Nostalgia is an unassumingly strong feeling, especially when it hits at the perfect time. Speaking of memories from a time long gone, let me take you on a stroll down my memory lane. I must have been six or seven years old and our family had a Premier Padmini that we adored. I remember the trips we took during the holidays from Mysore to my grandparent’s place in Coimbatore. Dad and Mum would load up the car strategically such that the legroom in the rear was filled up, and I had a makeshift bed in the back. I remember being wrapped up in layers of blankets with my face pressed up against the cool glass window as we passed through the misty hills of Ooty. Pure bliss.
An elephant in between the Bamboo groves, herds of deer here and there, and the countless number of monkeys that Dad pointed out, commenting on the uncanny resemblance they bared to me. Our trusty Padmini chugged on as steadily as it could on the 1366cc, inline-four diesel engine developed by Fratelli Negri Macchine (FNM) in Italy. Yes, we had the diesel model, complete with a bench seat and a column-mounted gear shift. I loved that car and I still consider that rear seat to be the comfiest and cosiest spot to ever exist, and nothing can change my mind.
In Coimbatore, I used to love hanging around with my Mum’s cousin who was and still is an aficionado of the old Czech two-strokes. It was he who introduced me to the Jawa and Yezdi motorcycles that I have also grown to admire over the years. Additionally, I spent most of my growing years in Mysore, the city that had the first Jawa Yezdi factory in India. This resulted in my witnessing multiple Yezdi motorcycles in various stages of their indestructible lifetimes. The hypnotising ‘ring-ding-ding’ of the dual-pipe silencer as the 250cc engine fired, with the tantalising smell of 2T oil in the trail of bluish-grey smoke left by the motorcycle in its wake. Music to my ears and the air for my lungs, nothing more, nothing less.
Back to the present day, I am now an automotive journalist in Bombay and here I am, driving a Premier Padmini and riding a Yezdi D250 Classic as part of my ‘job’. How time flies, and it looks to have come a full circle at that. This particular Padmini was quite the sturdy old broad, being meticulously restored by its caretaker inch-by-inch with a whole lot of love. Opening the door and stepping in was like opening a portal to my childhood, and life was simple once again. The Yezdi was a recent acquisition by Shail of Bombay Custom Works, who managed to find this single-owner beauty and get it in running condition.
Taking a quick dive into the history of both vehicles, first, let us take a look at the Premier Padmini. It was manufactured in India from the year 1964 by Premier Automobiles Limited (PAL) under a license from Fiat. The car was initially marketed as the Fiat 1100 Delight, after which it was renamed the Premier Padmini in 1974. Lovingly referred to as the Fiat, it grew in popularity, owing to the sleek and stylish proportions in comparison to the Hindustan Ambassador and Standard Herald that were available at the time. It was fuel-efficient and also great fun to drive, not to mention the celebrity backing it received.
Coming to the Yezdi D250 Classic, the motorcycle was manufactured and sold by Ideal Jawa (India) Ltd, which was based in Mysore. Starting out as a company that sold licensed Jawa motorcycles in 1960 under the brand name Jawa, it soon developed its own designs and from 1973 sold motorcycles under the brand name Yezdi. With the engine technology based on the Czech Jawa motorcycles from the early 1950s, the ‘Forever Bike, Forever Value’ tag holds true in every sense to this day.
Starting up both vehicles was no less than any devotional ritual, considering that there was a very detailed format one needed to follow. With the Padmini, one had to wait for the engine to heat up before cranking it, and once the cranking process starts, one had to have almost surgical precision to get it going. But there’s no better satisfaction than when that sweet old 1100cc engine roars to life. Likewise, with the Yezdi, one had to first turn the fuel tap on, and pump the Jikov carb religiously until the 2-stroke gods themselves pull you away from it. Then one proceeds to rotate the gear-shift lever until it transforms into the kick lever, after which one needs to pump that too, to get the juices flowing. Turn on the ignition, mumble a prayer and pump away to glory. Once you get that feeling in your gut that the time is right, you put your heart and soul into that one kick, and if the gods are pleased with your ritual the engine roars to life.
The melodious cacophony of the two classic beauties echoed through the nearly empty streets of Bombay as we set out for our shoot in the wee morning hours. Sitting astride the D250 classic, the surroundings seemed to fade out into oblivion, with the only other presence being the Padmini in the foreground. It was pure bliss, like we had entered a whole other timeline altogether. Rivan was still puttering around gingerly as he too relived his own childhood experiences while I was pushing ahead and fulfilling my own childhood dreams. Despite what most people say, these old machines will never become redundant. They may slow down and need a bit of coaxing now and then, but they will never cease to bring a smile to our souls.
Both the Padmini as well as the Yezdi have something else in common. An illustrious history in the rally racing scene at the hallowed grounds of Sholavaram, the Mecca for all motor racing enthusiasts back in the day. The defunct Air Force Airfield there has witnessed souped-up Padminis as well as Yezdis create history in their glory days. One can feel a fraction of the adrenaline rush and thrill of performance when one opens the throttle on these classics even today.
There is a certain old-world charm about machines like these two. A feeling of reassurance, associated with the knowledge that some things will never die, given of course that there are some exceptional souls who will never let these beauties rest in pieces. This is the thought with which I leave you now. With the right amount of love and a little bit of elbow grease here and there, these old machines will never give up on you.