Gidwani prefers to keep a low profile but his collection is very impressive indeed. Other than his red, yellow, and green TCs, his garage houses a 1928 Ford Model A, a 1947 1.5-litre four-cylinder Jaguar, a 1948 Dodge Sedan, a 1951 Mk V 3.5-litre Jaguar, a 1954 Desoto, a 1959 Dodge Kingsway, a 1959 Triumph TR3A, an MG Midget, a 1966 Ford Mustang and a 1967 Triumph Spitfire. He also owns an ancient horse-drawn carriage that once belonged to HH the Maharaja of Bikaner. Many of his cars belonged to erstwhile royal families. And some of them have star rating too, having been part of memorable films like Gandhi, Jewel In The Crown, Sea Wolves and, more recently, Gadar.
Driving a TC is pure, unadulterated fun. This is an out-and-out two-seater with no luggage space worth its name. The cockpit is quite comfortable and roomy but you have to get in first! It’s practically impossible for a fat man to drive a TC with any level of comfort.
In the first place, he will find getting in a problem and once he is in, the large steering wheel will constantly brush against his protruding belly! No such problems for me. The low seating position offers a lovely view of the impressively long and louvered bonnet that looks as if there is a six-cylinder power plant under it. The TC has deep cutaway doors, a beautiful body, a chrome radiator grille, a huge external petrol tank at the back that also doubles up as the spare wheel holder, and sweeping fenders. And the ‘knock-on’ wire wheels accentuate the classic look. The Jaeger meters on the dashboard are widely spaced out. The big revmeter is placed right in front of the driver, while the passenger gets the benefit of the speedo. I wonder how a weak-hearted passenger with an inexperienced driver would react if the needle swings to the wrong side of 60mph! Jumping out would be an option and not too much of a problem! There is also an amp meter and an oil pressure meter.
Nothing beats the wind-in-your-face experience of an open top and even though the TC is not a terribly fast car, it still gives you that high any time. The engine is nothing extraordinary: a simple four-cylinder, 1250cc pushrod powerplant that develops all of 54 bhp@5200rpm and the four cylinders are fed through two semi-down draught SU carburettors. Had the car been a bit bigger, the power would definitely have been inadequate to move it but the saving grace is its light weight and diminutive size. The TC is only 139 inches long and has a wheelbase of 94 inches and because of this it feels quite agile. One of the TCs had a wobble in one wheel and the manner in which it bobbed up and down digested my breakfast in double quick time.
Although it doesn’t have any great acceleration, it can still touch 40 plus on the speedo very comfortably. The four-speed gearbox with its stubby little lever is perfectly matched with the engine speed and short shifting through the gears easily let me keep up with the traffic on the DND toll bridge in Delhi (of course, nobody was driving at over 100kph!).
But don’t get any notions when I say ‘agile’. We have been spoilt silly with power steering so don’t expect silk-smooth steering. Having said that, you can still throw the TC around though it takes a bit of muscle power. The TC sported I-beam axles at each end of its simple ladder chassis at a time when many of the leading cars had already adopted independent suspension. The steering is far from vague and the car goes precisely where you point it. From lock to lock, the steering has less than two turns and you have to drive with your thumb resting against the big steering rim and using your wrist. The steering is relatively smooth when in motion but becomes rather heavy when steering from a standstill or at a very slow pace. The nine-inch hydraulic drum brakes are very effective and I never got the feeling that it might not stop in time.