In traffic, Shahwar feels most at ease in a Standard Herald with the skull of a bison on the bonnet!
The other Sunday, as I was driving from Gurgaon to Delhi, this guy blew past me in a Skoda Superb. It was one of those rare days when the Delhi-Gurgaon road was devoid of the usual high volume of traffic, and I was driving at a leisurely pace. I could see the driver of the Skoda eating a sandwich and talking on the phone at the same time, and he didn’t even have a handsfree device. ‘That’s inviting trouble,’ I thought to myself – right before he rammed into a smaller car in front of him.
Here was a high end car with fantastic brakes, ABS, the works, and the guy still manages to ram into someone from behind – the simple reason being that he wasn’t paying attention to his driving.
These things never happen to people who drive old cars – and they don’t have four wheel disc brakes, ABS, or any of the other gadgets that modern cars have. And that’s because you really have to DRIVE an old car, which means you have to pay attention – to the car, as well as to everything around you.
Everyone loves the sight of an old car on the roads – especially if it’s in a shiny coat of paint – never mind that it misfires every now and then. If you stand on the side of the road during rush hour, all you see is a mass of jellybean shaped cars crawling bumper-to-bumper. To the uninitiated, all these cars look the same. Most people couldn’t, for the life of them, distinguish between a Hyundai i20 or a Renault Pulse as they zipped past. But, if there’s an old car amongst that sea of jellybeans, it’ll stand out like a Christmas tree decked out in coloured lights.
I was driving my old Standard Herald the other day, and on the bonnet I’ve fixed the huge skull of a bison, which I shot years ago in the jungle. I got stuck behind a guy driving a Gypsy with huge rear view mirrors. He woudlnt let me pass initially, but when he saw a skull near his right rear wheel, he pulled over instantly. The car sure looked strange to him – all shiny with chrome, and complimented by a skull in front. As I drove by, he smiled and waved enthusiastically.
Old cars do break down a lot, but most of the time it’s not serious. In the majority of cases, you can fix them by the side of the road if you have the tools. Plus, most owners of old cars know how to work on their cars, and don’t mind getting their hands dirty. There’s pride in working on your cars if you love them.
If a modern car breaks down, you’re definitely stuck. All you can do is call for backup. The only thing you can fix in a modern car is a flat tyre. Open the bonnet and you won’t understand a thing. Everything is sealed under black plastic, and you need computers to find the fault. Even if you do identify the problem, you won’t have the specialised tools required to fix it.
And, out on the road, no one wants to go one up on the guy driving an old car. On the contrary, most motorists keep their distance and invariably smile and wave instead. Even at a traffic light, if you’re slow to get going once the light turns green, there’s no glaring
Most of these old cars don’t have air conditioning, and only a few of them have any speed worth mentioning at all. But, from time to time, I’m more than willing to compromise on these comforts for the chance to drive through the chaotic city traffic safe in the knowledge that my car and I are immune from the effects of road rage.