There were three exposures left on my last 120mm film roll that I took with me on a trip to Kashmir. So I headed out to the beach early one Sunday hoping to capture something interesting before sending the roll to the lab. In the first forty five minutes all my dull mind could frame were clichéd shots, so I didn’t bother to click any. One doesn’t simply shoot on 120mm because there is a potentially good shot. It’s got to be something special! I decided to go north towards the fort area to see if I could find something more interesting. As I was walking down the parking lot, a beautiful blue Fiat 1100 went past me and made a turn to pull into the beach road. After a few moments of hesitation, I turned around and followed the car. It took a few minutes to locate the car. Within a few seconds I spotted another one, and then another, and a few more that were just pulling in. They were all beautiful and dazzling under the morning sun and the proud owners were beaming with big smiles greeting each other. I had just unknowingly walked into a Fiat club’s meet.
A small fleet of eleven cars assembled in a span of ten to fifteen minutes and attracted a constant stream of admirers. The owners were kind to let me shoot their prized possessions and also invited me to join them for breakfast later. I was very glad I had my dslr with me too, because three exposures would not be sufficient to capture all the interesting shots I was now framing in my head. After most of the club members had gathered, a small procession was formed and headed towards Hotel Ashoka for breakfast. Club members convene at the beach on the second Sunday of every month and then ride together to a commonly agreed upon spot for breakfast.
Over breakfast, Sunjeet Sudhir, the founder of the group explained in detail about how he found his first Fiat and what drove him to form the Fiat Classic Car Club. Sunjeet was passionate about cars for as long as he can remember. During the time he was growing up he was influenced by his dad who often took the family on long and memorable road trips and his grandfather who ran a garage on Patullos Road (right beside present day EA mall) that catered to a diverse clientèle who drove in a range of cars from Studebakers and Oldsmobiles to Morrises and Landmasters. After a string of interesting relationships with modern, state of the art Volkswagens and Hondas, Sunjeet wanted to get himself a really special classic car that would not be his daily driver. One day when he casually followed up on an ad for a Fiat Super Select, he found himself in a situation that few blessed people do – that moment when you see a beautiful elegant machine and know beyond doubt that you are meant to be together. Despite being slightly overpriced, Sunjeet went against all logic to get his hands on that Super Select and so far he has no regrets on that decision.
Being new to owning a classic car, Sunjeet felt the need to connect with other Fiat owners and tap into the city’s Fiat community’s resources. To his surprise he couldn’t find one relevant community for Classic Fiats in the city either on social media or through his connections. During his free time, he started scouring social media and the web to locate classic Fiat owners in the city. This led him to meet the other co-founders John Wesley and Manu Prasad. And these three together started building the city’s first Classic Fiat community. Manu began working on club’s social media presence while Sunjeet and John began cold calling people – approaching Fiat owners they spotted on the road or knocking on doors when they discovered an old Fiat hidden in a garage. Almost all owners they approached were delighted to know there were more people like them and joined the group with a rekindled passion. Sunjeet and his group were more like young Charles and Erik in X-Men, they were on a quest to find fellow Fiateers and build a strong support community. Before joining the club, some members were letting their cars slip into a state of neglect, unable to find the resources to either fix or restore them. Some were even planning to move their cars to a different city where they could arrange for better care. Most members believe that joining the group has brought their toned down passion back up, and given them a reason and necessary support to keep their previously neglected Fiats in shape and ready for the next meet or long ride.
The Fiat Classic Car Club Chennai is now about 27 members strong and all owners who drive any classic Fiat (only up until the Premier Padmini and 118 NE) are welcome to join. You may get in touch club through their Facebook page or contact Sunjeet at +91 9940020356.