Torque of the town: A museum where you can see and ride rare two-wheelers

Vintage Miles in Mahabaleshwar, set up by real-estate developer and avid collector Vinit Kenjale, has 100 bikes on display, some nearly 100 years old.
The NSU Quickly and the Royal Enfield self-starting scooter Fantabulous, from the 1960s, at the Vintage Miles museum. (Images courtesy Vintage Miles) PREMIUM
The NSU Quickly and the Royal Enfield self-starting scooter Fantabulous, from the 1960s, at the Vintage Miles museum. (Images courtesy Vintage Miles)
Updated on Mar 19, 2022 03:28 PM IST
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ByCherylann Mollan

It’s time travel of a different kind. A privately run two-wheeler museum in Mahabaleshwar is offering visitors a chance to gawk at specimens nearly 100 years old, and ride some of the exhibits too.

A total of 100 vintage bikes are housed at the Vintage Miles museum set up by real-estate developer Vinit Kenjale in Mahabaleshwar, a hill-station town 120 km south-west of Pune. Admission costs 100 per person, and for that price one can opt to ride a Rajdoot, Yezdi, Jawa, Priya and Lambretta, all of which stand fuelled and ready to go.

“Spare parts are readily available for these. The museum will allow rides as long as we can get spare parts,” says Kenjale, 57.

The most prized exhibits are road-ready too, but they will not be up for a spin. With no spare parts available, and the models now very rare themselves, these can’t even be touched, though visitors can pose for selfies with them. These rare models include a Royal Enfield self-starting scooter named Fantabulous, from the 1960s, and a mini-moped named Mofa from the 1980s that had a top speed of just 30 kmph.

Five ushers have been hired and trained to keep an eye on the visitors and share bits of history about the bikes. They’ll tell you how a 1970s Kinetic Luna moped won a race against the Deccan Queen Mumbai-Pune train (in a promotional event); why the 1960s Jawa earned the nickname Phat-Phati (it had a dual exhaust that made a loud puffing sound); and how the Priya is related to the Vespa (by design, in a manner of speaking).

Kenjale has been amassing two-wheelers for over 35 years. His collection of 500 vehicles is now slowly being restored and moved to the museum. ‘My goal is to preserve a sample of every two-wheeler to ever run on Indian roads,’ he says. (Image courtesy Vintage Miles)
Kenjale has been amassing two-wheelers for over 35 years. His collection of 500 vehicles is now slowly being restored and moved to the museum. ‘My goal is to preserve a sample of every two-wheeler to ever run on Indian roads,’ he says. (Image courtesy Vintage Miles)

The 100 Vintage Miles bikes are currently housed in a 7,500-sq-ft shed situated on an 8-acre plot. Four more such sheds are in the works, and another 450 two-wheelers will be added to the museum’s collection over the next two to three years. All 500 bikes are from Kenjale’s personal collection.

Kenjale has been amassing two-wheelers for over 35 years. Most of his collection is housed in a three-storey parking lot attached to his Pune home. He’s now restoring the vehicles one at a time and moving them into this permanent repository.

“My goal is to preserve a sample of every two-wheeler to ever run on Indian roads, so that future generations will know them,” Kenjale says. “I want this to be the kind of collection that can be used for academic study in the future.”

Readying an exhibit can take 15 days to six months, as each vehicle is cleaned, painted, repaired, and missing parts replaced. Kenjale works on the bikes with a core team of eight mechanics, engineers, seat-makers, electricians, painters and moulding technicians, most of whom are over the age of 60. “Only older technicians are familiar with the older two-wheeler models in the collection,” Kenjale says. “Their expertise comes in handy when an era-specific paint shade has to be picked, or a seat has to be custom-designed to match the design sensibilities of a bygone era.”

Sometimes, it can take months to make or source a part. Old photographs are used for reference and bike aficionados and other collectors are often consulted too.

Kenjale’s next mission is to begin collecting electric two-wheelers. “I will keep collecting bikes as long as I live,” he says.

(The Vintage Miles museum opened in December. Working hours are 10 am to 6 pm daily)

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Tuesday, June 28, 2022