It would be both inaccurate and insulting to use the term “Old Crocks” to describe the superb specimens of motoring history that will weave unlimited spells of nostalgia and joy in the Capital this Sundaymorning.
For a special feature of the 51st Statesman Vintage & Classic Rally is the really high quality of preservation and maintenance that will be on display; and as the National Green Tribunal has recently observed, vintage cars and their owners tell captivating stories, stories that must be preserved to inspire future generations.
Yet, while joining in the admiration of those four-wheeled marvels, old timers will recall that in the mid-1960s it was a somewhat different story that was being scripted. Then the accent was on restoring old cars.Salvaging them from scrap-heaps and getting them back on road was what mattered most ~ not displaying them in glory as is done these days.
In fact today’s “glory” cannot be seen in isolation divorced from the path-finding enterprise which made the efforts of the pioneers truly heroic.
There was no internet and search-engines to help owners revive the cars and get them back into working condition, no professional restorers who could undertake such “missions of mercy” ~ for a price.
Procuring “original” manuals from the manufacturers was difficult, and importing spare parts, tyres etc was next to impossible.
People depended on friends going overseas to try and meet their needs, hours were spent sifting through what was on sale at “chor bazaars” in the bid to find a replacement component. At times the services of local workshops were utilised to have items custom-fabricated.
It was a question of patience and stamina, quite different from today when a “heavy” hip-pocket suffices. Those were the days of real “labours of love”. And such was the extent of the “elbow grease” expended in the restoration endeavour that few people could “afford” more than a couple of cars. The days of the “collector” were yet to dawn ~ in India anyway.
There was a special flavor to the interaction at vintage rallies.
The “showing off” was limited to the effort put in since the last time that car made a “public” run. Owners spent their time exchanging information about which ‘kabari-wallah’ had a good stock of spare parts, where to find a mechanic, carpenter or upholstery specialist capable of doing a good job.
Some owners offered their restoration-expertise to near-strangers, not for money but purely for the love and satisfaction of resurrecting a car from near-decay. The “wise” old gentlemen who organized the rallies and evaluated the cars spent a lot of time “educating” the new owners on the characteristics of the vehicle. And thus were forged many friendships that stood the test of time.
Yes, those times were “different”, owners made common cause of preserving old cars. There was no jealousy, and all competition was healthy”. Many a car that made a rally “debut” was in poor condition, that it returned in much better shape the next year testified to underlying spirit of the vintage car crusade. A spirit that ensured a unique bond was built between owners of an elegant Rolls-Royce or Mercedes, and a “workhorse” like a Model T Ford or a product from the Austin or Morris stables.
True that some of the cars at a Statesman Rally invited the “Old Crock” description, equally true that they provided the building blocks for today’s majestic magnificence. And so it would be sinful today not to salute the real pioneers of the Statesman Rally.