Md Shariful Islam Sunny is no stranger to being featured on Shift – his all-original and completely mint 1978 Mitsubishi Lancer with only 16,000 kilometres on the clock was the personal highlight of my four year long tenure as sub-editor for this automotive publication. That baby blue Lancer spoke volumes about the owner - Sunny is a certifiable automotive geek with an inclination towards classic metal, with his current garage consisting of the 1978 Lancer, 2001 Pajero and the 1984 KIA KM414 we're looking at today.
At first glance, you'd be forgiven for mistaking this bright red off-roader for a Jeep CJ5. While the original mechanicals are practically the same, this off-roader was a by-product of a joint venture between Shinjin Motors and American Motors in the years following the 1950-1953 Korean War, which left behind a huge cache of surplus military Jeeps in the Korean peninsula. Shinjin Motors would later be bought off and renamed as Ssangyong – a brand we're quite familiar with here. We're also familiar with KIA, the second largest manufacturer in South Korea behind Hyundai, but what might not be common knowledge is the fact that a large portion of KIA's revenue comes from designing, building and selling defense and reconnaissance vehicles to armed forces all over the world. Initially, that started with making slightly redesigned and re-engineered Jeeps. Bangladesh recently replaced the long-running Toyota Land Cruiser with KIA models but our armed forces have used KIA Jeeps in the past. What you see here today is the KIA KM414, a recoil-less rifle carrying version of the KIA KM410 light reconnaissance vehicle, which explains why there seems to be an unnaturally large gap between the split front windshield. Yep, this is a completely restored and re-worked military vehicle.
It may have never seen active duty, but the KIA was driven hard for its entire life. Unlike Sunny's Lancer, this isn't a low-mileage example – it doesn't even have the original engine. Instead, it's running a 7K engine sourced from a Toyota Noah, complete with its Rear Wheel Drive automatic gearbox, shifter, driveshafts, and gauge cluster. That means, unfortunately, the 4WD system doesn't work, although the ground clearance means it can go nearly anywhere, as long as the tyres can find traction. The steering is characteristically vague and barely seems to be connected to the wheels at speed, although the lack of power assistance means it gives you a ton of feedback when you take it slow. The fuel injected 7K is surprisingly torquey and the open top, open sided KIA feels punchy and exciting on the move as a result. Just make sure you don't fall out of it, or overwork the steering too much.
Shariful Islam Sunny's day job involves running two restaurants in Lalbagh, and a sizeable chunk of his earnings go into restoring and running rare, curious and classic cars. So the next time you're in Lalbagh in search of food, consider having a pizza opposite Lalbagh Fort – it might help save a classic car.
Photos: Rahin Sadman Islam