One of the things I like about libraries is that you find things by chance in a way that an internet search does not.
Exceptions occur such as this discovery of the Vintage & Classic Car Club of Pakistan. Pakistan’s most popular cars are the Toyota Corolla, the Suzuki Mehran and the Sukuki Cultus which we know as the Swift and sometimes the Subaru Justy. Next is the Alto which now looks very aggressive… and so on through a list of practical, useful and not very expensive cars. However, it’s not all low-cost motoring…
The Vintage and Classic Car Club has a presence here but also a website of its own. I had a further look to see what they are up to. In April they had their annual meeting in Karachi. Mohsin Ikram and Jim Agha founded the club in 1986 to link together what might have been a disconnected scattering of individuals with old cars to care for. That makes it something of a new car club.
I wanted to find out what sort of older cars people ran in Pakistan. First, I checked the cars of the committee of the VCCCP. Mohsin Ikram has a 1952 Citroen Traction Avant (above); Jim Agha has a Riley roadster (I didn’t find out which particular one); there is a 1976 Triumph GT; another member has a Rolls-Royce once owned by the Mountbattens; we find a 1967 Daimler V8 250. Others include a 1971 Mercedes 280S, a 1950 MG TD, a 1962 Lincoln Continental; a Packard, a Mustang, a Fiat Topolino, Morris Minor and a 1956 Cadillac Fleetwood. That’s a diverse list which seems not to have many French or Italian cars and no Swedes either (the only Saabs in Pakistan have wings). The presence of British cars is not surprising given Pakistan’s history yet it’s a muted presence.
A quick look at pakwheels.com reveals a startling nest of American vehicles. These might be quite well suited to Pakistan’s road conditions. Reflecting the geography, Pakistan’s car industry is influenced by the far east more than the west. Nissan, Suzuki, Honda and Toyota run joint ventures and there seems to be no relic of imperial industry in Pakistan apart from an attempt to build Bedford trucks in the 1950’s. Those American cars don’t then reflect anything more than small scale importation over the years (I keep thinking they are Cold War relics). If you take a look at the map of Pakistan you notice immediately its climatic and physical diversity. It’s also a pretty big place, the size of France and the UK combined. The VCCCP’s generality to some extent is reflective of this history and geography and state of economic development.
As with my conceptual visit to the Falklands and Uruguay last month, this quick peek into life in Pakistan is, I find, rather cheering. Last year I read a book called “The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You A Happy Birthday”. The author is a New York Times correspondent who usually reports on the daily news from the Middle East. In his book he looks at normal life and culture of the ME. I found that (unsurprisingly, really) quite a lot to be interested in regarding Middle Eastern culture generally understood and I saw a lot of parallels with Western Meditterranean culture too (we’re not so different).
The daily and weekly grind of news of conflict and war gets in the way of the fact people actually have a fair deal in common and what is different is mostly only fascinating. By the same token my small look into Pakistani classic motoring gets past the fog of politics which can present an unrelentingly bleak view of things. I really wouldn’t mind taking a trip to see what’s going on there and it seems it can be done with an old car too.
[PakSuzuki don’t show the Alto on their website. However the car is reviewed here and this implies it is or will be on sale in Pakistan.]