Wheeling down the past

Wheeling down the past

l Vintage pride

Wheeling down the past

When every other child grows up learning A for ‘Apple’, B for ‘Bat’ and so on, TR Raghunandan remembers growing up learning ‘A’ for Austin, ‘B’ for Buick, ‘C’ for Cadillac and ‘D’ for Dodge — thanks to his father who was an automobile enthusiast, though he could not own any vintage cars. Growing up, Raghunandan brought his inherited interest to life. He now has more than 5 cars in his lineup of vintage and classic cars.

Raghunandan’s voice brims with pride and passion as he starts talking about his cars. “These cars are all members of our family. Each one has a soul and for me, spending time with them is akin to prayer and meditation,” he says. Raghunandan has some interesting stories to share about each of his cars. About his first purchase, he says, “When my wife Aditi and I could afford one, we bought our first car — a 1950 Vauxhall in 1987. It was a lovely car, still wearing its original paint. It had only done 37,000 miles in 37 years and I still regret selling it,” he recollects.

The oldest car in his collection is a 1933 Austin 7 which he bought from a friend. “The car was featured in Shankar Nag’s iconic serial, ‘Malgudi Days’. We have driven in the car on several long distance journeys, including a 1400 km trip from Bengaluru to Thiruvananthapuram and back,” he says.

The 1946 model MG TC came as a basket case, says Raghunandan. “It went through a restoration, but not fully satisfied, I dismantled it and restored it ground up. That took 14 years. While the mechanicals were done by an expert, I did the wooden coachwork at home,” he says. The 1950 Morris Minor is Aditi’s car. “She bought it for less than the price of a motorbike, because at that time, this was the only running car that we could afford. It was a family truck for a while; we even removed the back seat and transported bricks and construction material in it while building our home,” he recalls. Some cars like the 1960 Mini have exclusive features. “The 1960 Mini has a rare extended station wagon body, lined with wooden coachwork. This is undergoing a full body-off restoration at the moment,” he says.

The family car purchased by Raghunandan's father is also a much-loved member of the stable. “This 1964 Mark II Ambassador has covered 6 lakh miles. We have been all across the country in this car, all the way up to Jaisalmer. Our family’s first chauffeur who drove this car was a veteran soldier who fought in World War II,” says Raghunandan with a smile.
 
Raghunandan’s interest in restoring these vintage beauties back on the roads gave him the opportunity to also restore Svetoslav Nikolaevich Roerich’s Chevrolet, which was lying in shambles in a police station for more than a decade.

“The Russian Department of Culture collaborated with the Karnataka Government to celebrate Svetoslav Roerich’s centenary. I was then the secretary of the rural development department and my passion for vintage cars was well- known. So I was called in to help,” he recollects.

After working day and night, the restoration was completed in 3 months.

Raghunandan and Aditi's son Ishaan too shares their passion. Given a chance, the family would drive around only in their old beauties but they say the traffic in the city doesn’t permit them the luxury anymore. “Only recently have we bought a modern car to cope with today’s traffic. Throughout we have used these cars as daily transport. My wife used her Morris for a decade for her daily transport,” says Raghunandan.

The cars are taken out for a spin every weekend just to keep them in good shape.

(Raghunandan can be reached on trraghu2014@gmail.com)

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