Members of the Cotton City Scooter Club, united by their love for two-stroke machines, share details of their prized possessions.
Kumaragurubaran Rathinavelu vividly remembers witnessing his father dismantling and fixing a 1967 model of the Vespa 150, step by step, back in the late 70s. He was only two years old, but could spend hours observing the internal machinery of a scooter, which fascinated him.
“It was the same scooter we used to go on several family trips, with me standing in front,” he recalls.
Once he grew up, Kumaragurubaran, popularly known as Guru, took over the reins of the Vespa and rode it all over the city. He has subsequently added a brick red 1982 Bajaj Chetak and an ’86 LML Vespa to his own collection.
It was during one of these rides that he chanced upon 62 year-old K.M. Jailabudeen, a mechanic and a rally racer in his prime. Jailabudeen owned a 1976 Vijay Super Deluxe and was curious to know more about Guru’s collection.
Jailabudeen and Guru started discussing the nitty gritty of scooters and an easy bond was formed. “He asked me everything I knew about scooters, from the engine size to its internal mechanism. I was pleasantly surprised by his inquisitiveness, and knew that I had found a like-minded scooter freak,” Guru says.
Following a few intense chats, Jailabudeen and Guru thought of forming a club with other such scooter enthusiasts. They found C.K. Selvaraj, a two-wheeler mechanic at Flower Market. “He was reeling off specifications of each scooter model with effortless ease, and we knew we had a prize catch,” Jailabudeen says.
Vintage scooter owners S. Rafiuddin Mohammad, Karthik Rajkumar and L.A. Nazeer joined the trio and the idea soon became a reality. Taj Mohammed, his brother Tariq and Deepak added strength to the scooter club by bringing their vintage vehicles along, a few months later. Popular vintage bike and scooter collector K. Muthu Kumar joined forces as a technical advisor.
The Cotton city Scooter Club was born in 2009 with the purpose of riding, preserving and restoring vintage scooters for the younger generations to cherish. From a group of six, the number gradually went up to 25. The members range in age from 20 to 62, all united in their love for the old two-stroke machines. “We would simply stop anybody riding an old scooter on the streets, and ask them a few details about their machines. Those enthused by our interest would immediately join the club. Talking about scooters is an ideal way to unwind after a hard days work,” Rafiuddin says.
The core members then started meeting on weekends and common holidays, covering key areas of the city on their scooters. Race Course, Singanallur, Peelamedu, Gandhipuram were some of their regular haunts. Other times, rides would be less than a kilometer long, just to get their engines heated up.
On other days the rides would be longer. Members have gone on rides to Poondi and Negamam, attracting the attention of passers-by. Ideas and details on spare parts would be exchanged during these rides.
The club has members from various walks of life. Rafiuddin is a civil engineer, Guru is a medical transcriptionist and the youngest member, L.N. Tanziel is just out of college.
Some of the shows the club has participated in have got people going on nostalgic overdrive. “We displayed all our vintage scooters in a vintage car and bike show in Ooty in 2009. The show had middle aged women approaching us, saying they were transported back to their childhood,” Selvaraj recalls with pride.
The members are strong advocates of safe riding. Helmets, riding goggles and jackets are a must or you are sent packing. Plans are on to further entice the youth by displaying the attractively redesigned vintage scooters in colleges and in public grounds.
“When it comes to durability, scooters last much longer than motorcycles. All you need to do is ensure that you have enough petrol, a clean carburettor and your scooter will serve you faithfully for decades,” Rafiuddin says. It is this durability that fuels the members of the Cotton City Scooter Club too.