1933 Minerva to 1965 Ford Mustang: Vintage cars to roll down Delhi’s roads after 3 yrs
Anybody can get an Audi... but nobody can get one of these,” says Aditya Vij, as he recounts what he told his 11-year-old daughter when she asked him about his passion for vintage cars.
“My daughter keeps asking me why I invest so much money and time on cars like these... I’ve explained to her a number of times that anybody can walk around and buy a new car… Nobody can get one of these,” the 44-year-old, resident of Balinagar in west Delhi and one of the few vintage car collectors in the city, said.
After a gap of three years, car collectors in the capital again have the permission to show off their collections.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on November 26, 2014, had banned plying of all diesel or petrol vehicles more than 15 years old. Later, on April 7, 2015, the green court held that all diesel vehicles more than 10 years old would not be permitted to ply in Delhi-NCR. This ban, by default, ended up including even vintage cars, most of which are more than 50 years old.
In December 2017, while hearing petitions of collectors and enthusiasts, the NGT allowed vintage cars to ply on the roads for rallies and exhibitions in Delhi, with a few conditions.
On February 17, after more than three years, these vintage cars will again take part in the 8th annual Vintage Car Rally and Concours Show organised by 21 Gun Salute, without any special permission from the green court.
Vij explained how he is comparatively new in the field of vintage car collection as he has been doing it for only half a decade. His collection of 17 classic cars include a 1927 Chevrolet International AC Coupe, 1937 Austin Ruby, 1946 Morris two-door, 1946 Morris four door, 1946 Hudson Super Six, 1948 Morris Oxford, 1948 Vauxhall Velox, 1949 Morris Minor, 1950 Hillman Minx, 1952 Austin Somerset, 1954 Dodge Kingsway and 1956 Plymouth Savoy, among others.
“Previously, when I drove these cars around, many times people would queue up and request me to allow them to take a picture. It gives you a high, an immense pleasure to actually be able to drive them… After three years, it is a relief to be able to get the court’s go-ahead to again do so,” Vij, an anthropologist, businessman and an artefacts collector, said.
He, however, added that when such vintage cars lie parked or dormant for long durations, they end up gathering rust and losing engine power.
That was one of the strangest decisions I have seen in this country… Across the globe, governments support such initiatives of conservation… The ban didn’t make sense. Nobody will take out their vintage cars out for day-to-day basis anyway. They would only take out for a pleasure drive once in a month or once in three months. Finally better senses prevailed last month… It is a boost for collectors to continue collecting,” Vij said.
“The court gave exemptions (to vintage cars) on three counts: The vehicle in question has to be older than 50 years and will be registered under the Motor Vehicles Act. It would be allowed on roads only for rallies, shows, meets and exhibitions. And as part of corporate social responsibility, the Heritage Motoring Club of India should contribute plants and dustbins and other material, which will help in protecting and improving the quality of the environment,” Diljeet Titus, owner of a law firm and general secretary, Heritage Motoring Club of India, said.
At his Mehrauli farmhouse, Titus has 56 cars that he has collected over the past 15 years. He bought his first vintage car, a 1947 Austin A40, in his hometown Jabalpur.
He says his most prized possession is a 1933 Minerva Type AL. “It is extremely special because it is one of only 33 such models produced and only one of nine models which have survived. It is also the only one in Asia,” the 52-year-old said.
Titus says for owners of classic cars the real challenge is restoring them as spare parts are not easily available. There are three major sources of spare parts — ‘new’ old serviceable parts, reconditioned parts, and remanufactured parts.
Availability of spares is not much of a problem for those who have a knack of restoring the vintage automobiles themselves. Standing in front of his RK Puram Apartment, Shiva Jatti, 60, speaks about how he has been collecting vintage cars for 20 years.
He is the proud owner of a 1965 Ford Mustang, with an eight-cylinder engine and has automatic transmission and power steering. The Mustang, an iconic American muscle car, is largely credited to have taken Ford out of heavy losses during the mid 60s. Jatti also owns a 1955 Fiat Millicento 1100 and a 1969 Ford Capri.
“Earlier I would take these out on a daily basis… Now I can do so only for rallies. Traffic conditions are such you can’t take these out every day, in any case. Ban or no ban, won’t make much difference... But we are happy with this current relief.”
But why does he collect these cars?
“Motoring is in your blood. It is like a hobby. People collect stamps, some paintings, some artefacts and some chandeliers. When you collect a car, you look after it like your baby,” said Jatti, who takes up car restoration projects for other collectors as well.