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Who hasn’t seen a Bedford truck trudging along the length and breadth of Pakistan for almost the lifetime of the country, a representation of efficient, progressive trucking sustaining the economy of a nascent country?

A certified workhorse, a marvel of British engineering and a popular truck in 118 countries, the Bedford saw even greater value added in Pakistan – with their glorious ‘truck art’ and chamakpattis, these vehicles have become icons of Pakistan’s folk art and culture, catching the fancy of world museums from Luton to the Smithsonian.

In Pakistan, the first truck, an early J model, is believed to have rolled off a ramshackle assembly line in 1953 and has barely looked back since. Prior to 1985, when Japanese assembled trucks began to stream in, these trucks literally symbolised the local freight carrier market. Even now, nearly 50% of all commercial transport is still dominated by colourful versions of the Bedford TJ 1090, despite the fact that production ceased nearly 30 years ago.

So what keeps the Bedford going? Maintaining these giants is inexpensive. The truck is easy to fix and spares parts are not an issue. It is a popular joke that that improvised Bedford parts are even available at the paan walas.

The truck is also considered an extension of the trucker himself; a comforting home away from home, with the elaborate paintwork (costing Rs 300,000 to 400,000 per vehicle) illustrating what he holds close to the heart, be it a forlorn lover, a scenic valley, fighter planes or even a long cherished Field Marshal.

The Bedford truck on Pakistani roads remains a sight to behold and in many ways represents the Pakistani values of hard work and improvisation, and a colourful culture. Hopefully, the iconic, evergreen Bedford truck will continue to be nurtured and treasured.

– Mazhar M Chinoy

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on August 12, 2012.