A dozen cars including Cadillacs, Mustangs, Jaguars and Mercedes’ will start opposite the office of Director General of Police and head towards the Old Mahabalipuram Road

After a gap of over six months, a dozen vintage cars and its owners will take up space near the Lighthouse on Kamarajar Salai early Sunday morning as they embark on a short rally. The entourage will start at 7am from opposite the office of Director General of Police near Marina Beach and head towards their destination on Old Mahabalipuram Road.

“It is a nice feeling since the pandemic restricted us from moving around for so long. But this (vintage cars) is a passion and we want to share the enthusiasm,” says Ranjit Pratap, Managing Director, Rayala Corporation Pvt. Ltd. The day is also special because it happens to be World Tourism Day.“We usually do activities for the Madras Week, which wasn’t possible this year. So we thought we would combine both occasions and organise a rally,” he adds.

Also the vice president of the All India Federation for Vintage and Classic Cars, Ranjit notes that the rally will have a 1949 Cadillac, a 1949 Buick, a Mini Cooper, Jaguars, Mustangs and Mercedes’ besides other vintage models. Like-minded collectors have also gotten together to form a new club, the Federation of Historic Automotive Clubs, headquartered in Delhi with regional centres in other metro cities: Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai. “If the pandemic situation gets better next year, we plan on doing more rallies and exhibitions as before,” he says.

File photo of a vintage car at a rally in Chennai
| Photo Credit:
M Karunakaran

There are over 100 vintage car collectors based in Chennai. Prior to the pandemic outbreak, the group members used to convene for a weekend trip down to Mamallapuram. During lockdown, however, the owners of vintage cars found it tough to maintain the automobiles. “We didn’t have the mechanics and the shops were also shut. These cars have to be started at least once a month. If you don’t, then the brakes get jammed, the carburettors get clogged, and because our fuel content is high on sulphur content, we also encounter a lot of issues with the cars’ fuel systems.”

But the lockdown enforced by COVID-19 outbreak did contribute a lot to these hobbyists pursuing their passion like never before. Ranjit describes it thus with a laugh: “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” He estimates that the purchase of vintage cars went up during lockdown; Ranjit himself purchased six vintage models — including models by Honda, BMW, Citroen, a Toyota Camry and a 1975 Toyota Land Cruiser. “I have no place left to park in my garage now,” he exclaims.

However, he encourages automobile lovers to take enough safeguards and slowly resume pursuing their interests, like going on a road trip. “You have to be cautious, take enough precautions and then enjoy yourself to the extent possible,” he adds.

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