Entrepreneur and connoisseur, Rishi Kumar has always been fascinated by small cars. He owns an impressive collection of 45 small pedal cars and around 200 dinky cars which he had collected since childhood. But his prized possession is the 1935 Rytecraft Scootacar, a British made two seater microcar which draw curious onlookers at every vintage car rally.
How did you develop an interest in vintage cars?
Actually, my father’s passion for cars and motor sports rubbed on to me. We used to attend vintage car rallies from an early age. The first time I attended a rally in 1962 when I was still a kid. The cars were all lined up in front of Eden Gardens and Akashvani Bhavan before flagging off. I, vividly remember the Delauney-Belleville belonging to the Maharaja of Darbhanga which used to be the first car in the starting order for several years.
Much later, my friends and I used to drag down the Red Road every Saturday night. There were quite a few vintage and classic cars at home and I used to take my Bentley for these drag meets.
You have a weakness for small cars?
This fascination took root in my childhood. In my school days, there were two small pedal cars kept at Walford and French Motor Car Company. Almost every school going kid in Calcutta knew about these cars and wanted one. I was no exception. Ever since my childhood I have dreamt of owning a small car.
Tell us about the Rytecraft.
Actually, way back in 1952 four Rytecraft Scootacars were brought to Bombay from England for an International Carnival. While two of these were returned to England, the remaining two were brought to Calcutta during Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the city. A carnival was organised in Calcutta to commemorate the Queen’s visit and one could enjoy two laps around the Victoria Memorial in the Rytecraft for an anna at the carnival. A Bengali gentleman approached the owner, a gora sahib and bought one of the cars for a princely sum of Rs 500. On that same day, Russi Patel offered to buy it at double the price. The deal was struck outside the Victoria Memorial and the Bengali gentleman sold the car to Patel.
Then how did the car come to your possession?
In 1986, when Russi Patel brought the car for the vintage and classic car rally held in Calcutta, I fell in love with her at the very first sight. I was willing to go to any length to get her.
A year later while I was getting my flying license in Jamshedpur, I met Mr Patel once again at the Beldi Club. We got acquainted and he invited me to his place. I found my love parked inside his residence premises. I told him that if he ever considered selling the car he had a buyer ready but it was only after four years of persuasion that I finally got him to sell the car to me in 1991.
Did you restore her?
When the car was transported from Jamshedpur to Calcutta I found that it was in a bad shape. It took me three months to get her restored. But honestly, ever since then, I have lost interest in all other cars.
How often do you take her out?
She is taken out only twice a year- The Statesman Vintage and Classic Car Rally and the Tolly Club Car Show. She attracts enormous attention from onlookers. She is undoubtedly, a show stopper.