1947 Chevrolet Fleetmaster
"We went on our first date in this very car"
Shares Debjani Ghosh, the reigning queen of vintage/classic cars in the city. This proud owner of the 1947 Chevrolet Fleetmaster is a housewife with a passion for gardening. But come the vintage and classic car rallies, she dons the role of a navigator with equal élan.
How did you come to acquire this car?
The car was bought by husband’s grandfather, the late Justice J P Mitter who had it brought from USA. I had a weakness for this particular car, so my husband gifted it to me.
What special memories are associated with this car?
Oh, there are so many! I had come home as a bride in this very car. In fact, I had gone out on our first date with my then boyfriend and present husband Sanjay in this car way back in 1970.
What kind of maintenance and care does this car require?
The care requires weekly maintenance, daily cleaning and dusting. I maintain and navigate it. During the rallies I work 8 hours a day to spruce it up.
How did you develop an interest in vintage cars?
The long courtship with my husband ensured that I developed interest in vintage cars and in car racing.
What awards and trophies has this car won?
This car holds a record very difficult to break. There have been 17 rallies till date. It has won the best-maintained classic car 16 times and the Statesman Trophy for the best overall performance 7 times.
What are the special features of this car?
This car was a favourite with the ladies who self drove cars. It has a servo-assisted gear that one can shift with a finger. It was otherwise a very ordinary vehicle of the era and very economically priced as well.
When did you restore this car?
My husband restored this car in 1992. It had run 4 lakh kilometres by then. It was easy to get it restored as it had remained with the family since it was bought. Restoration took less than 6 months.
How do you ensure that the car is in top form?
There is very low maintenance factor involved. It has to be cleaned twice a day, started and warmed regularly. Apart from that we ensure that we don’t over load it. We avoid bad roads and so it now only runs about 200-300 miles a year.
How do you feel when you drive out in this car?
I feel awkward at the looks it generates on the streets from the passersby. But at the same time I feel very proud.
What place does this car hold in your life?
I nurture the car like my own child. I miss it during the monsoons when we have to jack it up to keep it safe from the waters that flood the area. The car is very much a part of the family. It is like bringing up a child with care and the child returns the love with a win at the rallies.
Registration: WBC 4547 Line of ownership: Gifted by Sanjay Ghosh to his wife, the present owner, Debjani Ghosh. Sanjay Ghosh’s maternal grandfather Justice J.P. Mitter bought the Fleetmaster for his personal use from Walford Transport Company in 1947 for Rs 7,000.
Maintenance: The overhead 29.4 HP Straight 6 engine was overhauled after it covered 2,60,000 miles. The car has made several long hauls between Calcutta and the Ghosh’s ancestral house in Allahabad. New pistons, new rings, fresh bearings were added.
The suspension was overhauled, four shockers, ball bearings, bushes changed, the servo-assisted gearbox revamped.
Coachwork: Sidewall tyres have replaced the originals. The car has been painted several times with the last coat being spartan black. This Fleetmaster has been in rallies since 1992.