Encyclopaedia of vintage wheels

Passion driven

For parents it is a reason to celebrate when their young boys bring home new bikes or cars. But when a similar incident took place in 1970, the parents of this particular boy weren’t exactly ‘happy’.

“In 1970, I saw an Austin 7 lying amidst scrap, right opposite LSR College and I brought it home,” recalls Rakesh Jain, a smile playing on his lips. Taking help of his friends, he changed the tyre of this vintage automobile and pushed it to his residence in Defence Colony. “My family rebuked saying ‘What piece of trash have you got home.’ But I got busy with my friends from IIT to restore the machine. It took us six weeks but when I drove it to college with my friends it was a sight to remember,” says Jain who was then pursuing his  post graduation in commerce from Shri Ram College of Commerce.

Jain’s love for the ‘vintage’ flared after this incident and he started collecting cars wherever he went for his business. Sitting in his plush showroom of readymade garments ‘Jainsons Westend’ in Karol Bagh, the man, even 18 years down the timeline, is
passionate in his love for these machines.

“I had once gone to Bareilly to buy a Ford Model T but the dealer was demanding a price higher than the Rs 2,500 I had taken along with me. Suddenly I saw a 1920 Triumph Model 8 motorcycle with a sidecar lying next to it and bought the same in this price. It came with the original number plate — UP549JI — which stood for the United Provinces, Jhansi,” says the 62-year-old who still considers this machine as the pride of his collection of about 400 motorcycles, probably the largest in the country!

“The 1912 FN (Fabrique National) made in Belgium was the second in the list that I picked up for Rs 800, on a trip to Ambala. This was followed by a Ridge, a racing bike and many others,” says the passionate collector, driven by the love for his country’s heritage.

“People dumped them as scrap and foreigners were taking them out of the country. The Antiquities Act which bans the export of pre-1950 bikes came in much later,” informs Jain who started putting “life into junk”. Till date, when there are no customers in his showroom, he rolls up his sleeves and walks up to the first floor where he keeps just a few of them.

The rest are stored in various warehouses across the city and weren’t brought out until the recent ‘Cartier Travel with Style'. “It wasn’t my business, so I decided to showcase them only when the time is right,” says Jain who was honoured for his labour of love at the recently concluded event.      

He has a room full of books on bikes and often browses the internet to research about his possessions. Having set up the Vintage Automobilia Pvt Ltd, Jain is all set to open a museum where he can exhibit his collection. “I went to the extent of finalising a place in Neemrana but it could not work out due to security issues. Having faced a major theft about 10 years ago, where I lost four truck loads of motorbike parts, I didn’t want to take a chance!”

Besides his passion for bikes, Jain also collects bicycles, tricycles, scooters, antique sewing machines, oil lamps and carriages and feels that the time is right for private museums to start mushrooming.   “My motto is ‘Save in India,’” he says in all seriousness adding, “I still don’t know how to ride a bike,” and bursts out laughing.

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