How often is it that you come across a motorcycle that belonged to the yesteryears? It’s not every day you encounter a motorcycle that is a century old! Yet when you do, you can’t help but admire it and stare at it in awe, eager to know every minute detail in the history of a legendary vintage motorcycle.
Among the very small community of vintage motorcycle collectors in the country, we happened to meet with Mr. Subodh Nath & Mr. Abhishek Nath who are ardent fans of all things vintage. Mr. Subodh Nath has in his possession a 103 year old Indian Motorcycle! Can you believe it, 103 years old?! We couldn’t fathom how the motorcycle would be looking as on this date, thus began our journey to the Nath’s home to admire the beauty and to know some more about it.
All things Vintage
Upon entering their home, the immediate feeling we got is that we had entered into a classy, ethnic era; a period where there was history written all over the place. The first thing we spotted as soon as we entered the gate was a massive 1948 Oldsmobile Dynamic 78 vintage car parked right outside their home. And believe it when we say it was massive in size! Up next as soon as we entered their home, we spotted the beauty we had come to see; the amazing, still in pristine condition; the 103 year old Indian motorcycle.
We took a few minutes grasping in the bike, absorbing the finer details; the gears, the headlight, the brakes, the seat, the front mounted tool box and specially the white tyres which was something we had seen for the first time.
The Initial Days
This pre-war motorcycle found its way into Kolkata in the year 1912. It remained there for the next three years until Advocate Moolchandji Pratapchandji from Jodhpur purchased the beauty. In 1915 the bike was then moved to Jodhpur into the ownership of Moolchand Pratapchandji. Unfortunately he was unable to use the bike since 1923 due to unavailability of the perfect tyres.
Condition of the bike when it was purchased by Mr. Nath. Image credit: Team-BHP
Come 1982, Mr. Nath made a trip to Jodhpur to check out some vintage vehicles. That’s when he chanced upon this light 680 cc Indian motorcycle and purchased it right then. Furthermore, after finally locating the right person to restore the bike, the motorcycle was sent to Sajan Auto owned by Mr. Aslamuddin Qureshi for restoration in 1989. But the restoration work only began in the year 1991.
The First Restoration
In an age when the internet and our modern technology still had to take the leap, it was difficult for Mr. Nath to find any technical specifications for the bike. They opted to finally cast and remold most of the parts as they couldn’t be found anywhere. And not just once but multiple times each part had to be remolded. During the restoration one important part known as the magneto was not working and this part was crucial for starting the bike. As decided the remold it but importantly they had to look for the same metal. After much scouring and hunting amid discarded parts from various sources, they came across some American made carburetors manufactured using the same metal. They then melted those carburetors and remold it to make the magneto. They faced a problem in locating other parts like carburetor parts, front fork & tyres. After much persistence, dedication and hard work the bike was finally restored in the year 1996.
But again tyres were lacking. During the first ownership of the bike, the first owner Pratapchandji had written letters to multiple tyre companies such as Goodyear, Dunlop, Firestone asking if they had tyres that matched the bike. These letters were written between 1923-1925. Finally Mr. Nath could acquire the tyres from US based company, Coker Tyres in the year 1997.
The Second Restoration
For the decade of 1997-2007 the father-son duo rode the bike casually, never venturing more than a km or two outside their home. What they noticed was that there were still a few glitches in the bike after the first restoration. The clutch and brakes never functioned properly & the braking in the motorcycle was poor.
Hence, there came the second restoration in the year 2007. By then, the internet had developed during the decade in between. This gave them much more access to information. What’s more is that they were fully equipped with information on what needs to be re-done and which function of the bike needed improvement.
The second restoration was undertaken with the aim of perfecting the bike. This restoration also got this 1912 V twin for the third edition of the Cartier Concours d’Elegance in 2013. After painstakingly going through a second restoration, the bike was ready. The bike was shipped to Mumbai for the show. But just when the stage was almost set, there days before the event was to begin, Mr. Nath and Abhishek both realized that the engine wasn’t functioning properly.
Three days before the event, they flew the motorcycle back to Indore and spent the next two days and nights working hand in hand with Aslamuddin to fix the engine properly. And the beauty was ready for the Cartier.
Their efforts paid off. The third edition of the Cartier was the first time that vintage motorcycles were included in the show. And hands down, the 1912 manufactured Indian V twin won the ‘Motorcycle: Best of Show’ and ‘Pre-War Classic Motorcycles: Class Winner’ categories. The judges and foreign visitors at the show were all praises about the level of restoration achieved in India and the mint conditions in which the bike was maintained.
The level of dedication that Mr. Nath has shown towards the restoration of the bike is immense. Today the motorcycle stands beautifully inside their home and is in working condition. The motorcycle today has an old world charm to it. Laying your eyes on this legendary motorcycle is a true feast to the eyes. Apart from owning the vintage Indian, they own a 1947 Oldsmobile, 1947 Buick Roadmaster Convertible & a 1928 Ford Model Tourer. Other than these, in their family they have a 1947 Armstrong Siddeley, 1964 Volkswagen Beetle & a one owner 1926 Wolseley Tourer.
Mr. Nath and his son Abhishek are into the business of restoring vintage vehicles. Their passion led them to begin the Gujarat Vintage & Classic Car Club in 2012 which led them to organize the Ahmedabad’s first Heritage drive in 2013.