Garage sends out its last antique car

CS Ananth has wound up his antique-cars restoration business. The pandemic with its zillion disruptions did not force this decision.

He explains he is 77 and “with my past major health problems along with some present health issues, there was no option but to say goodbye”.

With a 1949 MG TC leaving the workshop on May 1, 2021, Ananth’s career statistics stand frozen at “75 car restorations in 14 years”, an oeuvre that reserves for him a notable place among restorers from South India.

Antique car restoration marked a second career for Ananth, which sneaked up on him as most second careers do.

In the early 2000s, elements of an enviable post-retirement life were in dazzling array for him. Retirement from UCAL as a top executive, followed by a move to an expansive beachside home in Neelankarai. Memberships with clubs offering golf and tennis being capped off with a new hobby. So, there it was — Ananth decided he would be at the coal-face of restorations involving a handful of antique cars he had bought for his family’s delectation.

Garage sends out its last antique car

“It began around 2007 when seeing my restored cars — Morris Eight Tourer, Austin Burnham and Essex — A Sivasailam (the late industrialist from the Amalgamations Group) wanted me to work on his 1947 Riley,” recalls Ananth, admitting to an initial hesitation as “engagements of this kind do not particularly contribute to post-retirement comforts”.

Ananth continues: “Sivasailam would offer me three more of his cars — Dodge Kingsway, Morris Eight and Morris Minor — for restoration. Around the same time, Steve Borgia (from INDeco Leisure Hotels) and N Sankar (from The Sanmar Group) entrusted me with the restoration of their Plymouth and Triumph Super 7 respectively. I had formed Team CSA with the workshop and office being established in the spacious backyard of my home. I realised that the restorations should be done as a company and not a hobby. If it were a hobby, I would not have the commitment; nor would the workers.”

When an avocation turns into a vocation, adverse factors that have not been accounted for can have a rare sting to them. Ananth has had his share of pet peeves from those early days, which he learnt to take in his stride.

“Once a stack of hickory wood I imported for making wooden spokes was stuck at the Customs. The official assumed it was contraband, and would not accept my explanation. Irritated, I told him I take wood for food on doctor’s prescription. When he was offended at my snarkiness, I said when a genuine reason was being rejected, what else could I do?”

The fledgling initiative had a scare in 2009, when Ananth “fell sick from complications of cancer”. Following treatment, he quickly eased back into the routine.

Upskilling was a defining feature of his run as a professional restorer.

“When I went to Germany on a holiday around eight years ago, I spent two days at Kienle Automobiltechnik, which specialises in Mercedes-Benz restorations, to learn about rust-proofing. They taught me everything, and when I came back and started looking for materials, none of the ones they suggested was available in India. Finally, Dupont had a minimum volume of rust-preventive coating paint of that order to sell, and I was one of the very few restorers at that time to be able to buy it,” says Ananth.

Recognitions for Ananth include awards for cars restored by him at a couple of editions of the 21 Gun Salute Vintage Car Rally; a judging role once at the same event; an ongoing stint as adviser to GD Naidu Car Museum, Coimbatore; the role of adviser, registrations with Federation International des Vehicules Anciens (FIVA) in 2016; and a chief judge’s role at two international rallies, in Malaysia and Singapore.

Back at Neelankarai, the workshop is stark except for a clutch of machinery “which I am retaining to be able to maintain my own collection of antique cars”.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 9:05:34 AM |

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