When Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose planned his great escape in 1941, it was supposed to be in Dr Sisir Kumar Bose’s car and not the 1937 Wanderer. But then, the leader found the latter more suited for his plan. Many, many years later, in 2016 after Audi got in touch with him, the historic German Wanderer sedan was restored by Pallab Roy of Father and Son Restorations.
That was his first commercial project after he had already restored several of his family-owned vintage cars. Understandably, this project was his most cherished one till date because it had intrigue, history, luxury and the aura of Netaji intertwined with it. After the car was restored to shipshape condition in six months by Roy and his team at his Kolkata workshop, it was unveiled by Pranab Mukherjee, the then President of India, in January 2017.
Says Roy, whose first restoration happened when he worked on his grandfather, Raja Kamala Ranjan Roy’s 1928 President 8 State Limousine: “In 1941, when Netaji was put under house arrest by the British, his nephew, Dr Sisir Kumar Bose, drove him from his ancestral house in South Kolkata in this car. It marked the first phase of the ‘Great Escape’ planned by the Indian freedom fighter. Later, Netaji successfully concluded his historic journey to Germany via Moscow and Kabul in this car. Bearing the registration number BLA 7169, the car was once again in use when Sisir Bose drove it in 1979 for the shooting of a Japanese documentary.”
Kept at Netaji Bhavan in Kolkata since then, the Wanderer had undergone extensive corrosion. Finally Audi gave the restoration project to Roy, the scion of the Cossimbazar royal family, in 2016. "We put in the minutest details that was existing in the original car. Including a cigar lighter and an electrically operated intercom that we sourced from the Dichtograph Corporation of New York."
Passionate about all things vintage, this penchant makes him toil hard overhauling an old ramshackle vintage car to make it spanking new and operational. His restored cars have won multiple awards at the Statesman Vintage Car Rally year after year and now his son, Sourav, has also become involved in the work. One look at the 1928 Studebaker lined up with the other restored beauties would prove the pride and diligence that Roy invests in these beauties.
Because, as he says, there is nothing like holding on to the fragile pages of the past. "My black 1967 Mercedes 230-S has been part of the Concours de Elegance and our Pontiac Blue has won the Statesman Trophy, Oberoi Grand Trophy, Peerless Trophy and the Police Commission Trophy," he says with pride.
After restoring about 10 vintage cars to date, including a 1951 Mercury, a 1947 Chevrolet Fleetmaster, a 1947b Wolseley, a 1956 Austin Princess, a 1947 Hudson and a 1936 Mercedes 170V Roadster, Roy is of the opinion that this is heritage that needs to be saved. “The challenges lie in procuring the parts as there are a lot of fakes circulating in the market. The eye to glean out authentic parts comes with experience,” he says.
The novelty of Roy’s work is that it is the best of mechanical and modern computerised knowledge put together. “It’s bringing together the past and the present, thereby taking it to the future. Perhaps in this way we can hold on and appreciate our history and heritage.”
One can check out Roy’s work on the Facebook page: Father and Son Restorations. A delight it will be for those with a yen for vintage beauties, the vestiges of the grand and luxurious times of yore.