Queen of the highway

Queen of the highway
She has been with the family for 50 years now. The best selling car of the 30s, she looks as if she is still in her prime. She is the 1937 Austin 10, an affectionate possession of VB Viswanath, proprietor of a 143-year-old printing press — VB Soobbiah and Sons. He loves old machines and the printing press still has the antique printing equipment there. It is also here that the classic beauty, Austin is parked right at the entrance. Along with this small car stands the bold looking Jawa of 1969, ready to vroom around the City.

“We had many cars earlier. But due to financial fluctuations, we had to sell them all. In 1965, we got the Austin 10. It was owned by B Nanjappa, a family friend and a physician to Sri Visvesvaraya. We bought the car for Rs 2,000 from Nanjappa’s son after his demise. It was registered under my father’s name, VBG Shankar, as he was the eldest in the family,” says Viswanath. A family car then, it has taken the uphill roads of Madikeri and even Tirupati.

With a unique body shape, suicide doors, stand-alone headlights; it has trafficators that protrude from inside the vehicle acting as indicators. “The car needed a little bit of restoration when I bought it. After that it was perfect,” he says. This little beauty has taken over many terrains and it was just once that it gave up on them, he reminisces adding, “My father was a fast driver. We were on our way back to Bengaluru from Mysuru and my father wanted to overtake the ‘Janatha Travels’. In the process, the connecting rod came out and the car had to be towed all the way back.”

Now immensely passionate about cars, Viswanath had a great attachment to bikes as a youngster. “I bought the Jawa from the showroom and I have covered nine lakh kilometres on this bike,”  he explains. He was admonished and warned for riding the bikes anywhere and everywhere by his father, but that did not stop him. “I still want to ride the bike, but my son forbids me as I might end up with a broken bone,” he laughs.

The two antique beauties are now taken out by his son Raghunath and grandson Shreyas while Viswanath enjoys the bygone drive.

Says Shreyas, “I have the same passion for these machines as my grand dad and I believe that it has been inherited. It is very exciting to drive both the antique machines as it invites waves and thumbs-up from fellow commuters. They attract a gathering wherever they are parked.” The Austin that was in running condition needed restoration a couple of times. Many mechanics came and went, and she was fixed and refixed. Viswanath’s son Raghunath also worked his mechanical hands to get the car back to perfection. It was not an easy task as the parts were unavailable and they had to collectively work their master minds and get many parts fabricated.

“Now I have a set of spares for this car and I exactly know what goes where,” says Viswanath proudly. He also comments on the technology of these antique machines. “The mechanism in these old machines was simpler and they lasted longer than the modern cars. The tyres of the Austin are 20 years old but in perfect condition. The Jawa too is rough and tough till date.”

A man with a youthful
spirit, he wants to own many cars including the Chevrolet Fleetmaster, Vauxhall and Somerset. He says,  “There was a time when I did not have a penny in my pocket but I still refused to sell this car. They might call me a sentimental fool, but I will never let go of this car and I hope it stays in the family for
generations to come.”

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