Vintage Vehicle Voyeurism: The Poor Motorhead’s Pastime

One of my pastimes is to look for vintage vehicles for sale on the net. Now, almost all of these are beyond my purchasing power, but, surfing through these and looking for a “deal” makes me vicariously live the dream of owning the vintage treasures someday down the line. Sometimes, some stuff pop up which leave me flabbergasted. Now I know a picture does not tell the workings of a car, and I guess I am judging the book by its cover when I look at online ads, but in any case, it is a hobby that helps me get to know the beautiful beasts of the pasts, like, this MG YT Roadster convertible of 1948.

What a beauty!
What a beauty!

Perfectly restored to the last t, this looks like a dream vehicle. Someone wants to sell it and the online ad asks for a mere forty lakhs, and I wish I had that kind of chump change lying around so that I could snap this up! Or how about a fully restored Dodge Kingsway from 1958? Chrysler Corporation’s “built-for-cheap” export cars, the sellers are asking for a cool 15 lakhs for this one! Oh well, this car has come a long way from being “unbranded” export cars for cheaper markets to vintage collectibles. I used to think that the Kingsway had a much “rounder” aspect, but since a lot of the production in later years (especially in late 50s) was done in the foreign markets and people were free to customise these cars, the one I stumbled across looks a bit like it phagocytosed parts of a Plymouth, but I am no judge. Anyhow, this looks beautiful, to say the least!

Blue Screen of Desire!
Blue Screen of Desire!

My love for the Hindustan Motors products are no secret, and I have longed for a Contessa ever since, well, forever, and these beauties keep cropping up all over the web verse. And sometimes, in price ranges that I can actually handle! But, I know better – because it is not buying the Contessa that is difficult. It is maintaining it that’ll pauperise me! Yet, I cannot help but salivate at the prospect of owning a beautiful, running-condition, Landmaster, when it is being handed out for two and a half lakhs!

The predecessor of the Ambassador
The predecessor of the Ambassador

With the proliferation of online selling portals, it has become even easier for vintage vehicle voyeurs like me to gape at these beauties from the comfort of my home. People post free ads here, and sometimes, these look like really great deals! How else would financially restricted people like me have the ability to access royal vintages like this Chevrolet Fleetmaster!

The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings

This truly majestic being looks like it belongs to the 4-door station wagon version produced in 1948. The Fleetmaster is a Chevrolet classic deluxe car which was produced only in three years during the war 1946-1949. It built up on the pre-war model of Chevrolet Special Deluxe and was offered in 2-door and 4-door versions. There were minor model alterations in each of the three years it was produced, but nothing changed majorly, to be honest, as far as looks or mechanics were considered. All considered, this is a beauty of a car. Another car that has always captured my imagination is the Fiat 500. There were talks of restoring the production of this classic beauty. A lot may disagree when I call this a beauty, but, truth be told, in 1937, when Fiat threw this small car out into the market, it was the only car with an aerodynamic “nose down” design! And there are people here who would sell off their “Topolino” Fiat500 for as little as seven lakhs! It doesn’t look in the best of conditions though, and might need some preening and cleaning, but, isn’t this a beauty?

Fiat 500 1396588786_625966394_4-5oo-little-mouse-tropoleno-Vehicles

The Fiat500 came in multiple models as it was relentlessly produced from 1937-1955 and sold over a whopping 500,000 units. It was fuel efficient (16.6 kmpl), gave a top speed of 85 kmph and was a cute, small car that looked good all around! This particular model looks like one from the 1950s, the Fiat500C genre. And then, of course, there is a slew of old Mercedes Benz cars that are priced anything between two to six lakhs, and makes me itch to reach for the chequebook. Some of them, dilapidated and in need of restoration, others old and temperamental, but still in running conditions, and some, in regular use. One cannot but admire the Benz, before it fell for the age-craze of nose-diving looks. Come on. Even if I had the money, I would go for one of these any day, ahead of today’s sheep-herded designer Mercs.

I know many of these cars are shinier on the outside and probably need a thorough checking up before buying, but in this age of the interwebs, surfing for the perfect, vintage ride has become a sport in itself for car lovers like me, who have the desire, but not the wallet strength to actually sit and twiddle the steering wheels of one of these beauties. And until that happens, well, here is to more motor madness and vintage vehicle voyeurism!

