Time travel

Written by Abhishek Chakraborty | Updated: Dec 8 2013, 08:35am hrs
The just-opened Heritage Transport Museum near Gurgaonon the evolution of wheelsis a work of evolution in itself. For, it took an auto enthusiast over 20 meticulous years to collect, restore and maintain artefacts that many would dismiss as mere pieces of junk.

Even the concept of a museum took over three years to take shape, owing to issues ranging from funds to peoples mindsets. Initially, people doubted my intentions, as nobody in India makes museums. It was also difficult for me to get donations, says Tarun Thakral, the brain behind the project and founder and management trustee of Heritage Transportation Trust. As most of the cars were bought from auctions, Thakral also had to compete with scrap dealers to own some of the items. The total cost came to around R14 crore, out of which R6 crore was contributed by the Union ministry of culture, explains Thakral.

But today, the result is out there for everyone to see, and enjoy. From a seven-seater, 90-litre 1934 Buick previously owned by the Maharaja of Ayodhya, to a Dilip-Chhabria (DC)-modified 1985 convertible Gypsy used by Shah Rukh Khan to woo Madhuri Dixit in Dil To Pagal Hai, the museum takes visitors on a roller-coaster rideright from the advent of the wheel in India to the means of transportation we avail ourselves of today.

Spread across an area of over 90,000 sq ft on Bilaspur Taoro Road (a 75-minute drive from Delhi), the museum has something for everyoneover 75 vintage and classic cars parked alongside a recreated Indian street scene from the 1920s; a restored railway saloon from the 1930s; pre-mechanised transportation modes like palanquins, bullock carts, horse carriages and camel carts; a restored 1940s Piper J3 Cub aircraft suspended in mid-air; obsolete three-wheelers like phat-phats and jugaads; and a vintage petrol pump; apart from conference rooms and an art gallery.

The Maharaja of Ayodhyas car is one of Thakrals prized possessions, which he bought for about R2 lakh from an auction. His other favourites include a 1938 Ford Convertible, a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible and a 1932 Chevrolet Phaeton, which, incidentally, was also his first collectible.

The experience begins with an exhibit that showcases the evolution of the wheel. Placed alongside the exhibit is a bird with wheels in place of wingsdating back to 3,500 BC from the Indus Valley Civilisationthe oldest artefact of the museum. The reason why we placed this object is to show that even at the time of the Indus Valley civilisation, wheels existed in this part of the world, explains Thakral.

To break the monotony and have an edge over others, the museum has been designed in such a way that the contents of a majority of galleries can be changed at regular intervals. The Trust is not putting its entire collection on display, as it aims to rotate its exhibits every two to three months. Roughly, about 30-35 cars will move out every three months, along with the accompanying graffiti.

Coming up next are cars used in James Bond movies. These cars keep on travelling around the world and, currently, they have all been booked till 2015. We hope to get them for a few months after that, says Thakral. The Trust is also tying up with museums worldwide, so that it can get exhibits from there for about three months, like in a gallery or exhibition space.