Every weekend a group of off-road enthusiasts called the Terrain Tigers like to get their tyres dirty in an off-road location just off the town of Gurgaon, Haryana. The vehicle of choice for most members of the team is the Maruti Suzuki Gypsy. The Gypsy’s light weight combined with its rev happy engine, gives it commendable off-road credentials.
However, when you are going absolutely bonkers on steep uphill inclines, slushy ravines and muddy lakes, most standard production vehicles come across limitations and so does the Gypsy.
One member, Sumeer Tandon, decided to overcome these limitations by creating his very own version of the ultimate off-roader called the ‘Monster’. Based on the Maruti Suzuki Gypsy platform, it features suspension, tyre, differential, gearbox and engine modifications. Safety modifications include a roll cage and four point harnesses to keep you firmly in place on the Sparco bucket seats.
Beginning from the ground up, the Monster is fitted with mud terrain Yokohama tyres as Sumeer found them to be the best all round tyres with four star ratings for sand, mud, rocks and tarmac, also they generate less road noise on tarmac. The Yokohamas have a outer diameter of 33 inches and a width of 12.5 inches, the wheel rim size remains at 15 inches giving the monster a larger foot print which is necessary for hardcore off-roading where the more traction you have, the better the grip. The rims have been fitted at negative 50mm offset, so they are pushed outwards by two inches.
The bigger tyres obviously add to the unsprung weight of the vehicle, as a result a heavier axle was required to deal with the added bulk. The standard axles were replaced with Dana 44 axles, which are common fitment on Tata and Mahindra utility vehicles as well as the Jeep Wrangler to date!
The suspension modifications include YJ leaf springs, they are essentially the Mahindra Thar’s rear leaf springs that are 48 inches long, replacing the stock Gypsy’s leaf springs that are 37 inches long at the front and 40 inches long at the rear. The front suspension has missing links that open and drop the front wheels a little more, while there are higher shackles at the rear. The standard shock absorbers have also been replaced with Bilstein 14 inch travel gas shock absorbers.
Sumeer has stuck with the Gypsy’s spring under axle setup to keep the Monster’s on-road driveability intact, rather than going for a spring over axle setup which can further raise the height of the vehicle but will require a change in steering geometry which can be a taxing and complex affair and not to forget that it would also increase the center of gravity which isn’t the best of things to have while off-roading.
The setup increases wheel travel significantly. A stock Gypsy has a wheel travel at the front of 11 inches and suspension travel of 6 inches while the Monster has a 31 inch wheel travel coupled with 14 inch suspension travel alloying the vehicle to remain fairly level while the axles deal with the incline. This enhanced articulation allows for greater traction on uneven terrain as well as provide a better surface contact area at all times.
These modifications put together have widened the vehicle by 8 inches and raised the ride height by 3 inches. The monster has an approach angle of 45 degrees and a departure angle of 40 degrees.
Sumeer’s Monster features transfer case modifications including crawler gears giving the 4x4 system a low ratio of 4.16:1 which combined with the Dana 44s final drive ratio of 5.38:1 gives the vehicle very good low end torque. Also the transfer case for the 4x4 system has been tweaked with gears from the transfer case of the old 1.0 litre Gypsy and the new 1.3 litre Gypsy King. The combination further provides more low-end torque when the 4x4 system is under operation giving the Monster an unnatural climbing ability over dirt, mud and rocks. However, the serious boost in torque at the low end has restricted the vehicle’s high end speed to about 100km/h.
Another trick up the sleeve of the Monster are the ARB air differential locks that have been fitted to the front and rear axles. Standard differentials send all the power to the wheel that is spinning freely while the wheel that is stuck gets no power, resulting in the free wheel spinning and eventually getting stuck. When the Monster gets stuck in mud/sand/snow all you have to do is switch on the differential locks via two switches (one for the front diff and the other for the rear) on the dashboard and equal power is sent to both wheels on the axle giving the wheel that is stuck, power to get moving again.
A combination of locking and opening the front and rear differentials independently gives the Monster capability of playing with traction on the wheels that have grip to make its way out of tricky situations. The skill of using the locking differentials to get out of such situations is itself an art states Sumeer.
The air differential lockers are supplied air via a 12 volt on-board air supply compressor which can also be used to deflate the tyres to 10psi and re-inflate the tyres; a boon for driving on sand as the deflated tyres create a wider footprint and allow the driver to traverse over sand with ease.
Moving onto the heart of the Monster, the stock 1.3 litre engine block has been swapped for a 1.6 litre engine block from the Maruti Suzuki Baleno, the engine head of the Gypsy has been retained and this essentially has allowed for all the electricals including the ECU and sensors to remain that of the Gypsy’s, only the injectors are from the Baleno’s 1.6 litre engine.
Other modifications include free flow intake and exhaust systems and a centre force clutch pack which is a stage three mod configuration. The stage three modified clutch, deals with the added torque and weight of the heavier axles and bigger wheels. However, the trick is to use as less clutch as possible otherwise you will just end up burning it says Sumeer.
While the Monster’s power figures have not been rated yet, Sumeer states that it develops about 5PS more than the Baleno’s 94PS output while the torque figure is said to have gone up by 20 per cent over the Baleno’s 130Nm output. But the real game comes into play when in 4x4 low is enganged, torque is claimed to have gone up by a staggering 200 per cent. Having seen the beast in action, we wouldn’t doubt these claims!
The Monster is also equipped with a power steering system that has been sourced from Thailand. It’s a stock kit that is used in the Japanese version of the Gypsy, namely, the Suzuki Jimny.
Changes to the body of the Gypsy that gives the Monster its menacing look include taller and flared wheel wells to accommodate the bigger wheels and the increased wheel travel, the cabin is now closed and fitted with the luxury of air-conditioning. The body at the rear has been shortened by 10 inches without altering the chassis and underbody protection has been fitted to protect the underbelly from being scraped by rocks, sharp edges and from hard impacts. The transfer case mounting and engine mountings have also been reinforced.
Inside, the familiar plastic Gypsy dashboard is gone and what you have is a flat metal surface with dials and switches everywhere which control the locking differentials, air pressure controls, air pressure display, rev counter, engine start/stop switch, air con controls, lights and the wiper controls, also there is a new Maruti steering (which is a stock unit fitted on the Swift, SX4, etc) fitted to the steering column.
From the moment the Monster is fired up its easy to identify the Suzuki engine note, however, from the moment the Monster crawls forward you can make out the extra torque and no matter what the terrain the Monster just claws forward, it climbs uphill over loose soil, mud and rocks with absolute ease, the ride is not too bad either, in fact its quite comfortable for a Gypsy off the road, on the road it feels roughly the same.
When the Monster comes across surface undulations and ravines the wheel articulation is immense. Where a normal Gypsy would struggle and spin its wheels helplessly with the risk of toppling over, the Monster simply climbs over everything and all that added articulation gives it ample traction to deal with slippery surfaces and deep slush.
On the day we joined the Terrain Tigers, the Monster steered clear of getting stuck anywhere while helping a fellow member pull his Mahindra Thar out of a slush pit. The solid torque output along with the locking diffs and high articulation put the Monster in its own league when it comes to off-roading.
It has to be said that what Sumeer Tandon has created here is really a monster in every sense of the word, from the way it looks with its massive wheels, huge wheel arches and wider track coupled with all the perfectly balanced mechanicals, this is one modified off-roader whose reliability and performance give it a stature of its own!
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