India’s Classic Driver’s Club is growing faster than ever with youngsters actively encouraged to become part of its rich motoring heritage.
Whilst India’s classic vehicle movement has always existed, a new proactive regeneration strategy to involve more youngsters has seen numbers significantly increase with at least 15% of new faces being ‘first-timers’ at the Classic Driver’s Club, formerly Classic Drivers of Calcutta, with almost half of those being under the age of 35.
In a recent meeting, which saw FIVA represented, a whole range of interesting factors were discussed surrounding ‘youth involvement in the historic vehicle movement in India’ and the challenges facing those young people when considering their first steps into the classic vehicle world.
The contributing factors could easily be relevant to any club, organisation and location:
- Awareness and access
- Affordability and cost of purchase
- Shortage of time
- Space constraints
- Absence of DIY culture and skills transfer
Given CDC began its journey in 2017 with only 3 members and now has 98 owners with a total of 220+ historic vehicles, it’s true to say we can all learn from Eastern India’s direction when it comes to attracting young people into the historic/classic vehicle movement.
We caught up with young entrepreneur and one of the original founders of the organisation, Souvik Ghose Chaudhuri, who was kind enough to shed some light on the concept, goals and objectives of CDC.
Q1: Where did it all begin and how did you find yourself so connected to classic cars?
A: Ever since I can remember, I’ve always found myself attracted to all things mechanical or old. When I was about six, I was told that I had an ‘old soul’ and was thrilled by the idea. I wore that badge with pride. I didn’t mind being the kid who often found himself in reluctant relatives’ houses rummaging through their attic looking for old lamps, records, car parts, vinyl records, clocks, cameras, rotary telephones, model cars, and trains. Luckily, everyone loved that about me and supported me. They were most willing and happy to part with their old ‘junk’, which to me was a treasure!
I was curious to see how they work and enjoy the process of taking them apart. I soon became an expert. However, I must confess, my expertise and patience both disappeared as soon as the secret of their inner workings was revealed. Over the years, as I grew up so did my toys. I was fortunate to be born and raised in Calcutta (India); a city with rich automotive history and a culture that appreciates & promotes the preservation of all things old.
I was particularly lucky, as my grand-uncle Partha Sadhan Bose, happened to be an old soul himself. He was a proud owner of an exquisite vintage & classic car collection in Calcutta. I grew up listening to fabulous tales of how he hunted for these cars and restored them at his own home in the ’80s. He managed to do all this without the aid of the internet, with little or no spare parts available locally, and strict import bans that prevailed during that period made it all the more challenging. Most of the parts had to be remanufactured using traditional methods, or brought in by hand part by part while returning from Europe or America. Despite these odds, his collection includes a 1928 Auburn 6-80, a Rolls-Royce 20HP, a Jaguar SS1, a Ford Model T, and an MG TC to name a few! Today the collection is maintained by his son Deborshi Sadhan Bose. Over the years, I had the privilege of seeing these cars being worked upon and of driving them for leisure and for competition.
It soon became one of my life goals to find and restore a vintage car and possibly use it as a daily driver. This was before I even got a driving license! During my college days in Bangalore, unsurprisingly for a student, money was short. I took to the internet to find petrolheads like myself to learn more about the various aspects of vintage & classic vehicles. When I returned to Calcutta after my graduation, I started working in my family business and began my hunt for vintage cars. At 23, I began a collection of my own when I bought my first classic car – a 1955 Dodge Kingsway. This was only the beginning – the rest is history!
Q2: CDC is a fabulous concept and looks to have a great future. Where did the idea come from and who founded the organisation?
A: Thank you. Classic Drivers Club or now popularly known as CDC; was started by three of us – Prithvi Nath Tagore, Rupak Ghosh, and myself; all of us from Calcutta, India. Our member directory has now grown to over 108 vehicle owners in the eastern part of India and over 800 enthusiasts online. We collectively care for 200+ vintage and classic vehicles.
The idea behind the Classic Drivers Club was to create a community of like-minded vintage and classic vehicle enthusiasts. India is home to some of the rarest and exotic vintage vehicles in the world, primarily owing to the affinity that the Maharajas and British aristocracy stationed in India had for automobiles, in the early part of the 20th century.
Vehicles from that period that survived and were not exported out of India, a bulk of them remained as exhibits in private collections away from the public, only to be taken out once a year for car shows; while some remained unrestored, unloved and entangled in litigation; very few vehicles remained in good running condition and under long term ownership. Preservation of Historic vehicles till recently was not a priority of the Indian government, and existing laws made owning and caring for historic vehicles an uphill task for many owners.
Owing to these factors, the historic vehicle fraternity in India had become very exclusive. Classic Drivers Club aims to inspire newer people to join the community and make the historic vehicle movement a more inclusive one!
We believe that as collectors, we are merely custodians of these vehicles; which are a part of our collective history. The only way to preserve these vehicles for future generations is to inspire, involve and educate the youth about historic vehicles. We felt in order to achieve this, the most effective method was to increase accessibility and interaction of the youth and our beloved historic vehicles.
In 2017, we decided to create an inclusive community and encourage historic vehicle owners to bring their vehicles for drives throughout the year. We named it a ‘Drivers club’ rather than an ‘Owners club’ to promote regular driving. Thus, Classic Driver’s Club was born!
