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Blog: Power to the people

Perseus Bandrawalla

Contrary to belief, cars that are mass produced and affordable can be considered thoroughbred future classics. Bestselling models of people’s cars – like the Ford Model T, Citroen 2 CV, VW Beetle, Fiat 500 and the original Mini – are now considered very desirable and collectible classics. Besides these, even regular sedans like the early-generation Toyota Corollas, which were mass produced and widely used as taxis the world over, are now bought and restored by collectors.

If you ask me, every car tells a story. A grand Rolls-Royce, with bespoke bodywork made by a renowned coachbuilder to the opulent needs of a Maharaja, may tell a very different story to that of a relatively humble Mini.

What I like most about a collectible car, though, is the human side of its story. Recently, I was really touched to see a lady in her 80s reunited with her VW Beetle (a rare oval headlamp version) at a classic car rally in Goa. She spoke fondly about driving it all over Goa and told us how she remembers dropping her kids to school in the car.

Today, a lot of collectors are quickly picking up the earliest versions of the Maruti 800 (the SS80), which are becoming rare to come by. Most inexpensive mass-produced cars are built to a target, which means they aren’t built to last forever.

Mass-produced people’s cars, in fact, are turning up all over in collections. Even Jay Leno bought a Tata Nano well before it went out of production. The Nano may have only been out of production recently, but it will certainly be a collectible in the future.

What may make Nanos even more collectible is the fact that there will be a dearth of cars available in the years to come because of the limited sales success that the model achieved. It may be the right time to buy a good example of the original Nano (the one before the versions with an openable rear hatch and automatic gearboxes), and stock up all the necessary spares and plastic bits that you may need to keep it running over the years.

However, where the original VW Beetle’s spares can be bought over the internet and are still manufactured by vendors internationally, it’s unlikely the Nano will enjoy that sort of privilege.

If the Nano does not appeal to you just yet, consider the second-generation Maruti 800 (SB308). It may not have the appeal of the older SS80 but the SB308 models, too, are getting extremely rare these days. It is the car that put India on wheels after all, and the nostalgia value is huge.