The annual rally is more than two months away, but participating owners of vintage and classic cars are not taking any chances. Prince Frederick reports
E. J. Ayyappan is simonising the chrome parts of his 1960 Fiat Select, motivated by the upcoming two-way Puducherry heritage car rally, an exercise undertaken annually by members of his tribe.
The event is hardly at the door, but Ayyappan and a few other participants are not taking any chances. Two months ahead of the rally, they have begun to prepare their machines, equipping them mechanically to take on the long road trip to Puducherry and back and also sprucing them up for the regular display along Puducherry’s famous beach promenade.
Even after an elaborate preparation, there is no assurance that these machines will make the trip without having to be carted on to flatbed rescue vehicles along the way.
While driving these cars, one cannot lose sight of the fact that the majority of them were made for a different climate and with a less punishing workload in mind.
And also that each of these vehicles comes with quirks, most of which are not easy to deal with. In the 2012 edition of The Hindu Chennai-Pondy Heritage Rally, as the annual run is known, brothers Srikumar and Jaikumar had to ‘nurse’ a Hindustan 14 with a broken rear axle back to roadworthiness.
“This is a problem unique to the Hindustan 14 and its related cars. As Ambassodor and Hindustan 14 parts are interchangeable, we managed to get a rear axle in Puducherry,” says Srikumar. In the approaching edition, scheduled as usual for January, the brothers are planning to take their 1935 half-ton Chevrolet truck and 1946 Chrysler Windsor, and are therefore keeping their fingers crossed.
“If we encountered a similar problem in either the Chevrolet or the Chrysler, we would have no option but to tow the vehicle back to Chennai,” says Jaikumar. “The clutch plates have been replaced in both vehicles. The machines are in line for a thoroughgoing check-up.”
Jaikumar is aware that the best preparations sometimes prove insufficient. “Overheating is one problem that can crop up any time,” he says. He however knows that travelling with an element an uncertainty dangling over one’s head is what lends such rallies their charm.
For Ayyappan, keeping his Select rust-free is a challenge. “These cars are prone to rusting. Despite a protective coat of paint, they can gather rust somewhere, which will spread to other parts,” he says.
It is easy to conclude that Ayyappan fusses over the machine. He does not think so. “During the last edition of the Puducherry rally, my first ever, I found many others who were more meticulous in the maintenance of their vehicles.
It was an eye-opener for me.” He also values the lessons that can be learnt from a two-day gathering of antique car aficionados with their machines. Between them, these cars represent a vast terrain of automotive technology. Each holds a surprise that is all its own.