R S Dongare and his team have been working on restoring classic, old and vintage cars for over three decades
Tinsmith Anil Pawar takes a long hard look at a picture of a 1948 Oldsmobile. With that for a guide, he lights up the oxyacetylene flame and sits down with a sheet of metal, bending it into a shape. “This sheet will be bent over the left side of the roof to give it its original arch look,” he says excitedly, working with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker. On the other hand R S Dongare, carefully examines the engine of the same car. He takes a moment to make mental calculations and then triumphantly announces, “The transmission drive is intact. It will work fine, we will have to work on the gear box though.”. This is life, as the duo and their other workers know for over three decades now. The nameless workshop in Katraj is home to Oldsmobiles, Barracudas, Chevrolets, Mercedes and a whole lot of other whatnots. It is also one of the only workshops in the city that works on restoring old cars from scrap to making them look like they have just rolled out of the factories.
Dongare, who worked as a driver of these old cars five decades ago, says he grew to know the vehicles intricately while driving his bosses around. “This workshop is owned by Satish Sable and Sanjay Sable, who is a collector of these cars. Most of them come to us looking like scraps. We work on first analysing how bad the car's condition is, then whether the parts can be restored to its original condition and if not, whether they can be sourced. More often than not the parts are usually hand restored by us.”
There are no tools or expensive machinery and CNC machines to work with. “But that is the point. Where is the art if everything is perfected by machines,” asks Pawar, taking a break between moulding the metal sheet. Adding to that Dongare says, “We got this Oldsmobile that was driven by the late Raj Kapoor sahib. It was a 1947 model and was lying in utter disarray in his Lonavala bungalow. We bought it from Juna Bazaar because we wanted its gear box converter, which was in working condition, for another car. But after getting it here we decided to rework and restore it. We