PRINCE FREDERICK

Thanks to this 1925 Austin 7 Chummy, Natraj believes in angels

A professional restorer of vintage cars, he wanted one for himself. He found it ironic that a family, which has had three automobile technicians, was never in possession of a car that turned heads.

He vividly remembers how his grandfather M.R. Dharmalingam readied a 1925 Austin 7 Chummy. After changes in ownership, it travelled the roads of Bombay. The little car resurfaced in his life when T.A.S. Jeyaramiah bought it and decided to have it restored at Kamlesh Patel’s Electra Service Centre, where Natraj worked.

Kamlesh did not look beyond Natraj for a restorer. As the car kindled sweet memories of his grandfather, Natraj put his heart and soul into the job. There came a time when Jeyaramiah wanted to dispose of the Chummy and, knowing Natraj’s long-standing desire to own a vintage car and also his special love for the Chummy, he offered him the car.

That is how Natraj realised his long-cherished dream. Thanks to the Chummy, Nataraj has had his share of the spotlight. Wearing a period costume and driving the tourer, he appeared in a commercial for a private bank. To drive home the fact that the bank has served successive generations of customers, the advertisement showed the Chummy followed by an Austin A40. Bringing up the rear was a car from our times.

With the Chummy, Natraj has acted in “Arai Enn 501L Kadavul”. He is yet to see the film and find out if the scene he acted in made it to the screen. Natraj does not have any illusions about his histrionic talent. “It is the car they are interested in. As I alone can drive it well, I get roped in,” says Natraj.

The Chummy’s appearance belies its nature. This 1925 car is closer to our times than you would believe. It is powered by a four-speed ohv engine designed for Dolphin. Natraj has retained the Chummy’s three-speed, side-valve 747cc engine, for which he has to get pistons. He has put in hydraulic brakes. The knobs for the ignition and the light, one of Chummy’s special features are missing though.

But we can’t cock a snook at the Chummy for these reasons. It has done its owner a ton of good. The car has been the cause of some great moments in Natraj’s life. He fondly remembers how he and his wife Rani once drove the Chummy all the way to Venketaswara College in Sriperumbudur.

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