Find vintage mopeds and motorcycles at India’s first museum dedicated to two-wheelers

Come 2022, experience vintage mopeds, scooters and motorcycles at India’s first museum dedicated to two-wheelers in Mahabaleshwar by Vinit Kenjale

Updated - December 29, 2021 04:28 pm IST

Published - December 29, 2021 03:14 pm IST

Do you remember the Luna? A petite 50cc lightweight bike, the Luna became the vehicle of choice for mothers dropping their kids to school, the only affordable moped you could purchase with a first salary in the ‘70s, a cross between a cycle and a motorcycle. The diminutive vehicle has made countless memories for families across India, but this particular one, owned by collector Vinit Kenjale, also managed to race a train.

“This was in the mid-’70s. Our Luna took on the heavyweight Deccan Queen. Both started at 7.20 am for Dadar station, and the Luna beat the Deccan Queen by 20 minutes. It was unbelievable!” Kenjale’s eyes light up as he recounts this and other stories of the 550 mopeds, motorcycles and scooters, he proudly owns, and will soon put on display in Mahabaleshwar at the end of 2021, at Vintage Miles, India’s first museum dedicated to its two-wheeled wonders.

“Soon, India is going to transition to electric scooters, and I want to tell the story of our two-wheelers, from when you could hear them before you laid eyes on them. There was a certain charm to the kickstart or your friends pushing your moped and later, scooter, to start it. Each of the bikes I have collected from people across India has a story to tell,” explains Kenjale, who currently houses his impressive two-wheeler collection at a shed close to his home in Pune.

“I have a crew of old mechanics who are familiar with two wheelers from the 1960s-70s. They love working on the mopeds, creating spare parts, polishing them to a shine, or just hearing the engines revv again.”

What started as a hobby collection in 1986 soon took up all the space in Kenjale’s yard. He realised that other Pune households faced a similar issue — garages cluttered with unused old vehicles owners refused to part with, for sentimental reasons. “It sometimes takes four meetings and tearful adieus for me to convince owners that I will take care of the vehicle the same way they did, that no part will end up at a scrap dealer. I offer them twice the price they would get if they sold it to a local garage,” adds Kenjale.

The museum, Vintage Miles, has been decades in the making. Spread over a large plot in Mahabaleshwar, the impressive collection will be organised in three sheds: one each for mopeds, scooters and motorcycles. “The idea is to have audio-visual aids for visitors, so they can experience what these vehicles sound like on the road. Some vehicles will be available for experiences and rides as well. I want to keep the ticket sales affordable,” adds Kenjale, whose collection has been featured in the Limca Book of Records in 2018.

“I was featured on a show on The History Channel and that brought a lot of inquiries from across India; owners wanted their vehicles to get a second life at the museum, rather than lie unused in the parking lot,” adds Kenjale.

While most vehicles in the collection are from Maharashtra, Kenjale organises and pays for the transport if the two wheelers are from out of State.

Harsh Man Rai, co-founder, Helmet Story adventures (a motorcycle touring group) and former Managing Editor, Rolling Stone India , is upbeat about this one-of-a-kind tribute to India’s biking history. “Mopeds have been a part of our landscape for so long and I’m glad they’re finding a space in our auto- heritage,” he says.

From the oldest — a military green Matchless (1930) — to the Innocenti B-125, with a visible chassis, that was a pet project to refurbish, Kenjale’s penchant for mopeds and scooters is evident. “They take you back to simpler times,” he says.

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