I passionately love the world of automobiles.
Eight years in the USA and Europe gave ample opportunity to own and lease many interesting varieties.
Among these were a Ford Tempo, a Pontiac 1000, a Dodge Aries, a Ford Maverick, a Mercedes 190-E W201, a Ford Sierra, an Opel Rekord, a Ford Taunus-Cortina, a Ford Mustang, a Pontiac Catalina Safari wagon (my land-yacht), a four-wheel-drive Mahindra MM540, two Daewoo Cielos, a twin-cam 16-valve Daewoo Nexia.
I've always had a fascination for military over-engineered transport vehicles. Discovered four, second-world war Chevrolet Staghound T-17E2 (AA) vehicles in the VJTI campus.
Cars in the USA and nostalgia
Tempo was the first car I ever drove outside India.
It was my introduction to the US Highway, driving on the right-hand-side of the road, automatic transmissions and front-wheel drive.
driving license in January 1985 at
Gatos, CA, on a plain
Pontiac 1000 hatchback.
I first drove into San Francisco in Jan 1985 in a metallic red 1985 Dodge Aries "K" car. It was boxy and angular (long hood, short deck) and had front-wheel drive.
Ford Maverick had a six-cylinder engine. It was
my first purchase in the USA.
In the early seventies, the Ford Maverick and its corporate cousin the Mercury Comet defined a new category in the USA called the "compact" category. America was used to massive, long, wide, low land-yachts. A six-cylinder 2-ton car was still "compact"! The Maverick was Ford's "small" car and import fighter.
My Maverick had a 200-cubic inch straight six that put out a measly 84 bhp. 1974 was the year the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced emissions control. And my car 967-JUB was a California car with air-injection system, oxygen sensor, catalytic converter, exhaust gas recirculation and other horsepower robbing stuff.
The monochrome picture below shows me in January 1985 at a carwash on Winchester Blvd., Campbell, Calif., doing the weekly ritual with my first automotive purchase.
big American station wagon
The biggest car, I've every owned was this GM "B" body behemoth. It was a Pontiac Catalina Safari station-wagon. Very long, very wide and very low. It had a 116" wheelbase.
I bought it in the fall of 1988 at Kingston, New York.
Its initial plates said, "NEW YORK KYB 676". In January 1989, I had them changed to "NEW YORK BAJIRAO".
It was a metallic regency brown with tan interior. With a small-block 4.9 liter Pontiac 301-cid V8 mated to a trailer-ready Turbo-Hydramatic 350 automatic transmission, it was a capable, utilitarian family wagon. It had a three-way tailgate. With the rear window retracted, it, it could open down clamshell-fashion, flush with the floor. And with the rear window up, it hinged like a conventional door, opening up to 88.7 cu. ft of storage. With the rear seat back down, it could accomodate my skis and even two large bicycles inside its cavernous interior.
My elder son, Aniruddh went daily to Fair Street Nursery School and later to Harry L. Edson school, Kingston in this car. My second son, Ajinkya rode home in this car from the hospital as a three-day old baby.
In the summer of 1987, I bought this Rangoon Red 1979 Ford Mustang fastback.
This car, "Washington HTW 430" had Ford's 2,300 cc Lima-four overhead camshaft engine made in Lima, Ohio. It put out 143 bhp and did 0-60 mph in 9.1 sec.
The car had an Alpine 4-speaker stereo and a console housing an electronic digital clock with day/date/elapsed time/stopwatch functions, plus a graphic warning display module that indicated low level conditions in the fuel tank and washer system, and signaled when a headlamp low beam or taillamp/brake lamp needed replacing.
It had a special suspension package with retuned shock absorber valving and front and rear stabilizer bars along with metric-sized forged-aluminum wheels and, for the first time on a Mustang, non-US tires (Michelin TRX 190/65R390 performance radials).
