While growing up in Sri Lanka, the Maldives and India, you’ve come across quite an interesting mix of cars. Which ones do you remember best and why?
The Willys Jeep and Austin Healey that my father owned stand out. That rugged Jeep with its go-anywhere ability was great during the days when roads were minimal in our part of the world, while the convertible Austin, with the feeling of that wonderful tropical breeze, is also an excellent childhood memory.
You’ve got a 1968 Mercedes 200D and a 1948 Austin A40 Devon back in India, right? Tell us more about these classics…
My passion for collecting classic cars came from my father and uncle. The Austin was imported, brand new, in 1948 and used by a British doctor who settled down in India after independence. It was bought out of his estate after his and his wife’s demise.
The Mercedes was imported from Germany and is a left hand drive with a diesel engine.
I bought it from the second owner. It is one of those Heckflosse (or Fintail) models and was a gift to myself on my 40th birthday. It was built the same year I was born!
Before we get to your off-road shenanigans, tell us why you have a licence to drive buses?
I always dreamt of driving those big buses when I was a kid. That led me to a driving school here to properly learn and acquire the skills for driving a bus. I am proud to say I got my licence in the first attempt.
Fair enough. Where does your off-roading interest stem from?
I have always been passionate about adventure driving. Not speeding per se, but venturing out into new terrains. Off-roading gives you that freedom to explore places rarely visited by others — and I do mean a little further afield than Big Red!
You are the Middle East 4x4 Club Marshal and in the committee as Events Coordinator. What do your duties entail?
I take care of organising group drives for members over the weekends and the annual club camp out events in the desert, wadi and in the mountains.
I also organise umpteen numbers of drives to initiate and train new members to learn the ropes of off-roading.
And, you were a marshal for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Did you encounter any exciting situations?
We have an eventful week every year with so many interesting things happening due to driver skill, or in some cases, lack of.
We also have to tackle the elements such as the soaring heat and sand storms and the inevitable breakdowns, rollovers and accidents.
A couple of years ago, I remember going in search of a lost journalist who went into the desert on his own to get some photos of the Challenge, but he got lost. I finally found him crested over a dune with his rental car four hours later. This year, one enthusiastic driver dragged my Mitsubishi Sportero L200 for over 600 metres after I had pulled him out of a soft patch. He had no time to wait and took off dragging 1,633kg of dead weight behind him...
He couldn’t have got very far! You’ve experienced a number of off-road vehicles in your time, but what made you buy the Mitsubishi?
Because it is economical and a great performer with its 3.5-litre V6 making 175bhp and 316Nm of torque. It’s very agile in the rough too. The proven 4x4 transfer case of a Mitsubishi mated to five-speed manual was hard to resist It has an uncomplicated engine meaning I can do my own repairs if need be when stranded in remote areas. All the creature comforts such as climate control AC, leather seats, trip computer and a brilliant sound system are present, making it a comfortable daily driver.
Finally, it has a proven track record in off-road biased markets such as Australia
and South America, so opting for one was an easy decision.
Did you always want one?
Yes. I have always looked for a lifestyle vehicle with a lot of space to carry lots of off-road recovery as well as camping gear for long off-road drives.
Have you modified it? If so, what have you done?
The engine, transmission and chassis is stock. But, it has a custom-made 4.0mm steel bash plate in the front, two 10mm steel custom-made tow hooks bolted onto the rear and steel side steps replacing the original aluminium ones. Performance-wise, it is very smooth on the road, despite the fact that it uses leaf springs at the back. I have some plans for it such as changing the rear steel bumper as it looks too much like a commercial vehicle. I would prefer the tubular bumper instead.
Your colleagues weren’t convinced by it until they saw it, right?
When I ordered it from Al Habtoor Motors and told my colleagues and associates, they were all surprised by my choice. ‘What? A lawyer like you planning to drive a pick-up?’ they said! I told them to wait and see it, and when I finally got it and showed it to them, they didn’t have a bad word to say about it. It gets a lot of respect on the road.
Deservedly so. But, what is your dream car?
A Rolls-Royce Phantom 1 from the 1925 to 1931 period. There were only 3,512 produced. But, the immediate dream is to get hold of a Seventies Volkswagen Beetle 1300 series.
Name Devanand Mahadeva
Job Legal consultant
From Sri Lanka
Wheels 2010 Mitsubishi L200 Sportero
In the UAE 11 years