Nepal saw its first car only about a hundred years ago. It was a time when roads were yet to be built. It was the Ranas who brought home this terrific technology. But, for about 50 years, most Nepalis didn’t own a car as it was against the law. Only members of the Rana families and their friends enjoyed that privilege.
At the Vintage Car Expo, I gawked at a gorgeous 1971 Volkswagen beetle car, as other excited onlookers took out their selfie sticks to pose in front of it. The expo also displayed (inside the Nepal Art Council) a painting of the first car that was brought to Nepal, its dismantled parts carried by porters via the mountains of Bhimphedi and Thankot. About one hundred porters were involved, and it is believed that it was a German-made Mercedes. It was the beginning of car stories for Nepal, although it belonged exclusively to the Ranas.
But, it’s funny how we have forgotten about these historical cars that paved a way for the luxurious cars we own today. Where are the first cars of Nepal? Who brought them? How did transportation begin in Nepal?
This is where NASA, FIA, and Vintage and Classic Motor Union Nepal come in. “Every Dashain, Nepalis worship their vehicles; we have an intangible connection with our rides, and that is what we want to build up through the Vintage Car Expo. An understanding that our vehicles are not just means of transportation, but a part of our stories, a part of our history, a part of our development. We believe that if we archive and document the historical cars of Nepal, we probably will be able to establish yet another value for tourism in Nepal,” says Govinda Bhattarai, the general secretary of NASA.
When we consider the preservation of artifacts and heritage, we are indifferent to the historical old vehicles that are as much a part of our valuable history, just as our monuments are. These classic vehicles tell a story of their own, they document a timeframe of how cars and vehicles came to be in Nepal.
Bhattarai continues, “UNESCO considers cars that are as old as 40 years to be a part of our history, and such antiques need to be preserved. Countries around the world have been curating old cars, and are archiving the histories behind these cars. For us, this is just the beginning. This expo is an awareness effort towards that objective. This is our second season, and we hope to do it every year, so that people understand the importance of archiving and curating these historical cars.”
The thought itself is very novel to Nepal. Once a car’s utility is over, it is sold to junk dealers, and from there, the story of the car goes into oblivion. This is what has been happening in Nepal. Vintage and Classic Motor Union Nepal has been trying to collect old historical cars, and researching old historical cars of Nepal, but the difficulties are innumerable. Even the source and the real owner of the cars already curated has remained a mystery. In August 2016, the organization, with NASA, is planning to bring out a booklet of old cars in Nepal. Perhaps this will instigate an understanding that old cars are valuable.
All in all, the Vintage Car Expo held in May for three days was a successful event. Civil Aviation Minister Bala Bahadur Mahat, who inaugurated the expo, requested all the guests present to take responsibility to protect old and historical vehicles, and promised his own participation in their preservation. The expo had organized a vintage classic motor and Bullet motorcycle rally on the first day that started from the Nepal Scouts compound and headed towards Kupondol and Jawalakhel, before terminating at Babar Mahal.