Home » Pakistan’s First Completely Locally-Built Truck Was Made In A Factory With No Electricty And The Government Tried To Kill It

Pakistan’s First Completely Locally-Built Truck Was Made In A Factory With No Electricty And The Government Tried To Kill It

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I love an underdog story, like so many of us do. The more under that dog, the better. I think the story of Proficient, the first nearly-completely locally-built truck ever made in Pakistan, is about as under as a dog can get. This was a useful little truck designed to compete with the juggernaut of useful little trucks, Suzuki, all while being hamstrung at every turn by the Pakistani government. These were trucks made in a factory with no electricity, water, or even phone service. The project eventually failed, but not without a fight. Let’s dig in a bit to the tale of Proficient.

Proficient started as an idea from mechanic and UK-educated electrical/mechanical engineer Khalil ur Rahman in the mid-to-late 1980s as a way to compete with Japanese pickup trucks like the dominant and ubiquitous Suzuki Carry.

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The goal was to make something that wasn’t just assembled in Pakistan, but to build something that used as many parts locally made as possible, and in this sense, all reports seem to indicate that ur Rahman did just that. Most sources suggest that the Proficient pick-up used 95% locally-built parts, and, significantly, those parts included the engines and transmissions.

Pro Grainy

But I think it’s how these little pickup trucks – which seem to be similar in design to Japanese-style Kei-class trucks, with their mid-engine/cabover design, though I think the Proficient trucks were a bit bigger than the Kei-class regulations – were built that makes this story so fascinating. In part due to a lack of support and even outright hostility from the Pakistani government at the time, the Proficient was built in a factory that, incredibly, lacked electricity, water, or phone services.

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A 1989 article in the Herald described the North Karachi-based factory’s engine block-manufacturing like this, for example:

The entire project seems to have been designed with the sole intention of disproving the belief that modern automobiles cannot be manufactured without sophisticated heavy machinery imported from abroad. The inventor’s biggest triumph, indeed, is the process by which the engine-block and gearbox are manufactured. Ordinary clay is first used to make an outer mould for the engine block, and then a tandoor-like oven is used to cast the molten alloy into the required shape. The rough surfaces are then ground and finished to precise tolerance levels using domestically manufactured lathe machines.

 

Engines2 2

For a small company to decide to produce their own engines (they made 1006cc three-cylinder diesel engines and a two-stroke gas engine) is impressive enough as it is – that decision I think was at least a part (definitely not all) of what effectively killed the Elio company, for example – but to make them with such old-school and labor-intensive methods is truly remarkable.

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Enginecasting

Everything was made this way: seat cushions and upholstery, casting parts, handbrake levers, it was all manufactured with labor-intensive but machinery-light traditional methods. There were hand tools and blow torches, likely oxy-acetylene welding rigs, but that was about it, because, as I mentioned, the factory had no power.

The Herald article notes this lack of amenities as well:

To start with, the factory has not been given an electricity connection even though the surrounding area seems to be completely electrified. The telephone department has sent them a letter saying that they are unable to extend a line to the factory, but all it took was a glance outside the window to ascertain that the mill next door has two telephone lines, while the army camp that is just a few hundred yards away also has its own telephone hookup. Needless to say, like almost half of the city, this area too, has no water supply.

I should mention that there are pictures, like the ones shared on this Facebook post, of the factory showing equipment that must have required electricity; it’s possible that power came from local sources like generators or that the factory eventually got electrical power:

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So why was this factory, which you would think would be a source of pride for Pakistan and be the sort of thing the government would champion, being treated so poorly by the Government?

The issue seems to be that the government at the time had a very strong preference for cooperative ventures with foreign companies, especially ones that had lots of money to throw around. A pretty clear example of this is how Suzuki vehicles were made exempt from sales tax, being locally assembled cargo vehicles, and yet somehow the Proficient, despite being far more than just locally assembled, was not covered by this exemption, and was heavily fined for non-payment of sales taxes when they asked for “immunity from sales tax under existing regulations.”

