Keeping the spirit alive

Keeping the spirit alive
Each one of the vintage cars lined up in the stable of Sulaiman Jamal is a story in itself. Sulaiman has thoughtfully and assiduously put together the ensemble, admitting that it is indeed hard to single out any one car as his favourite. “They’re all my beauties,” Sulaiman says, his voice brimming with pride and nostalgia.

Collecting vintage and classic cars is a passion that began burning inside Sulaiman during his school days in Coimbatore. “I would see these cars dropping my friends to school and somehow their shape and style impressed me. I was so fascinated with them that my drawing books would be full of the sketches of these cars. That’s how my affair with these beautiful machines started,” he recollects.

It’s always hard to forget your first love and Sulaiman fondly recalls his first purchase. “I came upon my first vintage car —  a 1939 model of Austin 14 which I bought in 1979 from Whitefield. I bought it for a princely sum of Rs 6,000. This was the beginning and from then my stable has only been growing,” he says. Sulaiman has a collection of about 14 vintage and classic cars. Four of them are project cars (those that require complete refurbishing). The ones that needed a complete makeover are a 1947 model of Riley, a 1919 Citroen, a 1965 VW Ragtop roof and a 1954 model of Dodge Convertible. “It will take another year or more to get them on the road,” he says.

Among the cars that are in perfect running condition is a 1946 model of Daimler DE27 which came from the Mysore Palace. Sulaiman also has a few other cars that need special mention like the 1946 Daimler DB18, 1957 model of Mercedes 219, 1939  Austin 14 and a 1937 Sunbeam Talbot.

He takes a lot of trouble to restore some of the cars and get them back on the roads. He has a team that includes the tinker, painter, engine mechanic, electrician and those specialising in the liner for the upholstery.

“When I began, getting this team together was the biggest challenge and I feel this breed is now fast-disappearing,” he says.  Sulaiman doesn’t believe in doing a half-baked job when it comes to sourcing spares for his cars. It must be the perfect match, he insists.
“Spares can be sourced through various channels, if one is really persistent. However, the cost could be a factor depending on the rarity of the car,” he states.

He also feels the maintenance of these cars is not very complicated. “The secret is to keep using and running them. That is the challenge. Once you do not use them, the problem starts,” he  says.

Sulaiman and his wife Christine have three children — Mushtaq, Adela and Zain who share their father's interest and passion for vintage cars. The family lives in a plush bungalow in Whitefield and this location has proved advantageous because by sheer virtue of the location, the cars get driven out more often. “Driving them around once a week is a great achievement,” he adds. He also prefers to take the cars out when the roads are empty.

Sulaiman makes time to spend with his cars. He prefers to call his hobby a great stress-buster rather than a time-consuming affair. “There’s a certain inexplicable joy that comes from networking with people to find the spares, restoring them and getting them back on the road. Not to forget the learning process that comes with the experience of working with these vehicles. Driving these cars, once they are restored, is a joy no money can buy,” he shares. Sulaiman is the President of the Karnataka Vintage and Classic Car Club (KVCCC) and he is ably supported by the executive committee of KVCCC and the vice- president Premnath, secretary Dr Ravi Prakash and treasurer Subramani.

(Sulaiman can be reached on sulaimanjamal@yahoo.com)
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