Just recently my team and I drove to Lahore to join the Vintage Cars Club of Pakistan's rally from the southern port city of Karachi. The cars were arriving in this historic city, once the playground of the Moghul and Sikh emperors, and were preparing for the final leg of their journey to Islamabad, the capital.
The drivers were an assortment of personalities, each with his or her own tale to tell. While most of the original owners were too old or dead, the stories and the legends left behind were etched into the minds of the connoisseurs who came from all four corners of the land.
The proud owner of a 1026 Dodge Brothers happened to be the Nawab of Tank. Registered in the name of the elder Nawab, the car still had the registration on the inside. These days Tank is a frontline on the border of South Waziristan.
Nawab’s son, Nusrat Khan, and his young grandson son were driving their beauty at a steady but sure speed as they negotiated the final leg of the journey. They went up some steep climbs as they crossed the famous Salt Range against the backdrop of old Hindu temples that once attracted Hindu pilgrims from across India.
Nearby, at the temple of Katas, Al Biruni is said to have calculated the circumference of planet earth. Nawab’s son also told me that this was the last car made by the Dodge Brothers before one brother went on to start his own company.
Each one of these cars had a unique history like the mark seven 1954 Jaguar. Imported by one of the country’s richest families, the Adamjee’s, it was reputed as the main wheels for the Queen of England's visit to Pakistan. She even spent a night at Malakand Fort and took a snapshot with the elite officers of the Pakistani army. It was in these mountains that the legendary Winston Churchill was surrounded in a picket perched on the hill as a war correspondent.
I had seen the picture so many times and had it framed as one of my Uncle's was in that unit. The car was also taken to East Pakistan for the Queen's visit and later returned to Karachi to its owners. But the story does not stop there - the same car was said to have been general Ayub’s favourite. As the old family driver took the backseat, it was pedal to the metal for the general President of Pakistan.
Parked next to another legend was the Lincoln Continental 1947, the year Pakistan and India became two different countries. The prize possession of the late Afghan King Zahir Shah, this car was hurriedly dispatched to his first Ambassador to Pakistan.
One participant told me: "He was the first Ambassador to set foot in a new country." As the sun went down on Lahore, the drivers were fine-tuning their machines to prepare them for some steep climbs and bends through the Salt range.
Meanwhile, back in Islamabad, the government was having an equally difficult task of portraying a positive image of the country battered by violence and bloodshed. It did not, however, stop many patriotic citizens to make a point that they were willing to take small calculated risks in a bid to reach out to get the attention of like minded people across the globe.