Restoring my 1983 Mahindra CJ 500D

Battery had been stolen, other exposed parts had been covered with debris and dust, if not rust.

BHPian captainkevin recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

My uncle used to own the 1983 Mahindra CJ 500 D for the past 33 years. It was purchased 3rd hand. It had been occasionally used and was last driven in 2014 and wasn't very well maintained until I finally decided a few months back to start restoring it. It was in a pretty bad state, had been lying around all these years in the open through the hot summers and pouring monsoons as well. Battery had been stolen, other exposed parts had been covered with debris and dust, if not rust.


  • 4 cylinder 1826cc naturally aspirated International Engine (still can't figure out the Engine Model)
  • 3-speed gearbox (RWD)
  • Wheelbase: 101"
  • Tyres: 6" x R16
  • Brakes: Hydraulic drum brakes.
  • Suspension: Front & Rear Leaf Springs

Inspired by popular automobile restoration television shows like Count's Kustoms, Counting Cars, Leepu and Pitbull, etc. I had planned to restore and customize the entire Jeep myself initially. Moreover having worked with my college club Team Predators Racing, my enthusiasm was doubled.

Finding spare parts was a challenge in itself and the closing down of shops, unavailability of parts, etc. due to the ongoing pandemic had lessened the chances of quicker procurement. Luckily, I found a jeep mechanic close to M.S.E.B. Power House Circle, Rastapeth, Pune who guided me to where I can purchase spares from. Suleman Arab a.k.a. 'Arab chacha' was impressed to know that I'd been working on my jeep myself and gave me a short history lesson dating back to WW2 explaining how the first American jeeps by Willys Overland Motors had entered the Indian markets post-war.

New Shocks and Fuel Tank:

At first, I got the tyres checked for punctures. Despite of all the years of lying around, the tyres didn't have a single puncture. Of course, the tyre tread was worn out a little. Since the wheels were out, I fixed the newly purchased shock absorbers.

Then I replaced the leaky fuel tank and all the fuel lines as well. It has an oil bath air filter. After cleaning the air filter and the fuel filter, I dismantled the cooling system and removed all the debris and rust, fixed it back and poured in a mix of water and coolant. The engine was running after a few attempts of cranking and the engine sound refreshed all my childhood memories.

Simultaneously, I had been working on the gearbox. The gear lever was stuck in first gear and just wouldn't move, my uncle always left the gear engaged while parked. I recently discovered that the handbrake mechanism was a transmission brake placed just behind the gearbox, but didn't see any lever to engage it from the cab.

The gearbox:

Upon inspection, I noticed that there was rust sitting even inside the gearbox on the shifting mechanism due to which it was stuck. Once the shifter was little cleaned, I aligned the forks with the sleeves and fastened the shifter with the bolts and the gasket in between (it took a few tries to align one of the forks on the sleeve since the gearbox is sloped backward slightly).

Now that I had the Jeep moving, it was time to work on the brakes. The brake pedal was extremely hard and wouldn't work. After replacement of the rear flexible hose, I bled the system and the brakes worked just fine. That more or less made the vehicle drivable, yet major repair/replacement work had to be done on the body, steering, electronics, etc.

I then started painting the rims one by one.

Every day of work was exciting and fun, equally challenging and exhilarating.

Now it was time to buy the body. I couldn't find a body matching my chassis dimensions. That's the time I came across another Jeep mechanic based in Pune who suggested I get the entire Jeep serviced from him. Since he quoted a reasonable amount, seemed trustworthy and reliable, I decided to leave the job in the hands of this experienced mechanic and have everything taken care of- engine overhauling, steering overhaul, body and hood installation, electrical wiring, etc. Moreover, I didn't have all the required tools and would need more manpower for assistance, which I didn't have. So it's been quite some time now that he's been working on the Jeep, I keep visiting the garage and observing ongoing work from time to time, sharing the photographs of the same below. Will also keep posting the work updates here.

Work done as of now:

  • Gearbox overhauled
  • Brake shoes replaced.
  • Clutch Plate replaced
  • Wheel Bearings greased
  • Steering system serviced (play minimized)

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