It doesn’t need to be mentioned that when any army looks for a vehicle they can use, the qualities of ruggedness and durability are to be expected. So back in the early 1960s when the Indian Army was looking for a sturdy and robust all-terrain vehicle, what came to their aid was a Japanese 4 wheel drive that eventually came to be known as the JONGA. Although JONGA was not its actual name, let’s delve a little bit into its history before coming back to the vehicle.
The Second World War had left Japan battered and bruised. Its economy was in shambles and its roads, ruined. The Japanese government saw the need for a special vehicle that could tackle this problem and in the late 1940s, they offered a contract for a Willys Jeep styled vehicle that could be used by the military, police and fire department. Engineers from a company named DAT (later renamed as Datsun and eventually Nissan Motor Co.) in Tokyo took up the challenge and by mid 1950, they came up with the design for 4W60 – a four wheel drive vehicle that fulfilled all the needs. It became a huge success and the Japanese automobile manufacturer started its production under the name Nissan P60 (or Nissan PATROL 60) for civilian use.
In 1963, the Indian Army approved the Nissan P60 and started production at the Vehicle Factory Jabalpur (VFJ) under special license from Nissan; where it got its popular alias JONGA which is an acronym for Jabalpur Ordnance aNd Guncarriage Assembly.
With a rugged, powerful and almost maintenance free 6 cylinder petrol engine mated to a 4 wheel drive transmission, the JONGA could flatten mountains with ease and go anywhere where no one had dared to venture before. It could also be easily modified into ambulances, signal vehicles, recovery vehicles and several other military requirements, gaining it an iconic status in its nearly 4 decades of illustrious service in the defense force. It proved its mettle during the India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971 as well as several counter insurgency operations in the country.
In 1999, production of the JONGA finally came to an end and the military scrapped and sold the remaining units. It is said that only about 100 of these were sold to the general public.
Indian Army’s lifeline for nearly 3 decades, the JONGA.