The Upside Down Pram: A Sudden Encounter in Kolkata

A couple of days ago I was out on a social do with my parents and it was getting late when we started out from the event. It was a weekend midnight, and Kolkata also happened to be hosting a major cricket tie. Thus, on the way back, the roads were understandable deserted – a pleasant deviation from the usual din and bustle of traffic in Kolkata.

So as our little black Santro (now that the state’s CM also drives the same car as me, I have no shame in admitting it!) trundled back homewards, I suddenly spotted a small car ahead of me. At first it looked to me to be a Beetle, the signature Volkswagen product, but somehow it seemed different. The difference became apparent when we pulled up alongside it: it was a Citroen CV6. I did not have a camera handy and hence was unable to click a pic. It was a blue car and seemed to be in good shape.

Citroen 2CV6 80-42-VM

It is one of the cars I liked and have read a bit about, and hence decided to see if I could track down the car in the city: no luck. If you know anyone in Kolkata who drives a Citroen 2CV, convey my warm appreciation to them.

Anyways, back to the story of this car. In today’s age of Tata Nano and Nissan Micra, economy cars which are fuel efficient are all the rage. This car was probably the baap of the concept. the 2CV was specifically made for the rural and agrarian people. Produced between 1948 and 1990, this mass-produced car was one of the few models which remained relevant through such a long period, one in which automobile engineering grew in leaps and bounds. The car was uncompromisingly built, economically designed and was a no-frills affair overall. But I am no engineer, so I will not go into the specific details of the built of the car.

Instead, I will dwell on the numerous stories and legends that surrounds this particular car.

For example, during the Nazi invasion of France, the Citroen bosses were worried that the Fuhrer’s men would realize the power of this simple, economic vehicle as a war element. They buried the entire project involving the whole stable of the small cars, and instead worked in the background, trying to smoothen out the flaws that had cropped up during the designing of the prototype.

citroen_proto

The war years were spent literally in designing redesigning the car to attain the highest levels of minimalist efficiency. It is supposed to have been built so that two tall farmers, wearing hats, could sit on the back seat with 100 kg of farm produce, while the car chugged along a healthy 60 km/hour across non-road terrain, all the while maintaining a steady drive without breaking any eggs in a basketful that the farmers carried.

Whew. That was specific!

The car could make an impressive 100 km on 3 liters of gas, thereby adding to its fuel efficiency.

After launching, the car was predicted to fail by the pundits. But, the market proved them wrong. From 4 a day, productions rose to 400 a day, yet a wait period of upto 5 years was reported. Pre-owned 2CVs fetched more price than a new one thanks to the lengthy waiting period.

The design of the Citroen was nothing fancy. It was bare bones essential. It was one of the first cars to popularize the use of a large box rear section, which went on to become all the rage with Morris Minors and Renaults later on.

It also had a hatchback form, which was the one I saw that night. I must say it was embarrassing to mistake it for a Beetle, but hey, I am rookie, I will be getting there slow, eh!

Thanks to its almost masochistic minimalism, the car had unflattering nicknames galore: the flying dustbin (a play on the Flying Dutchman, I believe), the upside down pram, the tin snail, dolly, little freak, etc. etc.

The Citroen 2CV underwent a large number of modifications and customizations, and the range of hybrid cars it produced seems to be mind boggling. However, one of the facts which marks a special place for this car is this is one of the first cars that revolutionized off-road, dirt-driving. While today that is the realm of the bigger beasts, the SUVs and the like, the humble, little old 2CV may well have been their predecessor!

Citroen_2CV_front_20090329

A beautiful car, this also has the rare privilege of being one of the few, hand picked cars in which James Bond made his escapes. Usually the chase sequences are frequented by snazzy Mercs and Aston Martins, but in “For Your Eyes Only”, the spy with the license to kill drove away in a yellow “little freak”!

What? You don’t believe me? Here, take a look:

 

And dear reader, if you are from my neck of the woods, and you have an inkling who this car belongs to, care to drop me a line, please?