Motorsport in Kashmir – I

The Jhelum Valley Cart Road from Kohala to Baramulla, described at the time as 'the most wonderful mountain road in the world', was completed in 1889 and was extended to Srinagar in 1897.

Prior to the advent of the automobile in Kashmir, circa 1915, travellers to Kashmir made the journey in a two-horse four-seater tonga or a single-horse two-seater ekka.

In 1922, public transport was allowed on the Banihal Cart Road, which connected Srinagar with Jammu.

Traffic across the Banihal Cart Road

It was the Maharaja's of Kashmir (surprise, surprise) who owned the first cars in the Valley. During the 1920's Maharaja Hari Singh put together a collection of custom-made Rolls-Royce cars including a 1925 Barker Tourer, 1927 Windovers Limousine and a 1929 Thrupp & Maberly Tourer.

In the late 1920s, the Northern Motor Company, headquartered in Rawalpindi, started selling small four-cylinder Chevrolet tourers from a showroom in the Ganda Singh Building in Lal Chowk.

Chevrolet Tourer on the Jhelum Valley Cart Road

From an endurance point of view the greatest motor adventure of the Pre-war era was the 1931 Citroën-Haardt Trans-Asiatic Expedition. The achievement of crossing the Himalayas between Srinagar and Gilgit over a pony track across the Burzil Pass (13775 ft) will probably never be surpassed.

Georges-Marie Haardt and his team set out for China from Srinagar on the 12th of July 1931 in specially designed Citroën Kegresse half-tracks. This expedition marked the first motorised crossing of the Greater Himalaya range.

This famous photograph from the Citroën-Haardt Expedition has inspired book covers and movie posters.

Here is a video of the expedition on YouTube. Watch out for 2.15:

Update: Watch a longer (better quality) version here. Don’t miss 7.20.

More motor stuff here. Enjoy !