When turning the page of the calendar from January to February many folk, inevitably, take a peep at a nearby tree to spot the fresh green leaves that sprout as winter surrenders to spring. Those more committed to appreciating the bounty of nature relish the prospects of gardens attaining full bloom. The more mechanically inclined are no less-enthused ~ the “season” has come for the motoring magnificence of yesteryear to bask in nostalgia- flavoured glory.
While there been a mushroom growth of festivals focused on vintage cars, the pioneer ~ The Statesman Vintage and Classic Car Rally ~ remains supreme at the pinnacle of a unique brand of delight that that has been enhanced by the fare offered at each of its 50-plus editions. Today will surely see that tradition resonate powerfully. There is little need for a Statesman Rally to “advertise” itself: the large gathering at the Start and Finish, and the cheers the cars attract all along the roads they traverse, testify to the charm of the event.
That special appeal is firmly rooted in the spirit of those participating in the rally. Many of the cars are lovingly preserved for their annual date with the sunshine ~ a task rendered more difficult by unimaginative legal restrictions that deny owners the chance to “work” their cars on a regular basis to ensure operational preparedness. Just think of how effective a court would be if the bench “sat” so infrequently.
The limitations are imposed in the guise of pollution control ~ most of the cars were produced before exhaustemission limits were a buzzword ~ yet it would be valid to ask the National Green Tribunal if all the pollutants generated at a single rally “matched” what was belched into the air in a couple of hours by a coal-fired thermal power station. So be it, vintage owners must suffer in silence. Over the past 50 years there have been major changes in the cars that take part ~ some of the veterans have retired.
So too the owners, drivers and members of the organising squads of the rallies in Delhi and Kolkata, an uplifting tradition has been the passing of the baton from one generation to the next ~ young folk now pressing their feet on the pedal of the latest models do same at a rally, albeit with more respect and grace on what has become a family heirloom. In fact a careful check on the history of each car will reveal personal/ family love stories, the fervour of which is not influenced by the car in focus being a regal Rolls-Royce or an overworked Morris, Ford or Austin.
Sure there are some “new” cars bought and professionally restored a fancy prices, but often they lack the aura of a workday model on which father and son expend much elbow-grease.It is the manifestation of such spirit that makes a Statesman Rally so very special. Sure the elegant trophies have their charm, the evaluation of the Judges and experts carry considerable weight. Yet that end of the day what is carried home is the shared delight of the several love stories scripted on the four wheels that “rode” the rally route. Stories that like The Statesman itself underscore old values that are never compromised by commercial success or slick marketing management. A vintage car rally is indeed a soul-stirring affair.