‘Be cool, be classic’

‘We can learn a great deal from what’s happening in India right now, when it comes to attracting young people into the historic vehicle movement,’ said FIVA president Patrick Rollet.

In March, FIVA (the Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens or international federation of historic vehicles) held its general council meeting in Bangalore, India. Explaining why Bangalore was the perfect venue, Patrick commented, ‘India is a country where the ‘love affair with the automobile’ is a more recent phenomenon than in the west, and it’s truly heartening to see the groundswell of enthusiasm for historic vehicles among younger Indians – at a time when European enthusiasts are worried that classics will increasingly be seen as something for the older generation.

‘Our meeting was held in Bangalore alongside a symposium organised by the Delhi-based Osianama Learning Experience and the Federation of Historic Vehicles of India (FHVI) – the first of its kind in Asia – aimed at encouraging even more young people and women to get involved in the historic vehicle movement. The energy and enthusiasm of the participants, in a country that’s at an exciting point in the development of its historic vehicle community, is a joy to see.’

So what is the Indian historic vehicle community doing to encourage this groundswell of interest among the young? A key factor is the growing number of informal groups on social media, who meet at the weekend for casual drives in various cities. A prime example is Classic Drivers of Calcutta (CDC), as young entrepreneur and enthusiast Souvik Ghose Chaudhuri described, ‘To ‘catch them young’, it’s important to create communities around historic vehicles – non-competitive, fun social events to attract newcomers, such as movie screenings and garage days, plus extensive use of social media and workshops. It’s working. We’re seeing younger people, most of them ‘first-timers’, acquiring classics, while our members seem to be overcoming the absence of a DIY culture and have taken to working on their vehicles themselves! The future is bright.’

Interestingly, focusing on women has proved another key factor, as female race and rally driver Farah Vakil, explained:

‘Women are starting to take the lead in demystifying the classic automobile, seen by many as an untouchable realm of the wealthy and privileged man. Up till now, Indian women’s role in historic vehicle circles has been as the wives and daughters of collectors but that’s changing. Women in India today are financially and socially empowered, and we don’t need to have classics passed onto us as family heirlooms, as we can acquire them independently – sourcing them abroad, if necessary, and importing them. We are becoming instrumental in widening the appreciation of these cars, keeping it informal and unstructured – an outing in our cars, a picnic perhaps – without the heavy organisation and expense of a formal event.’

Another presenter at the Bangalore symposium was businesswoman and blogger Shana Parmeshwar, who races a Porsche GT3 in the UK and India but also owns an Austin Seven and a ’65 Chevrolet Impala estate. She uses the tag line ‘Be Cool, Be Classic’ to describe the surge of historic vehicle interest among the younger generation in India, and is full of ideas for the future – such as ‘Classic & Charity’, to organise classic runs to orphanages, where the children have fun taking passenger rides.