That is how city-based vintage car collector and restorer, Sanjay Ghosh, describes his 1932 Ford V-8 De-Luxe Phaeton that till date has won 58 trophies at the Calcutta Rally
Was Lady Bird, as you lovingly call her, part of the family legacy?
– Yes. Lady Bird is a 1932 Ford V-8 De-Luxe Phaeton and it belonged to my maternal grandfather, late Justice J. P. Mitter. He had bought it after he came back from Oxford. In 1932, the price was Rs 2,700, but since he bought it from Jalan Motors and Company on instalment, my grandfather had to pay Rs 300 extra. He used it from 1932-1952 and then the car was grounded.
Why did your grandfather choose this car?
– This car was a hardy one and the engine was obviously a marvel and it enabled the owner to travel long distances uninterrupted. It had a 65 horse-power V-type engine, yet it was exceptionally quiet, smooth, flexible and could reach a top speed of 75 miles per hour. My grandfather was very fond of motoring and he liked raw power and this car has both power and grace.
Did Lady Bird motivate you to become a vintage car restorer?
– Yes. Although, I was always interested in cars, I had my share of regular jobs et al. Things took a turn in 1972 when the neglected Lady Bird caught my attention. During those days, I used to earn Rs 450 and I invested Rs 400 to buy five new tyres and a battery for the car. That was the start. After a lot of hard work, I was successful in restoring it. Around 1976-77, I gave up my job and then went on to set up this workshop and took to restoring vintage cars. Lady Bird, of course, remains special. She has won 58 trophies at the Calcutta Rally, out of which ten are Statesman trophies, which is the highest award of the day. I still have the original documents including the blue book and the original key in its key ring.
How tough was it to follow your heart?
– See, today, one has the Internet and there are good books that one can use as research tools or to get information. But when I started out, there was no Internet, nor did I have the money to buy big expensive books, so I had to learn on the job. Hands-on experience taught me everything and I also learnt that to be a good restorer, you and your team should have the ability to create everything from scratch.
Your family must be extremely supportive…
– Absolutely. Right from my parents to my brother, my wife, my son — we are all car and rally enthusiasts. Rallies mean serious competition within the family. My wife, Debjani is a name to reckon with at the rallies. She takes care of the cars and gets them ready for the shows. My son, Rajiv, is a good driver and looks into the technical side of things. My father, Santosh Kumar Ghosh is 84 plus and he is still as passionate about the cars as he is about clicking them at the rallies. My mother Anita too, shares our enthusiasm.
How do you maintain your vintage cars?
– Firstly, I avoid using them during the rainy season. I always take out my cars after Diwali and drive them till May ___ the dry season. I avoid driving them on bad roads and only allow those who have the experience to handle vintage cars to drive them. I store the cars in dry places. Moisture and damp are a strict no-no. When not in use the cars are jacked up — that way, there’s no pressure on the tyres. I also regularly clean and polish the cars, especially the chrome parts. And above all, I take care of my vintage cars throughout the year.
WHAT MADE V-8 SPECIAL
Type V-8, 90 degrees, rubber mounted
Horse power 65 at 3,400 r.p.m.
Automatic ignition with vacuum control
Wheelbase : 106 in
Transmission: Three speeds forward with silent second.
Compactly arranged in centre of dash with three dials, ammeter, 80-mile clock-hand speedometer and hydro-static fuel gauge.
Houdaille Hydraulic, automatic adjusting for temperature and road shocks.
Brakes: 4-wheel fully enclosed, internal expanding
Performance: Top: 75 m.p.h.,