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The "poor man’s jeep" is back on the Greek roads

10 May 2014 / 15:05:59  GRReporter
8139 reads

Is this true? Will we see once again the legendary Greek Pony jeep, called "the poor man’s jeep" circulating on the Greek roads, as there has recently been some talk among fans of motoring? If the vehicle developed by NAMCO company owned by the Kondogouris family from Thessaloniki passes the tests to which it is currently subject, probably this will materialize. According to sources, the new Pony jeep is in the type approval phase by the Greek technological laboratory for evaluation and assessment of industrial and consumer products. If all goes well, the documents will be submitted to the Ministry of Transport and the vehicle will be subjected to the state procedures for final approval. "We are at the finish line," state NAMCO representatives, not wanting to say anything more. (It should be noted that so far the directorate of the Ministry of Transport has not received a request for approval of a vehicle by the company).

In any case, for the first time after many years, a Greek vehicle is subjected to a type-approval procedure. After the glory days in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, the fierce competition stopped the engines of the Greek automotive industry. And all this was because, having heard a German senior official saying that "not every country can produce cars", company owner Petros Kondogouris, who is at the age of 80 now, had turned obstinate, undertaking to refute him, or so says the legend of the emergence of the Pony jeep.

Here are more details about the family’s history: in the 1950s, the Kondogouris brothers tried to start in Germany the production of a truck called "Hellas". In 1961, they founded FARCO company in Thessaloniki and started the production of a multipurpose vehicle with BMW engine, but were not very successful.

Nevertheless, they did not quit. In 1972, they founded NAMCO (National Motor Company of Greece), began collaborating with Citroën and presented at Thessaloniki International Fair a vehicle developed on the basis of the machine parts of 2CV. This was the Pony jeep; a vehicle "that is so ugly that it is beautiful," as the German press wrote at that time.

It became the best selling Greek vehicle in history (it sold over 30,000 vehicles, exported to 14 countries). With operation and maintenance costs many times lower than those of a "regular" jeep and with its equally low price, the demand for it was enormous, on the part of both government and military services, and of all who had the right to use a "professional car". The factory produced 8-10 vehicles a day and 67% of the parts were of Greek origin. The production of the Pony car stopped in 1983, mainly due to changes in the customs regulations and the removal of protectionist measures following Greece’s accession to the European Union.

The new Pony jeep will be significantly reminiscent of the older model. It will have a classical look, straight and simple lines, and it will be a cross between a jeep and a pickup. "This is a modern vehicle with state-of-the-art mechanical parts, designed in accordance with the company's view of classic styling," reads NAMCO website, which shows different versions of the Pony car, from small vans and convertibles to small ambulances. The aim is to reach a daily production rate of 24 vehicles at an average price in the range of 7,000 euro.

The probability of the Pony jeep reappearing on the Greek roads is reviving pleasant memories among the romantic fans of motoring. "I remember what fun it was to humiliate the BMW- 320i cars at the time, and even a Porsche, at the traffic light at Syngrou and Amfitheas, where there is an upward slope. I did not have to do much. I stepped on the accelerator in a provoking manner, just before the green light turned on, allowing the speed to accelerate, and at the right moment, I declutched, holding the gear lever with all my strength in order for it not to throw me out of the first gear. After one hundred metres I abruptly switched to second gear, without removing my foot from the accelerator and looked back to see the surprised faces," writes a visitor to a specialized forum.

Tags: Greek jeepPonyNAMCOGreek technological laboratory for evaluation and assessment of industrial and consumer products
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