridge the annoying last mile gap myself remotely. Looking at me pacing up and down, my wife suggested to Dunzo it. I dismissed her idea saying dunzo's can't lift tyres. But wait, there is the cargo version right, of dunzo? Downloaded Porter app and hired a Tata Ace to connect the last mile. Had to employ the best of my persuasive skills to convince the Porter driver to queue up and bill out my consignment from the VRL hub. He made it very clear that this was beyond his call of duty and he was only a driver (Why does he sound like Jason Statham from Transporter?). I succeeded after narrating a short version of my long story and he budged for a small cash incentive that brightened him up through GPay. I built up a rapport with him, because 5th tyre was coming the next day only, in another consignment, stuck up because of driver strike.(Don't even ask). Deployed him on call, again the next day, to repeat Step 1. He was engaged on the other side of the city. Thanks to my investment in the rapport, he subcontracted another Porter through his app and guided him to pick and drop the fifth tyre at MPC Motors. The dealership quickly got to work and swapped the wheels out, with the haste of a F1 pitstop. All the efforts paid off when I saw the beast come alive.
The OE Ceats (with rims) had to be sold. I had to reduce some heartburn from the pricey Maxxis through this sell-back. I enquired the best price that the Force dealership could get with its contacts. Dealership returned empty hands, so called back my Mr. Plan B Purushottaman (Apollo Apterra) contact to execute the second half (buyback) of the deal alone. Understandably, he was not directly interested and bounced me off to the end of the line tyre buyer in Pudupet, who did not offer any pickup service and wanted it to be dropped off at his shop by someone. Time to invoke Porter dude again. Porter picked up the tyres and rims from the dealership and dropped it off at the tyre shop at the other end of the city, fetching me a Gpay transfer of INR 21000 for the set of 5. I was realising the number of faceless players involved in this mission is increasing every day, and here I am sitting remotely and punching co-ordinates in a map of places I do not know.
Insurance Insurance was offered at INR45000/- from Oriental Insurance by the dealership. I took it without trying to find a lower quote outside because Mr Prakash assured me that they got the best tie-up possible with the insurer and I felt the amount was quite reasonable for the price of the vehicle. (Note: Policybazaar etc didn’t even list the Gurkha when I ran a casual online search).
Temporary Registration They emailed me the form-20's for registration, I signed them and couriered it back same day using Professional Pro which promises to be on the next flight out. The vehicle was temporary registered and all documents were prepared by the dealership itself. I paid INR 14500/- (TN temp charges alone was INR 4163/-) for registration and other charges, for all the formalities of registration in my name and the truck was sorted. Or so I thought. I couldn't ship the truck without the actual temporary regn. papers, and that was taking time to reach the dealer. I could feel the rigid ribbons of red-tape slowly strangling me like a noose. No more tricks up my sleeve, I had to throw my hands up in the air and wait. Mr Chandrashekar worked some magic and despite a stretch of holidays he got my papers delivered and promptly couriered a set to me.
Pre Delivery Inspection. I was particular about this being done thoroughly and keeping to their assurance, what followed was a thorough and dedicated PDI on video with the service team in attendance in the workshop with the car on lift. We inspected the underbody and the transfer case, and transmission components with a torch as the technician kept going through it. Complete engine bay inspection and a thorough once over at the showroom floor for checking cabin internals and the whole shebang followed suit. The truck was left parked on the showroom floor for the day, to look for oil spills/ leaks if any. Once I was satisfied , the truck was given the green lights for go!
Now we are ready to savour the delivery experience.
Last edited by vigneshkumar31 : 27th January 2022 at 23:06.
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|7th January 2022, 12:44||#11|
Re: The Island Gurkha | My 2021 Grey Force Gurkha 4x4 in the Andamans
The car was ready in all respects for its second overseas leg. I had established liaison and arrangements remotely with a shipping agent who was on standby, and the dealership agreed to deliver it at the embarkation Port. I was particular that no noob middleman driver goes medieval on my Gurkha, thinking What does this lever do? and yanking at the 4x4 lever. So the dealer’s designated driver will drive it into the container. And once it's shut I will drive it out at this end myself.
