What is the cost of a Rover 12? For A. Venkat, it is two classic motorcycles and some cash
He traded a DKW RT 250 and a Bullet, both of them Fifties models, for a 1946 Rover 12.
Diehard DKW and Bullet fans may now bristle with resentment at the implication in this deal. A. Venkat answers their obvious question: “These bikes are iconic. It was tough for me to part with them. But a growing knee problem meant I could not kick-start them anymore.”
Whatever vintage and classic machines he has had, Venkat has made it a point to drive them himself. “I don’t let anybody else touch my antique vehicles. I take them out myself, during weekends,” says the 58-year-old, who has a thriving practice as an architect. It did not therefore make sense to have two bikes he would not ride.
The Rover seems to have compensated adequately for the loss of these two-wheelers. “It is a carefully restored car. Before I bought it, it had been restored by Team CSA – a car restoration group under C.S. Ananth – with great attention to detail. I learnt that it had won the first prize in its category at a 2011 event of Madras Heritage Motoring Club,” says Venkat, who keeps the car parked in front of his old-fashioned and deceptively simple lean-to-roof house on Third Seaward Road in Valmiki Nagar.
This Rover’s well-preserved sporty wooden dashboard, resembling a bird in flight, which has a metal section for the instrument panel, suggests an effort to keep the car parked in its era. It has Jaeger gauges — basically Smiths in disguise — including the one for measuring petrol and oil, operated by a push switch.
“Smiths had acquired the rights to use the Jaeger name and instruments for British cars,” says Ananth. “This Rover has a rear blind. Expensive cars came with rear blinds. The Rover was one of the less expensive ones to have had this feature.”
Post-WWII, automobile companies in Europe were trying to regain lost ground and the market was flooded with cars that were easy on the wallet. Despite the low costs, these cars had to have interesting elements to reel in the buyers — that was the challenge.
“Rover fell in the middle category, along with Riley,” says Ananth.
In the Rover 12, you notice an effort to economise on the engine. “The 1.4 litre four-cylinder engine in the Rover 12 was modified for the Rover 10,” says Ananth.
The Rover 12 was part of a family of cars that included the 10. The higher-powered 14 and 16 were also part of this group, collectively known as P2.
One of the things missed in Venkat’s Rover 12 is the sliding roof. “The sliding roof had been sealed off by an earlier restorer, based in Kolkata,” says Ananth.
Venkat decided not to go back to the sun roof. One, having such a roof in Chennai makes little sense. Two, putting the sliding roof back would entail a lot of work and unnecessary expenditure.
“Affordability is a key factor for me, which is why I avoid certain things. When I can have a part fabricated here, I would not want to import it,” says Venkat, who is surprised how expensive the hobby of antique cars has become. “Around 33 years ago, I got a Ford Prefect, a 1951 model, for Rs. 1,750,” he says, illustrating his point.
Venkat cannot forget the Prefect for another reason.
“I took my wife for a spin in that Prefect. She sounded pleasantly surprised as she looked at me and said, ‘I did not know you managed a freebie with the car — a family of rats.’ We laughed.”