Despite these financial burdens, the Proficient was still cheaper than the Suzuki trucks.

Proficient even managed to scrape up the resources to shoot not just a commercial, but a bad-ass commercial featuring a guy karate-kicking the little truck, because the little truck can take it:

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The commercial shows two models of Proficient, the cab-over one and another truck with a hood (and a jauntily-angled license plate):

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I haven’t been able to find out exactly how many Proficient trucks were built over the years, but the company seems to have been viable into the early 1990s. It seems the government at the time denied the company a mass-production license, so between that and its limited production capacity, I can’t imagine the numbers are all that high, but I suspect they must be in the thousands, which is still impressive.

In 1990 the company exhibited what seems to be a one-off passenger car with a pretty dramatically-sloped hood and lighting that I think had to be borrowed from another car:

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Proficient Car E1708453423343 2

 

This passenger car never made it into production, but it is a good reminder that Proficient fully intended to keep going and expand their market into mass-market small cars.

Models

In this slide of the various models Proficient produced, there’s a few interesting things: the passenger car, of course, their various models of small trucks, including two cabover and two be-hooded varieties, but I’m really curious about that one on the lower right, the open nine-seater thing! What was that for? Some kind of closed-campus runabout/people mover thing? Was that just for internal factory use?
9 Passenger Proficient

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I don’t think many of us have heard of Proficient, or, really, any indigenous Pakistani carmakers. India has a number of automakers that have captured global attention, companies like Tata or Mahindra, but that hasn’t been the case with Pakistan. Could Proficient have been that sort of company for Pakistan, had they enjoyed a supportive attitude from their government instead of what seemed like actual hostility?

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Maybe. It does seem like the window for such a company has passed, but who knows? We’re entering a new era of electric cars, so perhaps there’s going to be new windows of opportunity for scrappy upstarts like the Proficient team, determinedly casting engines in tandoori ovens and daring to take on giants like Suzuki.

 

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Ron888
Ron888
1 month ago

Not a lot in this makes sense.
It’s possible the government wanted to dramatically increase car ownership and this brand didnt have a hope of scaling that fast.
But hey,why not also tell suzuki they had serious competition and get some bribes out of it?lol

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 month ago

“The issue seems to be that the government at the time had a very strong preference for cooperative ventures with foreign companies, especially ones that had lots of money to throw around. ”

And I’m sure part of that money being thrown around included giving bribes to government officials.

” Could Proficient have been that sort of company for Pakistan, had they enjoyed a supportive attitude from their government instead of what seemed like actual hostility?”

Yes… if they also had the money to throw around in the form of bribes.
https://www.quora.com/Is-it-easy-to-bribe-the-police-in-Pakistan

Last edited 1 month ago by Manwich Sandwich
Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
1 month ago

Amazing. The headlights on the passenger car are almost certainly from an E80 Corolla sedan (FWD), the units as used on JDM Corollas and not the federal ones.
https://www.toyota.co.jp/jpn/company/history/75years/vehicle_lineage/car/id60003705A/index.html

M0L0TOV
M0L0TOV
1 month ago

Makes me think of the videos I watch on YouTube where some random guys wearing flip flops in Pakistan are completely stripping down a truck and it’s engine, then restoring it. I’ll even see how they cast parts using sand and whatever they have. It’s truly fascinating seeing how people fix vehicles when modern means are not available or cost effective.

Professor Chorls
Professor Chorls
1 month ago
Reply to  M0L0TOV

Yes, I too spend a lot of time watching the Pakistani Truck channel. You must trust your co-worker a whole lot to swing a sledgehammer that close to your face as you hold a chisel.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
1 month ago

This is absurdly cool. The Proficient deserved a chance to live its quirky life. They had a chance to become the Saab of the Indian subcontinent.

OCS-BN
OCS-BN
1 month ago

Stares at kids’ corner. Spots Play-Doh can.

“Hold my Lassi!”