Seeing my genuine concern, Mr. Chandrashekar, GM Sales, himself accompanied Django to the port. This was a surprise and I appreciate this gesture very much, because himself being there for the loading put my mind at rest. I sent a formal email to the dealership to release the truck to the shipping agent, and Mr Chandrashekar sent me videos of the entire loading process and the items he has kept in the vehicle.
The Chennai Dealership MPC Motors team bid farewell to Django and signed off on the video.
Django sailed east on the high seas, through a historic route traversed by many legends before him, from the Port of Madras to Kalapaani.
The vessel called on Port Blair, five days later, and I happened to be crossing the channel at the same time (Universe, again?), It was a guessing game from afar, of which container housed my truck.
The container was unloaded and after due clearances, and the next day I was ready to take 'delivery'.
The container doors opened and there stood Django! (I let the intro -theme play in my head and hummed along to the utter amusement of islanders in the vicinity)
This was obviously not just another delivery where the car is revealed from beneath bow ties and blanket satins. There were no sweets exchanged, no giant keys given. No customary photographs in front of the car. I was seeing Django for the first time in flesh, in a not so shiny state, with a thin layer of dust, lashed down inside a shipping container, that too from the rear!. It almost looked like a weary sailor. But still, this was the happiest delivery ever, because it was special and was silver lined by a glint of achievement.
But wait, how do I get in?
This is perhaps the first delivery where I'm opening the rear door and climbing in, jumping over the seats and taking the steering wheel, facing a corrugated steel wall in front of me. I cranked it alive, let it sing. The container came alive reverberating to the tune of that 2.6L Diesel . And once it settled down, I flicked it to reverse, and had very less space to even open the ORVMs fully on one side. Thank God for the reversing camera we installed which aided me back clean and out.
My Gurkha finally touched down, rear wheels first, on the sun soaked island soil.
We had finally pulled it off. Mission Island Gurkha Accomplished!
Time now, for my initial ownership report.
Last edited by vigneshkumar31 : 24th January 2022 at 15:22.
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|7th January 2022, 12:50||#12|
Re: The Island Gurkha | My 2021 Grey Force Gurkha 4x4 in the Andamans
Initial Ownership Report.
Fit and Finish. Its a solid truck which has been put together with an intent to last. This a no-nonsense, no frills, robust and rugged truck. There's nothing fancy, but there is attention to detail evident at many places. Design for longevity seems to have been the brief. The interiors are ruggedised and look like won't shy away from a brisk wash.The design team has done an exceptional job and has included some clever bits which I continue to unearth everyday. Even the integration of the accessories has been done tastefully, and the factory quality is truly durable. The brackets and supports for the roof rack are both sturdy, functional and aesthetically synergised with the rest of the truck. But that's perhaps the Day Shift only.
The Night Shift guys have contributed some glaring follies for their part, for example giving a 3 bolt bracket on the rear door to mount a 5 bolt OE wheel.(Why? And once you see it, you can't un-see it, Go on, pull up the Auto Expo display car image and check, it was there too.)
Pop the hood and it throws up some eyesores. Tack weld beads smother over and hold together metal dearly. The sheet metal welding and crimp-turning around edges still leaves a lot to be desired for neat finishing. The Gurkha would do well to shirk off its commercial blood ties and invest some attention in these finer things while appealing to discerning, private buyers.
The insulation on the underside of the bonnet for engine is a good addition. But doesn't subdue the diesel clatter fully. Shut lines are tight and panel gaps are consistent by segment standards. The entire truck has a well built, industrial quality to it.
