Over 150 Vintage and classic cars hit kolkata roads for the annual rally
A 1906 Renault Fréres. A 1935 Rytecraft. Eight rare Buicks, Ford, Austin Super Sport, Rover, Mercedes Benz and more. Classic beauties that once ruled the roads are out on Kolkata streets again this Sunday morning. Oiled and polished for their big day out, 154 cars from the past have made their way to the Eastern Command Sports Stadium at Fort William for the annual Statesman Vintage and Classic Car Rally.
The event, first held in 1968, categorises the cars into two sections: Vintage (older than 1939) and Classic (1939-1969). Before the flag-off, each of these cars has to undergo what is called the ‘wiggle-woggle’ test — a manoeuvrability test where the car has to make its way around poles kept on the tracks without hitting them. This year, the oldest entry is a 1906 Renault Fréres that will be driven by Shrivardhan Kanoria. Also participating is British microcar, Rytecraft (1935), which is owned by Rishi Kumar.
“We feel passionately about these old cars, many of which have been in the family for years,” says Anup Ojha, general manager, Hindalco Industries. Ojha owns four classic cars and is participating in the rally. Like him, Sanjay Ghosh is also a vintage car aficionado and has turned his passion to his profession — restoring old cars for the last 35 years.
“I was inspired by my grandfather’s Ford V8 and spent my first salary on buying four tyres and an engine to give a facelift to this abandoned car,” he says. Ghosh’s 30-year-old son, Rajiv, intends to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Ojha says, “While the value of new cars depreciates, for classic or vintage cars, it increases year by year.” It costs around Rs 10,000 a year to maintain a vintage or classic car, but more than that it’s the personal supervision that’s crucial. Skilled mechanics and spare parts are hard to find. Often tyres have to be imported and spare parts are copied from the original and manufactured at the local Mullick Bazaar. But what bothers the owners the most is that insurance companies aren’t keen on covering old cars. “We don’t have comprehensive insurance schemes for these cars,” says Ojha.
Ravindra Kumar, editor and managing director of The Statesman, which organises the rally, recalls, “In the early 1960s, our then motoring correspondent, Peter Moore, highlighted the manner in which priceless vintage cars were being sent out of the country. That’s when we decided to start an event that would showcase these cars.” The aim was to motivate owners to preserve their cars rather than junk them. Besides beauties from the past, the event now attracts sponsors like Ambuja Realty, State Bank of India, National Insurance, Nestlé, Austin Distributors, Mitsubishi Motors and Seagram’s.