On an off-roading trip last year, Manas and a bunch of his friends from an off-roading club in Bengaluru visited an unused quarry in their Thars to get some adrenaline going. He was driving down into the quarry when there was a sudden drop on the front right-side, and the left-rear of his Thar lifted up. “One wrong move, and I would’ve flipped over,” Manas says, laughingly. It was, of course, no laughing matter then. He immediately shouted out to his fellow off-roaders, who rushed to his vehicle and held it from the rear till he could maneuver out of the spot slowly. “See, that is why you don’t off-road alone,” he says, “the brotherhood matters.”
“Later, I was at a safe spot in the quarry and I asked myself, ‘What am I doing, why am I taking such risks?’. But that was for just a second. There is nothing which gives me more joy and power than off-roading on my Thar. I WILL do it,” Manas says passionately, adding that he was one of the first people in the country to get the Thar.
“It is liberating to ride the Thar,” says Dr Madhusudhan, another member of the off-roading club, “You have the ability to go anywhere off the road, places I can’t go in my regular car. If I need to get somewhere, I just go, and only the Thar gets me there. We get to see things we would otherwise see only on wild-life TV shows.”
Among Thar-owners across the country, there is a tinge of sadness and a sense of excitement. They are sad because the iconic Thar, in its current avatar, will be going out of production after being in production for 9 years. These would be the last of the traditional, old-school, off-road SUVs produced by Mahindra. The excitement is also an over the fitting farewell to the Thar – a limited special edition ‘THAR 700’, of which only 700 units will be sold. It is a collectible, and every true Thar enthusiast would want to have it in their garage – this is their last chance.
“It’s a mixed emotion,” says Dr Madhusudhan, “It’s the end of an era. But on the other hand, we are excited for the future. If something exciting comes from Mahindra in the future, we will jump on to that as well,” he adds.
The ‘THAR 700’ will be available in Aquamarine and Napoli Black, will have a Badge of Honour signed by Anand Mahindra. With a new seat upholstery, ABS, 5-Spoke Alloy Wheels, silver finish on front bumper, side step and grille, and special black finish on the grille, it will be a Thar like no other. Check it out here.
The rich legacy of Thar
While the Thar was born in India, its roots lie in America, and go way back. During World War II, Americans wanted a vehicle which was strong, sturdy, and most importantly, could go anywhere, even off the road. That’s when a major American automobile company came up with an off-roader. These off-roaders were dependable and efficient, and more than 650,000 units of the vehicle were made. When the War met its end, the vehicle became a collectible for car enthusiasts.
Back in India, Mahindra wanted to make a similar off-roader for the armed forces and the police, so it got the license from the American company to build these in India. Over the years, Mahindra introduced several off-roaders, like the MM540 and Thar, and became the go-to brand for off-roaders.
What sets the Thar apart from the rest is that it is an immensely customizable vehicle. “I can do whatever I want to it. I built a roll cage, lifted the car, put on a hard top, added bigger tires. It is almost like a car I built,” Manas says. Dr Madhusudhan adds, “If you look at our off-roading club, about 120-130 have the Thar and no two would be the same. That is the most amazing, appealing thing about it.”
The brothers of Thar
For Thar-owners, just knowing that the other person owns one is enough to treat them like brothers. “If we are on a Thar anywhere in the country, and we see another Thar pass by, we always wave at each other. It’s called the Thar Wave,” Manas says.
Manas with his Thar on a recent off-roading trip.
Thar-owners on an off-roading trip organized by Mahindra Adventure.
For off-roaders, planning a trip is serious business. They start 2-3 months ahead, and move in groups of not more than 15-20 vehicles. “We take food and water, sleeping bags, and also a car-mechanic and spare parts,” he says.
The doc says, “We get together for camping once a month, and we explore places. During our annual monsoon off-roading trip, we stay in tents and cook our own food. We bring our families too and it’s a lot of fun.”
“Off-roading is a way of life. Our kids don’t go to malls, they go on off-roading trips,” Dr Madhusudhan says, and adds, “My Thar group is my primary social circle. Most of my friends today are my Thar-friends. By profession I am a doctor, and I enjoy driving the Thar as a stress-buster.” Manas says, “We don’t do it to compete, we don’t do it to win trophies, we just love to off-road.”
The brotherhood goes beyond just the vehicle. Off-roading trips can be dangerous at times, and it is deeply ingrained in us that we must jump to help anyone in need. “Since I go on off-roading trips, I always carry a medical kit. On one of the trips, a small car and fallen into the ditch. We went off road, pulled them out and then gave them first aid. We have helped several people like this,” Manas says. “A group of us are connected through citizen band radios and ham radios, and if we get information that someone is stuck on the roads due to an emergency, we rush to the spot to help,” Dr Madhusudhan says, “We have one rule, never leave a man behind.”
This article was produced by TNM Brand Studio in association with Mahindra Thar, and not by TNM Editorial.