Pinoy ingenuity could spark a whole new backyard industry.
The “Owner Type” jeepney has been a popular private vehicle to most Filipino families from the 1950’s until the late 80’s.
Due to the high cost of brand new cars, the “owner” jeep became a popular family vehicle in the provinces and even in urban subdivision areas. Commonly referred to as the family “service”, many family road trips and childhood memories were made on board these Filipino assembled automobiles.
Many of today’s older drivers most probably learned to drive in one of these. Learning to drive in an “owner” jeep with its akward ergonomics, sketchy steering, vague shifting and not so strong brakes was a real challenge, but no doubt the experience made them better drivers.
Like its longer brother, the Public Utility Jeeps or PUJ, the “Owner” was built by Filipino craftsmen and mechanics usually in a backyard or “talyer”. They use a locally fabricated steel ladder chassis and beaten galvanized metal body panels like the fenders, grille and hood. They use smaller Japanese surplus gasoline engines and manual transmissions as well as solid live rear axles. Many came with leaf spring suspensions. The more contemporary “luxury” models featured A arms and coil spring suspensions, stainless steel body panels, chrome accessories and even a loud stereo.
Their decline on popularity started in the early 1990’s when massive local car production by the Japanese brands started and attractive bank financing made it affordable for families to buy a “real” car with weather protection, comfort, air-conditiong and more safety. In addition, the rise of AUVs and the L300 swayed many families to abandon the jeep. Moreover, the heavy traffic build-up in the Metro and hot climate also made it difficult to drive them on a daily basis.
By the 2000’s they were almost gone in Metro Manila at least. Today , some can still be seen driven around in the province.
However, the appeal of the “owner jeep” is still there and many swear by its cool factor, open air freedom and robust practicality.
Why is this story here in IR?
Well we saw in social media what appears to be a recreation of the “owner type” jeep powered by a small 125cc motorcycle engine.
It is smaller and has seats only for two. Chain driven to the rear axle, it is claimed to reach 100 kph. Because it has a motorcycle transmission as well, it has no reverse gear.
It wad made in Negros Occidental by a group of friends who has a shop or “talyer”. The build and quality is impressive and could actually pass as a real “owner type” jeep. It is actually cool!
The build cost certainly is much lower and jeep enthusiasts could easily assemble their own mini-jeeps.
As to how street-legal it is, is up for debate. However, with the impending entry in the market of similar products from Bajaj and probably Mahindra, there might be new LTO regulations to cover such 4-wheel motorcycle engine vehicles.
Meanwhile, let’s applaud these guys for their ingenuity!