‘It was not always this way. It was literally in two pieces when it came for restoration two years ago. The chassis had to be put back in shape and it had to be revamped from ground up. Once the exterior was done, the interior had to be restored completely’, recalls Singh, who has been working at this garage for over six decades now.
He joined as a helper to the owner when this garage started in 1951. Thanks to his ustaad (mentor), he gradually became a full-fledged automobile mechanic from a helper. ‘I owe everything to my ustaad. Whatever I have learnt is because of him and that’s why I can’t leave this place. I enjoy doing this. It keeps you on your toes. Every car, every restoration is different. It’s like putting life into something’ says Singh, when asked about his six-decade-long association with Pandit & Co.
Any vintage, antique or classic car easily takes about two years to get restored. Any car manufactured till 1919 is categorised as an antique. From 1919-1939, it is a vintage and from 1939-1959 it is classic. Cars manufactured after 1959 come into the category of modern cars, informs Pradeep Pandit, owner of Pandit & Co. who himself owns a classic car.
He further said his was one of the oldest surviving garages of Delhi. ‘When it was started in 1951 by my father, it was like any ordinary garage. It wasn’t exclusively started for vintage cars. As years passed what were ordinary cars back then turned into vintage cars now’, adds Pandit about the purpose behind the business venture.
Most of these cars come in trucks and carts in dilapidated condition and need immediate attention. ‘It’s not just Delhi, these cars come from almost every part of India. The idea is to restore them. I don’t create these cars, I just restore them. These are masterpieces which deserve to be restored and preserved’, Pandit further adds.
Vintage cars have become a priced possession. Owning a vintage car is a passion for wheel-lovers. While some dream of owning one, there are those who have a fleet of as many as 120 vintage cars. ‘For car lovers it’s their passion to restore vintage cars. But for some it has become a status symbol. One of my clients spent a very large amount to get his hands on a classic car because his relative had just got one’, reminisces Pandit.
The business of restoration of such cars got a huge boost with the start of the millennium. ‘After the year 2000, cars were becoming common in India. Even the luxury car market in India was growing at a rapid pace and that’s where vintage cars stood them (owners) apart. Such cars are limited and hence its became a status symbol to own them’, he said.
Auto experts inform that the cost of restoring a vintage car ranges from as low as Rs 10 lakh to as high as Rs 40 lakh depending upon its condition and availability of parts. While not disclosing the amount in figures, Pandit says that it costs ‘sufficient’ money to get a vintage car restored.
Speaking about the most difficult part while getting such cars restored, he says, ‘No car is difficult to restore. What is difficult is to raise the finance. Restoration of a car is as fast as the finances. Also, the owner has to be patient enough. Sometimes, it takes years to get the car into its original shape.
His clientele ranges from businessmen to Indian royalties. But he refrains from revealing their identity citing goodwill issues. On being asked whether he himself owns a vintage car, Pandit laughs it off by saying, ‘I just look vintage.’