The reliable, timeless Tata truck

Thursday January 17 2019

As technology changes would have it, this lorry

As technology changes would have it, this lorry has evolved and is now tagged SE 1613 TC producing 122 hp at 2500 rpm and a maximum torque of 400Nm at 1400 – 1700 rpm. COURTESY PHOTO 

By Joan Salmon

This lorry has been with us for longer than many of us can remember. Personally, I used it between Primary One and Primary three while at Mengo Primary School. Oh, the thrill of boarding the lorry was palpable. The truck transported students for seminars, sports and school functions besides carrying food stuff and firewood. Whenever it was day out, we would leave the school premises singing and return doing the same.

To imagine that back then it was okay to use a lorry to transport children for trips is hilarious. Speaking to Andrew Wampa Mwandha, the manager government and key accounts at Tata Uganda, we delve into how this revered truck has transitioned over the years.

“The first Tata truck to be used in Uganda was the 1210 in the early 70s. It had a manual steering, five-speed gear box with 100 horse power, carrying a maximum of 12 tonnes and was made possible by the government which had an arrangement with Tata to buy lorries at a subsidised rate for institutions and co-operatives. Some schools such as Busoga College Mwiri still have the 1210 which they bought in 1987. It has since been replaced by the 1613 which boasts of a power steering, six speed gear box and 130 Horse Power,” Mwandha says.

As technology changes would have it, this lorry has evolved and is now tagged SE 1613 TC, producing 122 hp at 2500 rpm and a maximum torque of 400Nm at 1400 – 1700 rpm. The engine is a HOLSET turbo charged intercooler, something that was lacking back then. It also features six inline cylinders with a micro ‘A’ type in-line fuel injector pump. However, its body has remained the same for the last five decades.

It has got a 330 diameter single disc dry friction clutch. It comes with a Tata GBS 40 gear box that has synchromesh on the five forward gears and constant mesh on the reverse gear. The lorry boasts of a heavy duty forged reverse Elliot front axle and a Tata RA 109 RR single speed front axle with fully floating axle shafts. As strong as its predecessor, the 1613 TC has a ladder type heavy duty frame with either riveted or bolted cross members. It is 223mm deep, 60mm wide with a thickness of 7mm.

It is such a stable lorry, with semi-elliptical leaf spring at the front and rear while there is an anti-roll bar at the front axle. It also feature hydraulic double acting telescopic shock absorbers at the front only. Its service brakes are the dual circuit full air s-cam type while the parking brakes are the spring actuated type on the rear wheels helped with the graduated hand brake valve. It also features a pneumatically operated engine, which does mechanical work by expanding compressed air and exhaust brake with a foot control valve.


Inner workings
While the 1210 was completely manual, the 1613 has an electrical system with 12 volts supplied by a 180 Ah capacity battery. It has either a 250 or 350 litre tank coupled with a resiliently mounted semi-forward all steel non-sleeper cabin.

While schools have moved on to use buses, the lorry still graces Ugandan roads and is a favourite among sugar cane transporters. Many government institutions have also continued to use the same vehicle such as Uganda Prisons, UPDF, police, and Kampala Capital City Authority.
The truck has and continues to thrive because it is reliable, durable, comes with a simple uncomplicated engine that is easy to repair. Its fuel consumption is also not bad and spare parts are also readily available.

What others say
Roland Mugume, Rukungiri Municipality MP
I went to Makobore High School and our lorry was white, thus nicknaming it Rugabo for lightening. We enjoyed using this truck and to top it all, we were not stopped from climbing to the top to enjoy the view.

Stephen Illungole, PRO Umeme
I was in Ngora High School and it was great to perch on our school lorry in our white shirts and shorts as we waved at colleagues enthusiastically. Apart from the trips, I was privileged to get rides on the lorry while it ferried sweet potatoes from Tororo. I was always dropped at Kachumbala, a township after Mbale.

Phionah Atuhaire, World Vision
I went to Bweranyangi Girls Senior Secondary School and the truck was used primarily to transport students to where they could get buses or taxis to their homes on the last day of school.