Geriatric specialist Suresh Bhimsingh's interest in the old also extends to vehicles. A Suvega, two Rajdoot GTS bikes, a Vespa and a Benz 200D (LHD) underline the fact. But Suresh leaves the care of these old machines to his friend Vivek Chandrasekhar, especially, the Suvega's.
The 50cc, two-stroke Suvega can test any restorer's patience, because of its incompatibility with parts of locally available low-powered two-wheelers. You can't blame the Suvega, it is essentially a French machine. Mopeds India Limited (MIL), founded by the Coimbatore-based VLB Group, acquired the licence from Motobecane to manufacture the latter's 49cc moped, Mobylette. The French moped came out of MIL's Tirupati factory as Suvega.
In production from 1965 to the early 1980s, Suvega models of the later years took on features assoociated with Indian mopeds.
The decision to bring Mobylette to India had not raised eyebrows because manufacturers in many other countries had done the same thing. Despite the universal popularity of the moped, sourcing parts for it in India is a herculean task. Because, a majority of these mopeds disappeared before people woke up to its ‘classic' value.
Vivek, who is currently restoring a Suvega of his own, seems to have surmounted this difficulty. He has been successfully tapping sources for Suvega parts. “We discovered that Tirunelveli is the place to look for them. At one point in time, the town had many Suvegas; a few have survived to this day. Therefore, looking for spares in Tirunelveli is an option.”
The experience of sourcing parts for Suresh's Suvega must have been different as the friends own two different models. Suresh's Suvega has a rigid frame and no shock absorbers. "Sprung seat supension in the rear and simple greased-spring suspension in the front. A moped with a simple design, it was however reliable," says Suresh. The first time I rode a Suvega was when I borrowed a neighbour's to drop my girlfriend, who is now my wife, at her college. I was worried about being caught by my mother or the moped stopping midway. Neither happened."
A 1983 example, Vivek's is a deluxe model with twin shocks at the rear and a bigger headlight.
“Irrespective of their models, all Suvegas are curvaceous. They are absolutely feminine,” points out Vivek. And this two-wheeler appealed greatly to women looking for personal transport.
But the Suvega was a unisex bike that even made it to the race track. MIL had its own team that raced the Suvega in the 50cc category at Sholavaram. The Suvega did well on the racetrack; but on the road, it lost out to mopeds such as the TVS 50.