Shifting Gears. The first thing I’m thankful for is that I am coming from a Tata Safari to the Gurkha. So my learning curve is quick (and tolerance levels are high). Strictly speaking this is an upgrade in many ways for me. The obvious first, I have a proper 4x4 in place of 4x2. I have a real touch screen in place of my old single DIN. I have two airbags in the place of none. And I feel right at home working the truck’s clutch and gear, and I dare say that the clutch travel is a tad better than in my Safari. The gears slot clean and sure. I’m not looking for dead pedals or creature comforts because the Safari made sure I never got used to those extravagances.
Seats and Seating. The seats are insanely comfortable and are by far, the best things in the cabin. I don't know why they didn't provide armrests for the front seats, because all four seats are exactly the same! The stadium seating is more pronounced than it was in the Safari, and the second row seats are mounted on a small step behind the driver’s row. I'm 6 feet tall and the steering and seating position is perfect for me save a wee bit lumbar support. The windshield is wide and you peer down like a pilot coming in for landing between the turn lights on the bonnet.
The panaromic window is magical and brings back fond memories of the good old Sierra. My son loves this stuck window glass and dreams away through the wide glass. This is a great design master stroke - switching from the panelled windows in the previous generation to this continuous expanse of magic. It changes the ambience inside the cabin completely and the passengers see the world pass, like a movie. I’m missing the three point seat belts though, should find a way to get them installed.
Short Wheel Base. This is the perfect size, a tight sweetspot between full size SUVs and cramped off-roaders. I love the footprint! Again coming from the long, ponderous Safari, the Short Wheel Base of the Gurkha is a delight in terms of handling (by ladder frame standards) and also much easier to manoeuvre. I can’t say this enough, but the Gurkha feels like an organic, natural changeover coming from the Safari.
Snorkel Factory fitted snorkel. I am really thankful that a company cares enough to actually make and sell a plug and play off-roader in this cut-throat market today. Kudos, again to Force for keeping the Gurkha alive. The factory lifted old gen Gurkha had unparalleled gusto and continues to be my favourite exterior of the Gurkha line till date, but I like the black snorkel in the new one. It’s more understated and subtle compared to the flashy chrome snorkel on the old one. Would have loved it if they had retained the right angles for the front fascia though.I've not waded through streams to test the snorkel. I promise you guys will be the first to know when I do.
Engine and Performance.
Here's how my old and new boys stack up against each other.
The only folks who complain about the lack of power seem to be those who have not driven the truck yet. As you can see from the above comparison, I had 140 horses in the Safari’s 2.2 Varicor and know its power delivery pattern very well. I find the Gurkha’s FM2.6CR no slouch compared to that, even though it makes 50 horses lesser. Where difference does show, is further north in the rev range where the Safari had some room for building up speed comfortably to higher digits in the highway and hold it. But the Gurkha is not meant for that. Neither was the Safari, for I alone knew how nervous it gets at triple digits when you try to shift lanes.
The clutch on the Gurkha is softer than the Safari's ever was. It is such a joy and pleasant surprise for what I expected of this clutch. The flip side is the brake is also soft and lacks much bite. Its no match for the all four discs of the Safari.
The Gurkha rides decently on road, despite my knobby MT tires. These tires are surprisingly only a tad bit noisier than my AT. I feel the on road noise has been vastly over rated by highway huggers (or I've got very low NVH standards). The ride in the Gurkha, despite its tall frame is very sorted. Choose tire pressure wisely based on duty, and you have a very controlled truck which impresses on road (for an offroad biased vehicle). The ride quality is sorted and there's no drama and no bobbing boat rides. All is fine until you take a corner and the truck reminds you and the occupants of its height and frame by gently swinging you to the side.
The NVH is harsh outside, with the engine running. There is the noisy clatter very audible if you stand outside. Once in the seat, and windows down you still hear the engine and the whoosh of the snorkel gulping air down gluttonously. The moment you roll the windows up, the cabin is a much better place to be, even with AC and music off. Sound dampening is very decent and acceptable for me while driving.
