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Vintage wheels in pink of health

- Capital doctor dotes on two octogenarian beauties — an Austin and a Ford

The year 1932 reminds one of the Great Depression and Bing Cosby singing “Brother, can you spare a dime?”

Pre-eminent consultant physician in Ranchi, Kiriti Choudhury, however has a happy reminder parked at home — an Austin car of 1932 make. Giving it company is a 1935 Ford, yes, the same year the Germans rolled out Volkswagen Beetle and the Japanese the Toyota.

“I am well and truly bitten by the vintage bug,” smiles 68-year-old Choudhury, a doctor of medicine. “If money permits, I’d love to add one or two.”

The two beauties — dowagers more likely — occupy the pride of place at Choudhury’s sprawling residence on Durgabari Road near Main Road. He has two more “purely functional” cars.

“I was a young man in the seventies, you know,” Choudhury said when asked how the vintage love affair started. “Ranchi was hosting a vintage car rally in the early seventies. I was smitten by their splendour and decided I’d own one.”

Luck smiled on him nearly a decade later.

“In the early 80s, I got word that a 1932 Austin was lying idle with a gentleman named Arun Ganguly at Ghatotand, Hazaribagh. I rushed to Ganguly and clinched the deal for Rs 1,000. Some tinkering later, in 1984, at the Calcutta Vintage Car Rally, my Austin bagged the best-maintained car and best performance awards, though there were around 50 Austins taking part.” he said.

At Rs 1,000, the Austin was a steal. “I still remember the rally. The drive stretched from Eastern Command Stadium, Fort William, to then Dum Dum airport and back, a distance of around 30 km. My car glided,” the doctor enthused.

Much later, after more than 20 years, he bought the 1935 Ford. “The Ford belonged to a friend. As it was lying unattended, he was only too happy to get rid of it,” he said.

Unlike many car collectors whose vintage beauties are brought to life only for rallies, the good doctor ministers to their needs all year round and they reward him by staying in apple-pie order.

“Every Tuesday, my weekly day off from practice at my chamber on Church Road, I take a spin in either of the two,” said the car buff.

But he is pragmatic not to push them too hard. “The yesteryears Austins and Fords can’t speed above 40kmph. Their braking systems are primitive. Driving them on bustling city thoroughfares is foolish and dangerous. I limit my outings to quiet roads,” he said.

On his own exertions, he laughs. “Yes, queens have royal needs and whims. Spares are not available easily and need to be modified. When the clutch plate of my Austin needed to be replaced, an elderly mechanic had to virtually manufacture it,” he said.

Wife Sangjukta, resigned to the demanding beauties, is indulgent. “I encourage him in his passion,” she smiles.

They are worth the trouble, the doctor stresses. “One look at them and I am a goner.”

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