Around 100 vintage cars stood in the sun flashing their chrome and brass outside the Dhyan Chand National Stadium , where they had stopped after a few kilometres’ drive around Luyten’s Delhi. Their owners, had a sparkle in their eyes of proud ownership of their beauties, which had started from Connaught Place for the 51st edition of The Statesman Vintage and Classic Cars Rally on Sunday.
“Everyone wants to buy a vintage car, but they don’t understand what it takes to maintain them,” said Dr Shahamat Hussain standing next to his 1932 Fiat Tipo 514, which he claims is the only such model of its kind in India. “You can’t own possessions like this only with money; you need to have that passion,” said the Gurgaon-based physician.
The National Green Tribunal last week gave a nod to the rally, making these vintage cars an exception to its order banning vehicles older than 15 years from plying on Delhi roads. The car owners, ranging from 30-year-olds to octogenarian army veterans, shared their annoyance with the order with HT.
“Why is government against these cars? They should see what all we do to maintain these cars to check the pollution,” said S Tariq Ibrahim who had driven his 1920 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost from Kanpur to the rally. His family had imported the 12-cylinder, 7,700-cc model from England four generations ago.
“While driving these cars to Delhi, we have to pay for tolls and take permissions for running this car in the city. In UK and other countries, such cars are exempt from taxes. They have special forums where such cars are restored in support of the government,” Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim pointed out another issue. “I can’t get done a comprehensive insurance of a prized possession like this,” he said caressing the curves of his beauty on wheels. “So I’ve to buy a third party one. Fortunately I live in Kanpur, not Delhi. So at least I can drive my vehicle without any hassle. But it drinks a lot of fuel – one litre every two kilometers.”
Many participants in the rally had bought classic cars in recent years, from scrap, resale and auctions. They have money and some passion too, but struggle to find experienced mechanics and original spares. And the pain of not getting that one original oil cap or a mirror or the door handle is loud and clear.
Gurgaon-based Manik Singh bought his 1928 Rolls Royce Phantom I auctioned by the Bhavnagar Municipal Corporation in 2003. “The car was in total mess. We looked for pictures of the original car, and then worked on it. Thank god the engine was functioning,” says Singh, who also bought a 1938 Packard One-Ten five years ago from the garage of Bata Shoe Company in West Bengal.
Most of them take their cars for a spin at night, thanks to fear of the NGT ruling and also the fact that these cars drive the traffic around them wherever they go. But they are rare and contribute only a tiny fraction of the over 10 million vehicles on the roads of the Capital.
“The authorities have been misled into believing that these cars are more polluting. How many of these cars are on the road actually? We maintain them so they are clean. They don’t emit much. I’ve a PUC to tell you that. Instead, check those trucks throw out deadly smoke in the city,” said Dr Hussain.
The participants of the rally shared a common emotion: The vintage cars are pieces of history which need to be protected. “If the government continues to discourage us like this, soon we would stop doing it, and these cars would be metal cages lying abandoned in some park.” said another owner, as he carefully wiped a fingerprint off the chrome logo of his Jaguar.