Smitten by the machines

Last Updated 23 May 2016, 18:32 IST

Jeevan Joy is on cloud nine not only when he is flying an aircraft but also when he is driving his classic possessions. The proud owner of a 1950 Fiat 500 C, a 1973 Super Beetle and a 1990 premiere 118 NE, this pilot, who is a resident of  Vijayanagar, describes his love for the automobiles as a ‘natural, normal phenomenon like breathing’.

His penchant for machines was ignited by his father, who owned a convertible in Kerala. Jeevan says, “Owning a convertible in Kerala, a rain-fed state, was unheard of. This made my parents celebrities as people thought that it was crazy.”

Jeevan and his sister literally grew up in their father’s 1950 Fiat 500 C and have very fond memories attached to it. It is popularly known as ‘Topolino’, which translates literally to ‘little mouse’.

“My dad bought it in 1960. It stayed in the family for a few years and was later sold off. However, I was very passionate about the car and wanted a similar one. I finally bought it in 2010 from a doctor in Hyderabad and spent about 5 years restoring it. Now, the car looks as good as new and as if it is just out from the factory.”

His collection didn’t end there. He had the offer of a 1973 Super Beetle from a friend. “I always wanted a car with a rear engine when I was in my 20s and the Beetle’s shape and identity fascinated me. It has a personality of its own. However, it was very expensive then. A friend offered it to me then but it slipped out of my hands. It came back to me more than a year ago and I have been owning it ever since. Later, my dad bought a 1990 Premiere 118 NE in 1995, which ruled the roads at that time. It is a modern classic and was the first and last car my dad owned and I restored it later. It is a very rare car,” he says.

He now wants to buy a 911 Porsche Ferrera next and says that it is one of the exotic cars that one can own in India.

Apart from collecting these classic beauties, he is also interested in restoring them. He calls it a craze that is hard to die. However, he adds that restoration and maintenance of old cars is very expensive.

“I spent about 5 years restoring the Fiat and had to pay a price for it. One can actually go through hell in sourcing out good mechanics and importing the car’s parts. Though there is enough information, there is only a handful of high-quality restorers.

No run-of-the-mill mechanic can restore a vintage car. The setup is not yet there in India.” Although Jeevan takes part in rides and get-togethers organised by the Beetle Club, he wishes that the roads here were more conducive for vintage and classic cars.

“It’s a challenge to navigate through the traffic in a ‘Topolino’ or a Beetle. This is why we all meet up on national holidays, late-nights or early mornings on Sundays when the traffic is lean.”    

Though he finds newer cars more reliable with better amenities, he has a special connect with the Beetle that nothing can replace. He says, “Even the Nano and the rickshaw have rear engines but we aren’t attracted to that. There is always something about the Beetle. Its shape and sound, the fact that Hitler commissioned them after the war or the mass appeal that the Volkswagen has are just a few reasons. Whenever I drive on the road, the Beetle grabs more eyeballs than a BMW would. People always honk at signals and give me a thumbs-up. People also take pictures with the car. They also ask questions like where I bought the Beetle and whether it petrol or diesel-driven.”

(Jeevan can be contacted at trueairspeed@gmail.com)

(Published 23 May 2016, 18:11 IST)

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