During British rule, Calcutta was the hub of the most expensive and best automobiles from around the world. After the Britishers left, several babus and CEOs of top companies started owning these cars. However, a sudden crisis of spare parts forced owners to sell off these exquisite vehicles, giving rise to smuggling. Till 1980, hundreds of these cars were smuggled out of the country and soon, the entire vintage car business was being controlled by a small group, who’d mislead car owners or withhold information from them to make a quick buck.Things started changing in 2017 when three young men – Souvik Ghose Chaudhuri, Prithvi Nath Tagore, and Rupak Ghosh – decided to end their monopoly. Powered by the internet and social media, they started communicating with vintage car enthusiasts around the world and made all the relevant information available to the people of Kolkata. “With that, common people and car owners became aware that they could restore and run their cars in Kolkata. And that changed everything,” said Souvik.
The trio’s endeavour encouraged many city youngsters to develop the hobby of collecting and restoring vintage vehicles. CT spoke to four such young vintage vehicle enthusiasts who share what made them pursue this hobby and the challenges involved.
‘This is the car Harry Potter drove in’
Prized possession: Ford Anglia 105E (1964) bought in March 2021.
Why this hobby: Armaan’s father Amritendu Roy has been collecting vintage motorcycles and scooters for the last five years. Every Sunday, Armaan would accompany Amritendu for a ride, which made the young school student fall in love with vintage vehicles. “But unlike my father, I am more fascinated by old cars,” said Armaan. This month he finally managed to persuade his father to buy him the car of his dreams – a Ford Anglia. “This is the same model in which Harry Potter and Ron Weasley fly back to the Hogwarts Castle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. That was blue and mine is white,” said the 12-year-old enthusiast.
Challenges: The car was in pretty good condition and didn’t need much repairing. Armaan, who knows the names of almost all the spare parts used in the car, said, “There were some issues in the exhaust pipe, but that has been taken care of.” Armaan’s biggest regret right now is not being old enough to be able to drive the car. So, he is using this time to gather all the theoretical knowledge about driving and restoring old vehicles. “As soon as I reach the legal age, I will apply for my driving licence,” he added.
‘These cars evoke my childhood memories’
Prized possessions: Baby Hindustan (1957) and Ambassador (1958) bought in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
Why this hobby: This Jadavpur-based MBA student’s father brought home a second-hand Mark 4 Ambassador (1987) when Souradip was a young kid. From school to tuition, the car became a part of his daily commute. “I soon developed a special bond with this beauty. After a few years, when my family started thinking about selling off the car, I vetoed it,” said Souradip. Sometime later, the car broke down and remained out of operation for a long period. But Souradip’s love for it prompted the young enthusiast to study about the brand and before he knew it, he started the process of restoring the car. Following that, he pursued his hobby further by buying two more Ambassadors.
Challenges: Since the company has closed down, procuring spare parts is the biggest challenge for owners looking to restore vintage Ambassadors. “Restoring a vehicle means bringing it as close to its original form as possible. For that I often reach out to the old spare parts shops in Mullick Bazar and rely on the internet,” said Souradip. But there are several parts he has to make as well.
‘There is no better way to stay in touch with history’
Prized possessions: MG Magnette ZA (1955), Fiat Select 1100 (1961) bought in 2018 and 2020 respectively.
Why this hobby: Ever since Darshan saw three vintage cars belonging to his landlord being restored from scrap in his teenage years, he secretly started desiring to become a proud owner of a few vintage beauties when he grew up as he thought “there is no better way to stay in touch with history”. The opportunity finally came knocking in 2018, when he saw an MG Magnette ZA at the petrol pump owned by him. “After almost one and a half years of pursuing, the owner finally agreed to sell this rare automobile to me,” said Darshan, a businessman, who shares his love for vintage vehicles with sons Vivan and Vedant. “We take online classes on vintage and classic cars every week,” said Vivan, who, along with his brother, convinced his dad to buy them a Fiat Select 1100 last year.
Challenges: While the Magnette came to Darshan in perfect running condition, the Fiat had some issues and is currently being restored. “The body of the car was damaged and we had to work on it from scratch,” said Vivan. So, the colour has been scraped and different parts of the body are being either made or replaced.
‘my passion for two-wheelers continues with this’
Prized possession: Lambretta Model D 125 (1952) bought in 2021
Why this hobby: Barno and his elder brother’s fascination for two-wheelers began in their early childhood. The duo’s passion-fuelled in 2009 when their dad brought home a second motorcycle – 1986 INSuzuki – which became their preferred vehicle whenever they sneaked out. With time, Barno’s love for vintage two-wheelers grew even stronger and from the age of 18, he started participating in rallies. In the meantime, he kept on collecting motorcycles, but none of them was vintage or classic. It was only recently that the hotel management student could buy his first vintage scooter – Lambretta Model D 125 (1952) – from a scrapyard in Howrah. “With this scooter, I am taking my passion for two-wheelers to a different direction,” said Barno.
Challenges: Besides the engine and wheels, the royal Lambretta had nothing else. “When I came to know that somebody just threw it off, I could not stop myself from buying it,” said Barno, who started restoring the scooter in January and has managed to complete 50% of the job till now. Being manufactured in Italy, a major chunk of the missing spare parts needs to be imported, while others are being custom-made in Kolkata. “I want it to look just the way it used to back in the day. And to do that, I need some more time and research,” he added.
Source: Times of India