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
1 month ago

This is why I check The Autopian daily. This is an awesome and inspiring story and makes me want to cast engine blocks in clay molds. Even Britain’s proud history of building cars in sheds can’t hold a candle to this.

These are the equivalent of local craftsmen just deciding to build their own truck entirely from scratch, the way you’d buy furniture from a local carpenter or something. Imagine how vibrant the automotive landscape would be if that was how we bought cars… instead of car dealerships, go to the local car factory where local craftsmen design and produce their own cars. It’s something I never imagined possible, especially in such a low-tech way, yet Proficient proved that it could be done.

Electrified05ViggenFeverDream
Electrified05ViggenFeverDream
1 month ago

I can’t tell you how much I’ve appreciated the internationalist pieces the Autopian has run, both current and historical. Cars are for better or worse a fascinating globally-shared cultural touchstone, and I’ve loved learning more about parts of the world I’d never have discovered on my own. Thanks for the deep dives!!

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
1 month ago

Awesome and interesting! I want to know why there aren’t places like this here that can make a simple affordable small economy vehicle, and not need a huge factory. An example would be that $10K Toyota truck that we can’t get. It would be nice to have small trucks again like the 80’s Toyota’s/VW Rabbit truck/Chevy LUV/etc. I know there’s multiple reasons why not including safety features but if somebody could do this and meet the demand of all these people that need a cheap vehicle, they would make a lot of $ and help a lot of people

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 month ago
Reply to  Freelivin1327

Cost of labor is one, cost of all other inputs is another, and complying with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards is the biggest. You’re not going to get something that’s legally classified as a car built in this country and sell for a profit at $10k, even importing something from a very low cost country, you’d have to really struggle to maybe get the loss leader base trim level down to $12-13k and hope most customers option up at least $5k beyond that. A sub-$10k 3 wheeler with car-like features? Maybe doable, but you’d really need volume

Space
Space
1 month ago

Scrappy upstart business killed by government corruption, sounds about right.
I can’t wait for the EV version of this to pop up somewhere, maybe not making their own motor and battery but what about something 100% recycled from totalled cars that would be neat.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago

That’s not fair. A story of hope, optimism, grit—c’mon: clay moulds for the freakin’ engine block? The people who built the Proficient deserved a happy ending, damnit.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago

Hmm. A Talibandwagon.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Ok, I’m laughing—but you’re still going to hell 🙂

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I’m wheezing, you bastard

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago

In Pakistan it is a heralded achievement to build an unsafe car in a factory with no water, no electric, no safety devices. In the USA it is the equivalent of a Nazi Death Camp if these are missing and there is no Starbucks and 4 months vacation. Yeah makes sense to me.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

4 month vacations? USA? wrong continent.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

Yeah weeks would be more correct

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

~12 states have some form of PTO policies. The most generous states give you less than 3 days per year. USA Federal paid vacation days is 0.

How many weeks is 3 days?

SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
1 month ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

What is “vacation day?”

–a small business owner, i.e. me

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

But UAW Union contract, who build a lot of cars aren’t in this category. And the federal, state and local government employees get plenty.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

The key word being N E G O T I A T I O N

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

A description of $80,000 cars that don’t work as they should. You have e noticed American built non union Toyotas are leaps and bounds above union built big 3?
Now believe it or not I am not against unions perse but paying more for bottom level quality is something I’m against. Agree to pay more to get more but not pay more to get labeled Ford failure to launch on every new model is not a smart decision.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

A lot of Americans treat being asked to come into an air conditioned office a few times a week as akin to being subjected to enhanced interrogation at a private detention center

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
1 month ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

How dare people negotiate for salary and vacation hours

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 month ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

Those are entirely unrelated issues to pretending Tuesdays and Thursdays in office, Monday/Wednesday/Friday remote is the same thing as being sent to work in the acid mines

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
1 month ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

When CEO’s negotiate 20+ million salaries they are smart. When ordinary people negotiate flexibility to try and raise kids or cut down on expensive commuting they are lazy and entitled.

