Tale of the black beauty

Tale of the black beauty

Vintage pride

Tale of the black beauty

Suraj Shetty and Roop Shridhar studied together in the same school but they became close friends only in class four and have been inseparable since.

The duo also went to the same college and opted for the same discipline — automobile engineering — before floating a business together. “We are more like brothers than friends. We rarely disagree because we think on the same lines,” says Suraj, with the tinge of pride in his voice easily discernible.

One of the major things that also strengthened the bond between Suraj and Roop was their love for cars. While Suraj’s father and grandfather owned a fleet of vintage and classic cars, including a 1940 model of a Beck and a Morris Minor, Roop’s father was one among the few Bengalureans who owned a Benz in the early 1990s.

“Roop and I lived in Koramangala and we would always drive out in the Benz. We would get stared at a lot because we were very young and in the early 1990s (in Bengaluru), only the old would be seen driving around in a Benz,” recollects Suraj.

At the first available opportunity, Suraj and Roop jointly made their first ever purchase — a 1968 model of Volkswagen Beetle. “We fell in love with the car at first sight and we were after the owner asking him if he would sell it to us. He refused at first but he came around and sold it to us before relocating to another city. The joy we experienced when we bought our first car is something that lives on even to this day,” states Suraj.

The car was red when Suraj first bought it but he wasted no time changing the colour to black and also restoring it to a perfect condition. “Black is my favourite colour. My first bike — a 1978 model of Yezdi — was also black. My jeep is black and I also have a black Labrador that we’ve named Carbon. So, my obsession with black grew on the Beetle as well and now I fondly call her my black beauty,” he says.

Suraj spends time with his black beauty over the weekends and takes her out on the road whenever it is empty. The black beauty is indeed a crowd-puller.

“Whenever I drive out in the Beetle, I get admiring looks from total strangers. If I happen to park it somewhere, then I have a lot of people walking up to me and asking me numerous questions about the car and even taking a selfie with it before leaving,” he says.

Like everybody who owns and maintains a vintage vehicle, Suraj too faces the challenge of finding spare parts. “There was a time when the spares weren’t available here but now one can order them online and I also ask some of my friends who return from the US to bring them for me,” he says.

Suraj is also working on restoring a 1933 model of Austin of England. “We have already got the spares from abroad and now Roop and I are working on trying to get it back on the road,” he adds.

Suraj’s wife Shanthi and daughter Sushma say the Beetle is a part of the family. Sushma says she literally grew up driving around in the car. “I remember clicking a lot of pictures beside the car. Even Carbon (the pet dog) always finds an excuse to get into the car,” says Sushma, who is popular among her friends for her car. Shanthi recalls that when they got married, she was amazed by the line-up of vintage and classic cars in Suraj’s home.

“I knew the family had a deep interest in owning and maintaining vintage vehicles. Suraj makes it a point to spend a lot of time with the Beetle over the weekend. He polishes the car and checks every part to make sure it is in perfect working condition,” shares Shanthi.

She says that she has driven the car but is scared to drive it on Bengaluru roads. “I don’t drive the car too much because not only is the traffic unbearable but if anything happens to the car, it is hard to find the spare parts,” adds Shanthi, who says that she finds that the old and the young are equally inquisitive and fascinated with the car.

Suraj Shetty can be contacted at imsurajshetty@gmail.com