Nostalgia is a powerful force. This is why many people did not have mobile phones, internet, or social media. All the cars in the 2023 Modern Classic Car Rally last week were from that era. A modern classic is any car manufactured between 1970 and 2010 and includes all body styles from sports cars, coupes, sedans, practical vans and rugged off-roaders.
The rally itself is a leisurely Sunday drive, with enthusiasts traveling in cars with no navigation, no complicated infotainment systems, no voice commands. The vehicle only has a windscreen. This year, 55 cars from the modern classic era left Mumbai’s Grand Hyatt Hotel in a huge convoy to an incredible reception from the city’s people, who lined the streets for most of the 25-km route.
Interestingly, one brand that rules the classic car scene is Mercedes-Benz, making it the gateway brand for enthusiasts and new collectors alike. The manufacturer takes its heritage seriously and helps classic car owners find spare parts, restoration advice and the provenance of specific models and sales. Not surprisingly some of the best cars at this year’s rally were Mercs.
A pair of Mercedes SLSs, parked side by side at the start of the rally, with their iconic gullwing doors open, were the most photographed cars of the show. Several generations of the Mercedes-Benz SL sports coupe have appeared, including the R107, the most famous SL, whose production ran from 1971 to 1989, making it one of the most enduring sports cars of its time.
The Audi 100 made its debut at the 1985 Cricket World Championship in honor of cricketer Ravi Shastri. This is the car that made Audi a household name in India 20 years before the German luxury brand entered the Indian market. Impeccably restored by Thane’s Supercar Garage, you can’t find a modern classic with better principle than this one.
The crowd-pullers were Vivek Goenka’s Jaguar E-Type and his Citroen DS, whose hydro-pneumatic suspension was way ahead of its time. Today, 50 years later, it still feels like driving on velvet. There were also Bentleys, Rolls Royces, Land Rovers, Mustangs, Porsches and India’s only Ferrari Mondial.
There were also several classic BMWs, including my own E30 325i. It belongs to cotton baron and renowned art collector Jangu Nicholson, who raced many of this BMW at the Madras and Juhu race meets in the late 1980s. He was 75 at the time and easily defeated an opponent half his age.
My Bimmer, 35 years old, is still fun to drive, exuding a mechanical purity that is dulled by the layers of electronics in modern BMWs. The E30’s direct steering, immediate throttle response and feedback from the road have a special affinity that makes classic cars so appealing.
It also loves others. Every time I take my E30 out, I make new friends. ‘What kind of engine? Where do you get your spares? Is it reliable?’ They want to know. Classic car owners are always happy to answer. This is the commonality among car owners who consider a classic car to be more than just a car. When you own a classic it becomes your partner for life, with its own quirks, kinks and faults and one that needs constant love and attention. It’s the closest you’ll get to marrying something mechanical. Ask the spouse of any classic car owner.
From HT Brunch, April 1, 2023
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