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We leveraged social media, to reach out to people who were passionate about historic vehicles and to showcase our gatherings, which were informal, fun, welcoming and more importantly a stark contrast to other historic vehicle events in the country!
Q3: The driving and meeting days look to have a great feel, are the youngsters encouraged and involved at all stages of those events?
A: Yes. One of CDC’s primary goals is to nurture the youth into the passion of old vehicles. We organize ‘CDC Kids’ webinars once a week where we teach children about various historical and mechanical aspects of historic vehicles. This initiative is spearheaded by Prithvi Nath Tagore and we regularly invite different speakers from the vintage and classic vehicle fraternity to share their stories, know-how, and experience. Children as young as 6 years are a part of the program.
As involving the youth is one of CDC’s top priorities, we encourage them by giving them various roles in club activities such as photography, organising online events, marshalling at events, or participating in the service team during our drives. We would like to see new people join this fraternity and continue to grow. To ensure this, we have a protocol amongst our members that when we get news about a vehicle that’s up for sale, we first offer it to the younger members of CDC who do not currently own a vintage or classic vehicle.
Q4: We are curious as to what would be a typical start to Souvik’s day?
A: My wife Sushma and I, both start our day with about an hour of meditation, followed by a hot cup of Darjeeling tea. We are both very spiritual people and after some experimentation, we concluded that by starting our day with meditation we are able to attain a state of peace, joy and a sense of fulfilment.
We practice the Heartfulness method of meditation and are certified trainers of the same. We volunteer a few hours every day to train anyone interested in learning how to meditate, absolutely free of cost, in person or over the internet.
Q5: The CDC events are a great way to showcase the classic and historic vehicles. We did spot the two Phantoms but what does the age range generally consist of and types of vehicle involved?
A: On average, our members own more than one vehicle. We have noticed that people are more comfortable in bringing their classics from the ’50s and ’60s more than their vintages. This is mostly due to the reliability and comfort classics bring over vintages.
Q6: Do any of the classic cars have more problems than others and if so which are the most mischievous?
A: Yes, over many drives, we have made an interesting observation; Calcutta is known for its sweltering summers where temperatures can go up to 40°C (104°F). We found that British-made cars overheat and stall during our more lengthy drives, especially on open roads; while American-built cars overheat in traffic within city limits!
Q7: What’s the most challenging part of CDC and have you a strategy, goal, and objective for the next few years?
A: The most challenging part of CDC is keeping people together. There are a few people in the community, primarily in the business of restoration or people with vested economic interests, who have tried to keep the community fragmented and misinformed for the sake of profits. CDC has fought this very mindset for the benefit of the real enthusiasts and has so far been successful in that endeavour.
Our goal is simple; to build and nurture a community of like-minded vintage and classic vehicle enthusiasts and preserve our automotive history for future generations. We believe that in order for the historic vehicle movement to be successful across the world, it must be a people’s movement and lead by real enthusiasts.
We are now a registered Trust, and we are carefully selecting capable people to spearhead the movement under the CDC banner, who are more passionate about historic vehicles rather than profits.
Q8: The world is being faced with new and difficult challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic hits hard with lockdowns. Has it dampened your spirits and are you coping with the difficulties this has brought.
A: CDC is a very optimistic organization; we have always taken difficulties in our stride. In India, we had a countywide lockdown for over six months. This meant we could not organise any of our drives and meets. We took this opportunity to organise a series of webinars “SPOKES 1.0” where we had speakers from all over the world speak to our members. This includes prominent names such as Gautam Sen, VP External Relations – Fédération Internationale de Véhicules Anciens; Dr Ravi Prakash, President – Federation of Historic Vehicles of India; Ivo Groen, VP Design Programs DS Automobiles. More than 100 participants logged on to each of these webinars from the safety and comfort of their own homes and interacted with our speakers.
That’s not all; we organised possibly the world’s 1st online Historic Vehicles Quiz, attended by over 80 enthusiasts. Wherein, after 3 gruelling rounds with successively more difficult questions, “Easy, Breezy and it’s a Duesey” Mr Harit Trivedi emerged victoriously.
We also used this time as an opportunity to engage the younger crowd and kickstart the ‘CDC Kids’ weekly webinars.
Q: On a lighter note, if you had an unlimited amount to spend on a particular classic car, which would you choose and why?
A: I have always had a fascination for a 1930’s Duesenberg Model Boat-tail speedster, (super-charged, of course) in cream. On second thought, a Horch 853 Sports Cabriolet in two-tone blue. Or wait, unlimited money you said, let’s make it AX201 (The 1907 Rolls-Royce bearing chassis # 60551, the “Original Silver Ghost“). Why? In my opinion, that is the most significant and most loved car ever built in history, and can you imagine driving her down the chaotic streets of Calcutta?
Regardless of geographic location and wealth, there can be no doubt that any community will grow stronger if those within that association are made to feel welcome and share a sense of emotional connection. The local voluntary sector continues to play a major role in CDC, making the most of their skills and ‘passing’ that expertise on to the younger generation.
You can catch the Classic Driver’s Club on their Facebook page here…
Images courtesy Deepanjan Sarkar.
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