Meet the men who think car sheds can do better without grease guns, jacks and wrenches
What would you park in your garage?
If you were T.T. Raghunathan, it would be a passel of paintings, a pro music system accompanied by a blast of speakers, a sleek bar counter, a tall wine cooler, a loaded refrigerator and a generous tonnage of air-conditioning. Not to mention, a constellation of spectacular vehicles – modern, classic and vintage.
“Don’t call it a garage,” Raghunathan, executive vice-chairman of the TTK Group, corrects me. “It is a shed that celebrates the arts and the good life.”
It is indeed a typical English shed set amidst a garden and serves as a hangout: the green fibre-cement boards on the walls which merge with the greenery of a surrounding garden, giving it a shingle look, characteristic of English sheds. Raghunathan belongs to a clutch of motoring enthusiasts who have made a lifestyle statement around the modest garage.
Each of these lovers of wheels has diligently designed his garage, working closely with the architect, carefully hand-picking its features, and at times letting personal tastes supersede the interior designer’s suggestions. The result is a space imbued with personality and character.
With a cushy L-shaped sofa and a 55-inch LED television, real estate businessman Manoj Lulla’s garage emanates the warmth of a lounge. In a small enclosure is kept an amplifier, an Apple TV device, a gleam of wine glasses and an array of high-end car polishes which Manoj lavishes on his stunning yellow 2011 Lamborghini Gallardo, displayed through a wide, moveable wall of toughened glass. Another glassed wall affords a pleasant view of a 2013 Mini Cooper and a 2011 Volkswagen Beetle, both kept in a garden proximate to the plush garage.
“I prefer to call it a lounge-garage. It serves multiple purposes. Here, I listen to music and watch films, relax with my family, catch up with friends and close deals with my clients,” says Manoj, who is the founder of Madras Exotic Car Club, a community of people who drive around in swish, high-end cars.
Another automobiles enthusiast, Srivardhan Srinivasan has chosen a smaller compass to define his garage. Through an arresting display of tin boards, hinge cards, posters, sketches and neon signboards, his garage is entirely given to magnifying an impressive muster of six cars, one jeep and four bikes, all of them antique, and a collection of 600-plus scale models representing a diversity of brands.
A tall and wide board, draped in camouflage cloth, providing glimpses into the history of the Ford GPW through information-laden hinge boards and posters is a masterpiece. In perfect aptness, a 1942 example of the Ford GPW is parked a few yards from this display.
Srivardhan, who retired recently from Air India as its cargo sales manager for South India, sees his garage as a museum: he regularly has a chatter of students or a group of car enthusiasts visiting his garage, called Retro Moto Galerie, which will be thrown open for wider viewership through a website, expected to be launched next month.
The shutters of Raghunathan’s shed, which includes an immaculately restored 1937 SS Jaguar, a well-preserved Jaguar ‘E’ Type Series III, a Porsche Cayman, a Triumph Bonneville T100 and a Honda GB500, are often rolled up for parties and family reunions with music almost always a part of the fare. The structure has been designed for acoustic stability, which includes a perforated metallic false ceiling that has a special acoustics-friendly layer.
In 2012, Raghunathan’s son T.T. Sriram and his alternative rock band Scrat, which includes Satish Narayanan and Tapass Naresh, made a 17-minute music video (available on YouTube) at the shed, galloping through a set of five songs. The shed has also been a venue for informal concerts.
Other scrupulously planned elements include the display of artworks.
“I keep buying paintings, mostly off the Internet, going by what captures my heart. And I like to change the display of the paintings in the garage from time to time. So, I have introduced a system which helps me replace the artworks at will,” explains Raghunathan.
This hanging system also makes it easy to adjust the position of any artwork: an adjustable hook that slides on a cable can be locked at the desired height.
Srivardhan has been similarly hands-on about the display of ‘automobilia’ in his garage, primarily to ensure they could be substituted periodically. For example, he has had stylish-looking strips of wood, painted silver to give off a metallic look, fastened on the walls to exhibit his tin boards. “Because it is wood, I can have the tin boards replaced regularly. I keep doing this to give the garage a fresh look,” says Srivardhan.
In comparison, Manoj's garage may seem to have only a few elements, but he has been as involved in its design as the others were in theirs. He has kept it minimalist, sticking largely to one colour – white for the walls, epoxy flooring and the sofa – to ensure the Lamborghini outshines its surroundings. “During late evening parties, only the LED lights over the Lamborghini are switched on, so that the focus is on the car. I enjoy looking at this car: it gives me a high. When I bought it, there was no garage. I parked it in my living room. As each side view mirror was just a centimetre from scraping the doorway, it would take me a tense 10 minutes to drive the car into the house or take it out,” he says, wincing at the thought of what could have happened had he lowered his guard anytime.
And then, Manoj went and did the easier thing – bringing the living room into the garage.