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Sunday , July 20 , 2014
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New kids on vintage block

Saikat Dutta with his 1964 Triumph Spitfire, a two-door sports car once owned by Jackie Shroff and (inset) the interiors of the car. Pictures by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya

They are young, they are successful and they want to mark their arrival with ol’ beauties on wheels. The exclusive vintage car collectors’ club in Calcutta has seen several new entrants over the past few years.

A swish set of fresh faces is now doing the rounds of elite vintage car dos, flaunting their latest acquisitions. Among the new fleet are a Chevrolet of Lootera fame, a Triumph that had featured in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar and was once owned by Jackie Shroff and a marque made famous by Harry Potter.

(Restorer) Sanjay Ghosh’s younger brother was my classmate at South Point and after school I would go around to his garage and watch him work and clamber around his old cars.

Shrivardhan Kanoria, son of Shashi Kanoria, a pioneer in vintage and classic cars in the city, finds the passion for vintage cars spreading. Sanjay Ghosh, a veteran city-based restorer, agrees. “There are a number of new owners of vintage and classic cars in Calcutta,” he said.

Typically, the new kids on the block are friends or relatives of known restorers and collectors who have admired vintage wheels for long. They have spent hours hanging around with friends, watching them restore cars and driving the cars at rallies before being bitten by the bug themselves.

Sarbari Malik’s 1952 Jaguar Mark II at a Jaguar show at The Hyatt in March. Picture by Amit Datta

Meet Nitin Himatsingka, 33, the owner of Mukesh Hyundai, a Hyundai showroom in the city. Automobiles being his bread and butter, Nitin has lived and breathed cars. “As Shrivardhan’s friend since school, I got to see how old and rare cars are restored, repaired and taken care of and I admired the work greatly. I drove a few of his cars as well and soon enough I felt I should get my own vintage car and become a part of this fraternity,” said Nitin, whose first acquisition was a 1959 Triumph Herald Mark I.

Nitin had watched his friend restore the two-door convertible sports car and “developed a fondness” for it. “Towards the end of 2013, I asked Shrivardhan for it and he agreed,” Nitin said.

With the change in ownership, the car changed colours too. Shrivardhan wanted to paint it yellow, but Nitin chose red. So red it was, with camel interiors and chrome wire wheels — all authentic period stuff for the perfect look.

Nitin Himatsingka and wife Gauri with their 1959 Triumph Herald Mark I

Today, Nitin drives his award-winning Triumph Herald with wife Gauri next to him on weekends. “In fact, my wife is more possessive about the car than me,” he smiled.

In March last year, Nitin got news of an old Ford Anglia, a two-door sports coupe (the same model as the light-blue flying car Ron used to get Harry to Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) lying neglected in a south Calcutta garage. He negotiated with the owner and bought the car.

“The car was in a shambles, it was restored by Shrivardhan,” said Nitin.

Shrivardhan is happy Nitin takes good care of his fleet. “I am glad my friend acquired these two cars. He starts up both the cars himself and looks after them very well. Once a year he sends the cars to me for full body check-up,” the restorer said. “His fondness for modern cars, which are his livelihood, has diminished. He only wants to buy vintage cars these days. He has tasted blood!”

Shrivardhan’s passion for maintenance prompted him to buy back the bright cherry and cream 1949 Chevrolet Styleline that he had helped procure for Lootera. The car that Sonakshi Sinha and Ranveer Singh romanced in on screen lay rotting in the Mumbai office of the production house. “They bought the car and then ruined it absolutely,” said Shrivardhan, who convinced filmmaker Vikramaditya Motwane to sell the car to him before giving it to Anant Bajoria, 33, a businessman friend.

“Anant had been asking for a good vintage car for a long time. He has kept it well and slowly and steadily, he will restore the car,” Shrivardhan said.

Nitin Himatsingka’s Ford Anglia, the same model as the Harry Potter Flying Car

Having helped two of his friends and also his uncle, Naresh Chandra Agrawalla, acquire, restore and maintain vintage and classic cars, Shrivardhan said: “I would like to spread the word among youngsters to get into this hobby. It is very satisfying when you can maintain something of a bygone era. I am open to giving advice and helping any youngster who wants to indulge in this hobby.”

Sanjay Ghosh, too, has been helping collectors with first-time acquisitions. Saikat Dutta of Rifle Range Road, an interior decorator by profession, acquired a 1964 Triumph Spitfire, a two-door sports car that was once owned by actor Jackie Shroff.

Saikat would hang around Sanjay’s garage since his school days. “His younger brother was my classmate at South Point and after school I would go around to his garage and watch him work and clamber around his old cars,” said Saikat, who drove into Sanjay’s Mandeville Gardens address in his red-and-black-top Spitfire.

The bright cherry and cream 1949 Chevrolet Styleline from Lootera has been acquired by Anant Bajoria, a city-based businessman

His first vintage car, however, was an old Willys Jeep that he spotted on a trip from Asansol to the city. “I saw it in Panagarh,” recalled Saikat. “It was lying in a dilapidated state in an auction yard.”

Saikat returned the week after, along with Sanjay, and towed the car back to Calcutta, having negotiated with the owner. “Mechanically, it was alright,” said Sanjay, who restored it.

The next acquisition for Saikat was the Triumph in 2011. “Sanjay gave me the lead. The car was in Mumbai and I acquired it in November-end 2011. It had apparently featured in the Aamir Khan-starrer Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. It had a soft canvas top that has been made into a retractable fibreglass bubble top. The car has a 1200cc twin carburettor engine with straight exhaust. The pick-up is good for an old car.” The car was restored by Sanjay.

Also in Saikat’s fleet is a 1963 Austin Mini Cooper that had been lying in Calcutta with a friend. “It has no body to speak of and has to be rebuilt,” Sanjay said.

Taking a cue from Saikat, Sarbari Malik, who runs a car rental company, has also started collecting old cars. Sarbari would often see club buddy Saikat on vintage wheels before acquiring a 1964 Fiat Spider from Mumbai herself. The 1200cc left-hand drive convertible was driven straight from Mumbai to the city.

Sarbari’s second acquisition has been a 1952 Jaguar Mark II she bought from Naresh Jha of Delhi. The car-loving Maliks are eager to add more vintage beauties to their already impressive fleet, which boasts modern cars like Q7 and Jags.

Do you know anyone who has recently acquired a vintage car? Tell