In the temperature-controlled garage at Karim Chhapra’s house stands an old car that the owner calls one of the rarest pieces of heritages of our country. It is not only the one-of-its-kind Rolls Royce built in 1924 but it is also the car that the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, rode when he became the first governor general in 1947.
This car was discovered by this vintage car enthusiast from the property of the Nawab of Bahawalpur in 2004. The Nawab’s family was locked in a court battle with the government of Pakistan over its property for 46 years. It was when they decided on an out-of-court settlement that Chhapra got his chance to buy the car in an auction.
“When I first heard about the car from a friend, I knew I had to buy it as I could not find a better blend of vintage and heritage,” he recalled.
Once it was in his possession, the responsibility of restoring the national heritage to its former glory was tremendous on the new owner. Chhapra told The Express Tribune that when he first found the car, it was not in a presentable condition. It took him a year and a half to build and restore the old times’ coupé. “When I found it, all its parts were present with only the clock on the dashboard missing, while the leather on the seats was moldering,” he said. The car was restored to its former glory by importing tyres from Pennsylvania and the wires and clock from England.
What attracts Chhapra to the heritage is the fact that all the luxury Rolls Royce cars were custom built according to the needs and specifications of the owner and no two models were the same. He also thinks that while sports cars may give the adrenaline rush, there are many of their kind, unlike vintage cars that are one in a million and speak of history with class.
The brand also has an equally glorious history. The Silver Ghost, first manufactured in 1907, is not only one of the first cars by Rolls Royce but it also has the distinction of elevating the status of the company to an elite car manufacturer. As soon as the car hit the markets, its silence, smoothness and power compelled the motoring press to name it the best car of the world. The Silver Ghost remained in production till 1925, and while the number still remains unconfirmed, there were hardly 6,000 to 7,000 vehicles of them were built in the factories of Manchester and Derby.
No wonder then that the vehicle, despite being nearly a hundred years old, is still in perfect working order and Chhapra often drives it across the city. As the car stands glinting in all its regal splendour, one feels that the grandeur, the history and the sentiments associated with it could not be preserved in a better way. This effort by a private citizen is in stark contrast of the national heritage treasures lying in the museums of the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2011.
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