The48thRonin
The48thRonin
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Latest headline: Local neanderthal once again misunderstands how government regulations work, equates functional vehicle with actual genocide

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago
Reply to  The48thRonin

Really don’t you ever wonder why you’re the 48th Ronin? I can tell you why.

The48thRonin
The48thRonin
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

[ed note: not cool]

Last edited 1 month ago by Matt Hardigree
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  The48thRonin

Hey, not cool.

The48thRonin
The48thRonin
1 month ago
Reply to  The48thRonin

If you want me to be quiet then give me a report button or ban me, I don’t care which one you pick.

The48thRonin
The48thRonin
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

By all means, I’m sure it’s well thought out and original.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Wait aren’t you always railing against slave labor in china

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago

Not always. I just pointed it out on the articles praising the LOW COST CHINESE EVs

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

What about these workers’ working conditions? You seem to find them laudable compared to what OSHA and unionization have achieved for American workers. I’m legit confused.

The48thRonin
The48thRonin
1 month ago

No, he’s usually trying desperately to tie the article’s headline (he didn’t read the whole thing) to whatever rage-bait he’s seen in his facebook feed lately.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago
Reply to  The48thRonin

I always read the whole article. Now always understanding it? Well no.
I still say it fits.

The48thRonin
The48thRonin
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

You definitely don’t understand much, that’s for sure.

Phuzz
Phuzz
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

In Pakistan it is a heralded achievement to build an unsafe car in a factory with no water, no electric, no safety devices

In the US they film it and call it Roadkill.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago
Reply to  Phuzz

Now that’s funny I don’t care who you are.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago

My cousin Babu said his was a real piece of shit.
And they charged him for both the Rusty Jones and Tru Coat, but never actually provided.
And his payments were so high that he had to move to NYC and open a restaurant just to afford his pos truck…

“They were bad men. Very bad men.”

Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
1 month ago

Jason, I love this and it reminds me of your long-ago series about made up cars from made up countries.

“Camel, Take the Wheel: The untold story of Ethniclashistan’s dromedary-powered sports car”

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
1 month ago

That is impressive. Even the small factory in which my KV Mini 1 was made:

https://live.staticflickr.com/4098/5395548121_2183371b5a_o.jpg

had a telephone. I know this because they proudly listed the phone number on the intermediate version of the hood emblem, which mine has:

https://live.staticflickr.com/4104/5182345132_56838482fb_o.jpg

The number is not included on either the earlier or the later versions of the emblem, however, which is a bit disappointing in that the company also made telephone equipment.

MrLM002
MrLM002
1 month ago

A car made without electricity almost certainly doesn’t require electricity to maintain.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  MrLM002

The anti-tesla

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
1 month ago

That’s an amazing story. The Proficient is like a Khyber Pass AK made with minimal tools and lots of hand work.
I think the nine seater was a prototype of a bus chassis that would have been sold as a bare chassis and grille to a body maker

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
1 month ago

“Cooperative Agreements” with foreign corporations, means you can bake in the grift to appropriate power brokers, and thus ensure governmental approval. What a sad fate for such a hard-working production team.

By the by: If you tolerate this sort of thing, and expect it to always occur, nothing will ever get better. If, on the other hand, you believe that people deserve better, and are willing to strive to make it so, the world finds little ways to help you in your efforts.

Believe. Make it so.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago
Reply to  Doctor Nine

Greasing the palms of corruption does seem to be the way things “work” almost anywhere these days. Apparently it’s the cost of doing business almost everywhere. In our society the rich are revered for their money and access to power it provides. Our own Gov. spends a fortune to fight it in Gov. yet it is extremely hard to stop.
Graft has been round since man began. Changing greed, (human nature) is hard, and that sucks. Just ask God….

Last edited 1 month ago by Col Lingus
Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
1 month ago

That was a fascinating read! I love hearing how automakers made their way, what challenges they faced and overcame. Especially in other countries of which I have little car knowledge.

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