Freewheeling Motoring

The owner of two classic cars - a Mercedes-Benz W123, and an Ambassador Avigo - on his unconditional love

A Mercedes-Benz W123

A Mercedes-Benz W123   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


Unconditional love is the only way to own a classic car

“My wife spends a fair bit of time with her parents. I only work on these girls when she’s not here,” says Rajat Singh sheepishly. Tacit in that admission is the conflict in his affections between family and his two classic cars — a Mercedes-Benz W123, and a Hindustan Motors Ambassador Avigo. “Soon, these will move to my new garage, and then there will be no issues,” he adds dreamily, referring to a hangar he’s building on the outskirts of Jodhpur — the city he calls home.

His wife is German, he mentions, and despite being obviously reticent, can’t suppress an involuntary smile. He doesn’t need to spell out the implication: his beloved Mercedes will never be debilitated because of a lack of spare parts — a rare instance of seemingly disparate life events coming together, perfectly.

I want to drive her, but can’t conjure up the heart to ask. So he takes me for a spin instead. “She’s incredibly stable at high speeds. 140 on the speedo is so smooth on the highway that you can barely feel the velocity,” he says, while gingerly steering the car at 60 kilometres per hour, eyes fixed on the road ahead. “You’ve got to watch out for nails here, the roads in Rajasthan have really deteriorated,” he explains, pre-empting any request to step on the gas.

A Mercedes-Benz W123

A Mercedes-Benz W123   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

It’s a muggy August day in Jodhpur, an unexpectedly heavy downpour that morning has made it almost intolerably humid. The air-conditioner in the W123 has been giving some mild trouble, and Rajat won’t take a chance. “Something small has gone awry and I’m going to get it fixed before using it. But you won’t believe just how incredibly effective it is. I have to turn it down even in high summer here.” You believe him.

The speedometer on this car is the only dial that works. The villain of the piece is an unscrupulous mechanic who didn’t know what he was doing. The W123 uses a complex system of valves and vacuum to run the meters and had one of the first climate control systems on an automobile when the car was launched in 1976.

Inside a Mercedes-Benz W123

Inside a Mercedes-Benz W123   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“I got very lucky. The patriarch of a wealthy family in Kerala had passed away, and the family needed space in their garage, and decided to sell it to me. He had looked after it like a baby,” he says with uncomplicated gratitude, and adds, “It’s run just over a 1,00,000 kilometres!”

At least on that count, his unflinching adoration isn’t blind: the Mercedes-Benz W123 is one of the most durable cars ever built, and is known to purr along a million miles with nary a hitch. But even if she does act up, it’s unlikely that it’ll affect this relationship. For classic car connoisseurs, there’s always a happily-ever-after. Rajat’s W123 may, perhaps, outlive all of us.

Meraj Shah makes a living chronicling his experiences on the road, shooting video and writing on auto, travel and golf. When not roving the globe, he lives in Delhi with a motorcycle named Blue

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 4:32:25 PM |

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