Slick Slack Season

Rains means vintage car owners keep their beauties off roads

The burgeoning number of cars in the city has led to parking crunches and traffic woes. As the situation worsens in the rain, Mumbai’s vintage car owners who take their classics out on weekend soirees, know that downpours and bad roads spell disaster for their hard to maintain cars.

Amir Jetha with his 1935 Rolls Royce. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
Amir Jetha with his 1935 Rolls Royce. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

Caution is key
With the monsoon in full spate, Mumbai-based Amir Jetha who owns a 1935 Rolls Royce says, “I avoids taking the car out during the rains. If there is a dry day, I do sometimes take the car out. The dirt and grime thrown up by the car on its underbelly, causes rusting issues and is very hard to clean.”

Nitin Dossa’s 47 Berge Convertible at Sofitel Hotel, Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC). Pic/Shadab Khan
Nitin Dossa’s 47 Berge Convertible at Sofitel Hotel, Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC). Pic/Shadab Khan

“I see the clouds and then take the car out accordingly. During the rains, 99 per cent of the time the cars are kept packed up. Till September, is rest time for my cars as I keep them at my properties in Ahmedabad and Pune so they do not face any rain woes.

Murad Jetha’s 1947 MG (l) and 1974 Pontiac Firebird Transam
Murad Jetha’s 1947 MG (l) and 1974 Pontiac Firebird Transam

I have special trailers that are used to move the cars from Mumbai to these places. They are checked every 15 days so that they work well,” says Nitin Dossa who owns 50 vintage and classic cars. This monsoon, like every time, is repair time for Bandra resident Murad Jetha’s 1947 MG and 1974 Pontiac Firebird Transam.

Murad Jetha explains what his cars mean to him
Murad Jetha explains what his cars mean to him

He says, “I use the rains as a time to restore my cars. I have a friend Areez Vakil who is a car enthusiast. He helps me with the work that needs to be done on my cars. I have parking problems, so Areez parks one of the cars in his building.”

Timeless tales
“My dad purchased the car in 1962. I have had the car for the past 20 years now. I try to use it at least every other week on a Sunday. I pick and choose the roads, and generally prefer the new roads like the Eastern Freeway, the Bandra-Worli Sea-link and the Terminal 2 road,” says Amir Jetha.

Dossa says, “One of my oldest cars is a 1923 Wolseley which I have owned for many years. The newest car is a 47 Berge Convertible which I bought some 18 months ago. The car belonged to the Governor of Calcutta back in the day. My driver Raju Singh drives my cars. He is more particular about them than me. I drive them myself very rarely. Raju treats the cars as though they are babies, he is very careful with them.”

Murad Jetha says, “The MG is older than me. The story of how it came to my house is interesting though. My dad went to get diapers for me when he saw the car parked below a building. He went and asked the owner to sell the car to him. That’s how the first vintage car came into my family. In 2012, I went on to buy the Pontiac.”

Calling the car a labour of love, Amir explains, “I understand the car’s mechanics, the settings. The gears don’t change as fast as modern cars; certain parts are not available in India. But I have committed myself to this car, to keep it like it was when it was originally built for the Maharaja of Jodhpur, back in the day.”

He adds, “Many people want a tactile feel of the car so there have been many people who want to click pictures, pose with the car — kids, aspiring models, youngsters have been the ones who often ask for pictures with the car. I rarely refuse. There was a couple once who wanted to use the car for their pre-wedding shoot, since it was special to them, I allowed it.”

Dossa says, “I usually take my cars for a drive along the Marine Drive promenade. When other drivers see my cars they tend to show some respect, they give us space to drive the car. I do not take my cars to places where there is no parking.”

“I tend to use one of my cars on Saturday and the other on Sunday. I take my family for a weekend drive. The Bandstand Road, Carter Road and Sea Link are places where I drive generally. I allow children to come for a drive with my family in the car as well as to take pictures with it. At petrol pumps, often, the filler are excited, and there is always someone who waves at the car while I drive, so I am never short of having an exciting drive,” says Murad.

Talking about the maintenance work he does to keep his car looking good and new, Amir says, “The car was originally designed for leaded petrol which is no longer available, so the car needs to be retuned to adjust for leaded fuel. I keep my car in an enclosed garage and do a lot of the repair work myself.

I have a tool kit and take the trouble to understand what goes where in my car. I know the basic tasks that are needed. I only trust good mechanics with my car; recently, I restored the car and am happy with the outcome.” Murad says, “I take pains for my cars, get parts from abroad, restore it as and when there is a need. The times ahead are exciting for vintage cars.

There are a number of events being organised, many young people are interested in vintage cars. My son is in love with the cars and wakes up every morning and sees them first. If we have better roads and manageable traffic, the future is very bright; we will enjoy our cars even more.” It is a sentiment echoed by most vintage car owners whose vehicles though are strictly under wraps this season.

Car quotient: Wise up about vintage

>> Vintage and classic car drivers do not need any special car licence. The regular car licence suffices.

>> Owners take the car out on weekends, on well maintained roads and only to places where safe parking is available.

>> The car parts are mostly sourced from abroad since they are foreign cars. 

>> The vintage and classic car owner community share ideas, improvise and work together to keep their cars working well.

>> The vintage car rallies around the country are meet ‘n’ greet moments for owners to show off their cars and learn more about other cars.

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