Story by Dave Ketchen • Photos Courtesy of Hanif Bhatti and Mohsin Ikram

Most Austin-Healey owners drive their cars simply for fun. Mohsin Ikram loves being behind the wheel of his 1954 Austin-Healey 100, but he also has a second and more important goal in mind: Using the Healey to change misconceptions in the United States and elsewhere about his home country. This has led some of Mohsin’s fellow car enthusiasts to dub him “the motoring ambassador of Pakistan.”

In November, Mohsin and other members of the Vintage & Classic Car Club of Pakistan drove a 1000-mile rally from Mohsin’s hometown of Karachi to Peshawar, which lies close to the Afghanistan border. Mohsin’s wife, Saira, accompanied him throughout the whole trek. The Ikrams traveled with the Healey’s top down the entire time despite dust, high winds and cold weather.

Mohsin co-founded the Vintage & Classic Car Club of Pakistan in 1986 with Jim Agha, but his deep affection for cars dates back even further. He bought his first classic–a 1949 Mercedes 170 V–in 1980 at age 16.

Mohsin’s hope was that the cross-country rally would “project a softer and truer image of Pakistan” than what the international media generally portrays. It seems that goal was met. National Public Radio did a segment on Mohsin’s adventures, and they also posted a favorable story on their website.

Although the typical American would view driving a 60-year-old roadster across one of the most notorious countries in the world as overly dangerous, Mohsin’s perspective is quite different. “When I decided to include Peshawar as a destination in our cross-country classic car rally, I met with a lot of resistance,” recalls Mohsin. The Taliban views Pakistan as supportive of the War on Terror, and they engage in terrorism in and around Peshawar to try to discourage that support. “I almost gave in,” says Mohsin, “but then I thought that if we start avoiding our major cities due to fear of being attacked, then we are giving in to the terrorists.”

Mohsin, his wife and three others were committed to continuing on into Peshawar, but he wasn’t sure about the rest of the group. “In the morning, as we lined up to leave,” he remembers with pride, “I was pleasantly surprised to see eight to 10 additional cars lined up whose drivers had decided to come along with us. In the future, Peshawar will be included in our route, and some participants will choose not to go, but 10 to 15 of us are sticking to this route.”

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