Who doesn’t appreciate a spic and span classy vintage car going down the road?
That moment of ecstasy as we hear the rustic machine churn the fuel inside and the glow of pride in the eyes of its owner!
Vintage cars have been the ubiquitous hobby cum passion in the quintessential Calcutta since time immemorial. The proud cars and their prouder owners have been hailed by all and alike everywhere from vintage car shows/rallies to while simply driving on the road; some are known to keep personal museums even.
But, hey everyone hails the car and its owner, what about the people who actually burn their sweat and blood to make an old & dilapidated car into a work of art for one to marvel upon− from running around the city like a mad dog in search for a simple nut to polishing the rims till they shine perfectly− these are the people, the unsung heroes, who do the real job of restoring the grandeur and giving the vintage car its sheen and glory.
We, The Beacon, want to glorify and bring to the front the people who restore cars, metaphorically speaking these people are heart surgeons, even more so. We chanced upon one of the most renowned vintage car restorers in the city− Suraj Shaw aka Chotu da, who has been in this field for almost 22 years now. Hear him out:
How it began?
Basically he started off as an apprentice mechanic at Gautam Mukherji’s, a renowned dealer in vintage and classic cars, never did he think of becoming a specialist in vintage cars specifically. Gradually, as and how he learned his way, he developed an affinity towards the vintage breed.
So, why vintage specifically?
The restorer says “Well, this is vintage, it’s rare, almost on the verge of extinction; and to repair and restore a car which is almost dead gives me immense pleasure. For me, to preserve is a form of art− One has to put a lot of brains into the entire restoration process because the technology used in these cars are something everyone is not accustomed to, and I excel at it.”
The first vintage car project?
“My first ever vintage car that I worked on was a Chevrolet Impala in the year 1996. The car was in a completely dilapidated state− we had hired coolies to bring the car to the garage. Eventually over a period of six months we restored it and made ready for participation in a vintage car rally.”
Getting spare parts for vintage cars is quite an ordeal, so tell us how you do make-do with this problem?
“Most of the spare parts are supplied by Bengal Motors and a few shops in Dharmatala. Otherwise we have to build our own spare parts from scratch according to specifications required in the process of restoration. Also some people who can afford to import, they import from UK or USA− original spare parts from the company itself.”
A day in the life of a vintage car restorer.
My day starts every day at 6am, after having dealt with housel-hold chores I leave for the garage. Upon reaching I assess what is happening on the different ongoing restoration projects. If there is any requirement for a spare part then I immediately leave on a hunt and try to return as soon as possible, not because I’m afraid my boss will shout but only because I can’t wait till the spare part is fitted where it belongs. It is like adding a piece to a puzzle. Then if the car is in a running state, we take it for test drives on the highway and run it for at least 50-60 kms till we find out everything is running as it’s supposed to. After that I return home and still my mind keeps lingering on what needs to be done to make the car run even more efficiently than it is now. I love doing it and that’s why never a day in my life I have felt like I have a job. It’s like a hobby which pays!