Millennium Post

Car which aided Netaji’s Great Escape set for overhaul

The historic German car Wanderer which helped Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose flee his country in 1941 is given a thorough overhauling by auto giant Audi to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the great escape.

Krishna Bose, former Trinamool Congress MP said that the car had been given a thorough repair by Audi and would be displayed at Netaji’s ancestral house on Elgin Road from where he left for Gomoh on the night of January 19, 1941.

“The car is now lying with the repairer and it has been given the final touches. It will be again displayed at Netaji Bhavan before the special occasion,” she said.

The Wanderer W22, the six cylinder sedan belonged to Netaji’s nephew Dr Sisir Bose who drove the vehicle. The car was introduced by Auto Union under the Wanderer brand in 1933. It replaced W 20 8/40PS from which it inherited its OHV engine developed by Ferdinand Porsche.

It was Netaji who preferred this vehicle because of its unassuming look. The vehicle was fitted with a six cylinder, four stroke 1950 engine which was very powerful. In those days British and American cars, like Austin and Dodge or Buick and even Cadillac were seen on city roads. There were some Mercedes Benz cars but Wanderer was the rarest of the rare. There were other big cars in the house but still Netaji preferred this German vehicle for its sturdiness and simple looks. Unlike the American cars, it did not have ornamental bumpers or radiator grille.

Sisir Bose in his famous Bengali book Mahaniskromon whose English version, The Great Escape which came out much later narrated how he took his “Rangakaka” to Gomoh. Dressed like a Pathan, Bose got into the vehicle and left the city in the night of January 19, 1941.

After coming out of the house on Elgin Road, the car took a right turn and reached Lansdown Road. Then it went straight and from its intersection with Hazra Road, it took a left turn. It proceeded towards Hazra Road - Gariahat Road intersection. No police patrol was seen. The car then took Strand Road, passed Howrah Bridge and took GT Road and left Bengal.

But Bose was very meticulous about the journey. He asked Sisir to learn how to replace wheels which few owners know. So, while coming back from Calcutta Medical College, Sisir parked the vehicle near Lady Brabourne College which was then a thinly populated area and changed the wheels. 

During the journey near a level crossing Bose applied panic brakes to manoeuvre a lorry coming from the opposite direction. The engine went off and took some time to start. Netaji was not at all happy and asked Sisir not to be hasty. The car safely took Netaji to his nephew’s house in Gomoh while Sisir came back to the city alone. 

There were attempts to repair the vehicle whose carburettor, distributor and AC pump developed snags. Some parts went missing also. Local repairers including a vintage car expert could not repair the vehicle as spares were not available.

As Audi is an international restorer it was assigned the job. The repairing is in the final stage and will be delivered shortly.
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