'stang would go very fast. I don't know how fast because the economy
oriented speedo only went up to 85 mph where it had a stop to block the
needle. I distinctly remember max'ing the speedo on that baby on the
Interstate expressway I-5 zillions of times.
My European Cars
Ford Taunus 2.0 Ghia
My Ford Taunus was a 2.0 liter Ghia model in metallic oyster-gold with a black stitched leather top.and black-velour interior.
The right-hand-drive version sold in the UK was called the Ford Cortina Mk IV. My left-hand-drive version for continental Europe was called Ford Taunus. These cars were manufactured in Köln, Germany.
It had OEM cast aluminum alloy wheels and Vredestein Sprint radials.
Ford Sierra 2.0 Laser
The Ford Sierra was a medium-size car which debuted in 1983, replacing the boxy Taunus. It ushered in radical, love-it-or-hate-it aerodynamic jelly-mould styling.
With a drag coefficient of 0.34, its shape was ahead of its time and influenced auto design for the future. It was still a rear wheel drive car, although it replaced the Taunus's live axle with independent rear suspension. I first saw it in the British 1983 Daily Express World Car Guide and enjoyed driving this car all over Belgium and Luxembourg.
The picture above was taken when we visited the French town of Namur in the Meuse valley in South Belgium.
Mercedes Benz 190E
Considered to be the smallest Mercedes in its days, this car had a fantastic driving dynamic and debuted the now-famous independent multilink rear suspension.
With a 16 valve cylinder head and mechanical valve lifters, its 2.3 liter engine put out 185 bhp. A hot machine.
I drove this car all over Benelux. Its headlamps could be manually levelled with a thumbwheel on the dash.
The 3-series baby BMW
My 318i was a driver's car. They called it a compact-executive car.
Loved its wrap-around console and aircraft-like red illuminated instruments.
This was the car I have driven the fastest in. 180 km/h on an empty Autosnelweg, early one morning.
My lovely Premier Padmini S1 (Fiat 1100-D)
company of the Walchand Hirachand Group, assembled Fiat's 1100cc cars
from the 1950s until 1997. The Fiat 1200 GranLuce Berlina,
debuted in India in 1964 with the old faithful 1,089 cc engine. Premier
manufactured it at their Kurla, Mumbai plant until they sold majority
Fiat SpA in Sept. 1997. With minor modifications
years, it was variously named, Fiat 1100, Fiat Millecento, Fiat
1100-Delight, Premier President and Premier Padmini.
Towards the end of its innings it even sported a diesel engine from Frateli Negri Machine (FNM), Italy.
My Padmini S1 has a 48 bhp normally aspirated engine, breathing through a Solex carburettor and mated to a 4-speed fully synchromeshed gearbox. The extra 9 bhp being achieved by the use of a thermostat controlled electric fan. After many years, vaccuum advance and retard was reintroduced in the Premier Padmini and the car effortlessly purrs to 120 km/hr. Unleaded petrol was introduced in India in 1995 and my car has a catalytic converter, with an allergy for that other bane of Mumbai-suburbs, speed bumps!
I had this car painted red, white and blue with 2K automotive acrylic. The red and the white were Hyundai colors and the metallic blue was a Tata color.
have nostalgia for the 'fifties
rock-n-roll era cars, with their wide white-wall tires, chrome and
laid-back boulevard cruising style. My car has
shod with 5.20-14 wide white wall nylon bias-ply tires--the last of an
almost extinct upper-class. Finding 14" wheel covers was a
challenge. Aftermarket wheel covers meant for a Toyota Qualis fit the
bill. The wheel covers are held to the wheel by a chrome closed
centre-nut. The bracket that holds the centre-nut screw was designed
for the deep wheel of the Qualis. I had to hammer it into
shape for the Fiat.
The little Maruti 800
I am the happy owner of a Moonbeam silver 2002 Maruti 800 DX.
At the turn of the millennium, Maruti decided to produce the Alto to replace their 800 and Zen models.
used to run a weekly spot-the-car