Vintage cars at Kerala guest houses revive memories of political leaders

Two vintage cars, one warming the garage at Aluva Government Guest House and the other, an imported American sedan, are being ‘preserved’ at the facility of the tourism department
Buick LeSabre
Buick LeSabrePhoto | Express

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : Two vintage cars, one warming the garage at Aluva Government Guest House and the other, an imported American sedan, being ‘preserved’ at the facility of the tourism department in the state capital, cut through ages and bring forward the forgotten years of political leaders of the past.

Curious guests arriving at the guest house often stop by the garage to peek at the 1998-model black Mercedes Benz E-Class that stands unused at a corner. This is after they’ve learned from the staff a little bit of ‘history’.

“It was the first luxury car used by E K Nayanar (longest serving chief minister of the state). Till then, Nayanar used to travel only in ambassador cars. He switched to Benz in 1998 on the recommendation of Congress leader K Karunakaran. The latter used to avidly travel in his Benz after his ‘Standard 2000’ was involved in an accident in 1992. Later, when the Congress came to power in 2001, the vehicle was used to transport VVIPs and was in service till 2011,” explains an official.

Since then, the vehicle bearing the registration number ‘KL-01-P-1161’ has been warming the garage in the Aluva Guest House. The tourism department tried to auction the premium car multiple times, setting the base price at Rs 2 lakh, but there were no takers for long. Worse, the 2018 flash floods inundated the whole region lying on the banks of Periyar. The guest house and the garage too were badly affected. The Benz was partially submerged as water gushed inside the vehicle, damaging the motors and interiors.

It was again auctioned in 2022. This time, a client bought it for a lower rate after learning about its history. But he didn’t take possession of the car, citing the condition. The classic vehicle was again left unused in the garage. But visitors continue to pour in for a glimpse of the ‘royal machine’ and learn about its history,” the official adds.

1998 Mercedes Benz E-Class
1998 Mercedes Benz E-ClassPhoto | Express

Buick that ferried Gandhi

Meanwhile, you could have a glimpse of a rare vintage American sedan if you stop by the Government Guest House, Thycaud, in the state capital.

Meet the luxury Buick LeSabre that ferried the likes of former prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Charan Singh during their visits to the state. The 1976-model fourth generation sedan manufactured by General Motors was imported by the Kerala Government then. The vehicle with left-hand power steering was also used by Karunakaran during his tenure.

“The Buick, the oldest car brand in the United States, was a name with worldwide recognition and only a very few units made it to India. This one, bearing the Delhi registration number DEB 4389, had a bulletproof body and window glass,” the official says.

Thankfully, the department has set up a small glass museum to ‘preserve’ the vintage machine as a showpiece, and it easily steals the hearts of car enthusiasts.

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