The gearing ratios are set cleverly to tackle hard stuff thrown at it from the lower end. We have a lot of inclines here in the islands (just like hill terrain, as islands are just large mountains rising above the sea level). The Gurkha pulls up steep slopes quite comfortably even in 2nd gear). Once you understand the short gearing and deftly work the lever, the Gurkha has oodles of torque down below to belt out.
It builds up speed robustly on the open road and can lazily carry on 90s all day. You would be disappointed only if you unreasonably expect it to scorch triple digits. These are tall, ladder frame trucks, which are simply not meant to scorch highways or carve corners. If we look at these bad boys through the right lens, then one would truly appreciate its performance for purpose.
Reason for Existence There is this favourite french word of mine which I often quote, not necessarily to just sound fancy - raison d’être. It literally means - reason for existence.
I started this thread with this theme and would now come full circle back to it, because it is fundamental to understand the premise of this truck. It is important to acknowledge and accept what the Gurkha is, and more importantly what it isn’t.
Say these words with me:-
Each of these words is loaded with both capabilities and compromises. We can pull out a single word from the above and debate on it for hours. But we can’t have one without the other. And so we have to recite them together, always.
If you are considering the Gurkha, I implore you to reflect upon and meditate on these words for a while. If you do not like the sound of all these words together and what they mean underneath, drop this idea now, like a hot brick, and please look elsewhere. If it sounds just right for you, please read on, for you have come to the right place.
First, let’s get the trivial and obvious out of the way. (Well, it seems like it is not so obvious, based on 'expert' comments on social media. So let's set the record straight and spell it out)
What is it NOT?
What It Is.
Next, I will evaluate the Gurkha as an owner for -what it is- and not for -what it could have been. I’ve squandered that privilege of wishful thinking and keyboard slandering the moment I transitioned from prospect to patron.
I had delayed publishing this review intentionally, in order to spend some sufficiently quality time with the truck, and release the thread, only after updating it with my first hand user experiences, especially regarding its behaviour in its natural habitat.
The bright side (probably only one) of the truck being driven all the way from factory to dealership is that it’s run in nicely and ready to roar from the get go. So I did take it off the road without any delay. I am keeping it sane, till I get used to the limits of the vehicle.
Based on my personal experience, this is what I can summarise.
Off Road Performance: The moment we go off the road, the noisy, mileage munching, MT tires quickly earn back the pride they just lost on tarmac a few minutes ago. They are a leech on mud and rocks, especially if you air down slightly.
I'm no offroad expert, so I ran through familiar terrain which I have done with my Safari, and these knobbies stick out and endure great punishment compared to similar situations which used to simply paint my AT tires slick and smooth.
The Gurkha - thrives- off-road. It’s like a large dog, excitedly playing ‘fetch’ with its owner. If you’ve had a dog, or have seen one playing, you know what I mean. It forgets its weight and size and powers through anything you throw at it. I guarantee you a wide grin, the moment you negotiate your first tricky obstacle. It’s an acknowledgement of an intangible bond which you will make with your truck.
The steering can give a nasty kickback, remember to keep your thumbs out, while off road. Since I was still getting to know the vehicle’s limits and strengths, I was testing it and pushing it within my own limits off the road. Even when I anticipated and approached some spots as tricky, the Gurkha dismissed it with utter disregard. The Gurkha is mighty potent even in 2WD/2H. Even when I went looking for trouble in ruts and jungle tracks, the truck dismisses obstacles with sheer disregard. In one line, this beast brutally beats burly boulders into bitter submission and this tough truck tames treacherously tricky terrain, courtesy that sweet 4WD.
The Gurkha seems unstoppable in any kind of terrain, even in two wheel drive. It has enough grunt to plough through mud, rocks and slush and just dominates the terrain. Combined with the MT tires, I reckon it can take on much of the island without a bead of sweat and without ever invoking the second lever. I'm truly blown away by what it showed me on familiar and unfamiliar terrain. Watch out for the low front control arms and the bracket in between which can get beached if you hit a rut wrongly. This is the part many have been mentioning as point of low clearance.
While the gear lever doesn't shake at all during the drive, the 4x4 lever keeps vibrating about its socket, begging to be worked. It takes effort to slot the vehicle into 4H, but once you have it figured, the beast pulls clean over loose ground/sand. 4H to 4L (via Neutral) is easier and straightforward. 4L unleashes the real beast that the Gurkha is, and I had to get myself really stuck deliberately for the pleasure and privilege of unleashing it.
Miscellaneous Points [Points not covered before by myself or other Gurkha owners on forum]
Since the day of my first expression of interest, till today, when I’m actually driving around in my truck, there have been so many people who have been part of this journey, part of this mission. What’s interesting is that I haven’t seen any of them, not even in pictures. (Even all the update/PDI videos always pointed towards the truck and no DP on WhatsApp either!). It was weirdly exciting, slightly scary and some how surreal at the same time. But the entire experience has been ultimately rewarding each time I crank the truck. I am not sure, if I would have got such personal attention, even if I had brought home a German from the Big 3 to the island. Kudos to the entire team at Force Motors.
The Gurkha is part of the Special Vehicles Division of Force Motors. I have designed another custom stainless steel emblem to highlight and differentiate the Gurkha for the special vehicle it is. It will take pride of place on the right fender below the engine badge. I would recommend Force Motors to offer an official embellishment like this for this niche vehicle right off the factory, perhaps with a running serial number. It adds greatly to the cred and character of this unique truck.
I sign off with gratitude to higher divine powers which moved everything in a smooth sweep. Many things could have gone sideways, but I was able to pull it off. Heartfelt thanks to all those who helped me accomplish this mission.
Through out this, the Force was always with me (HQ+dealers+sales team+service team). May the Force Be With You!, too.
(You know I just have to slide in a Star Wars reference.)
P.S: And give me that popcorn now, because the 5 door Thar and the 5 door Gurkha would be a great bout for which we will have a ringside view, and I so love Heavyweight championships.
Last edited by vigneshkumar31 : 27th January 2022 at 23:19.
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|28th January 2022, 05:18||#13|
Join Date: Feb 2004
Thanked: 59,468 Times
Re: The Island Gurkha | My 2021 Grey Force Gurkha 4x4 in the Andamans | Ownership Review
Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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|28th January 2022, 08:27||#14|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Thanked: 5,382 Times
Re: The Island Gurkha | My 2021 Grey Force Gurkha 4x4 in the Andamans | Ownership Review
What a passionate writeup man!! Too good and backdrop, the story makes the Gurkha even more desirable. As they say, "if you want something badly, the universe conspires to make it happen for you"..
The fact that FORCE motors made it happen for you and went the extra mile, does suggest that elephants can dance and dance they did!! Kudos to them!
Wish you endless miles of happy driving and adventures on your Gurkha.
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|28th January 2022, 09:31||#15|
Join Date: Sep 2007
Thanked: 1,185 Times
Re: The Island Gurkha | My 2021 Grey Force Gurkha 4x4 in the Andamans | Ownership Review
This is one of the best ownership reviews in T-BHP, if not the best. Your Gurkha is a true labor of love, and am really happy to see that we have members looking beyond the Thar for this kind of usage.
Am sure while reading this, many of us would have had the urge to call up the local Force dealer and book a Gurkha . In grey, with your mods, it looks such a looker. The Maxxis does so much to enhance the looks must say.
The Gurkha suits you and your needs to a T. Congratulations on owning this beast and wish you lakhs of happy miles munching on it.
Are you doing WFH from the Andamans?
Trivia- Django was the first Western i saw (yeah, even before John Wayne and Clint Eastwood stuff)
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