Completely out of passion, the Classic Volkswagen Club of Bangladesh was founded back in August 1997
On a Friday just before noon, a vintage 65 Volkswagen Beetle was on the move through the empty streets of Paribagh. As the twin coloured (orange and ash) Beetle roared through the empty avenue, it gleamed up – thanks to the sun. It was playing hide and seek with the neighbouring clouds.
Stopping in front of a shabby two-storied building, its driver Bijoy Fahim got out of his vehicle. Unlocking the rusty iron gate, he rode it inside the building premise. The inside was like that of Alibaba’s cave, containing the shining jewels of Dhaka city—all vintage and classic Volkswagens which enrich and glorify the history and heritage of our bustling metropolis.
Parking his precious Beetle on the lawn, Bijoy got out and moved towards what looked like a small workshop – a tin-shade one storied building. In there, an elderly man wearing a faded deep blue apron was busy working on a car engine.
In the middle of that workshop were Zubeir Moin, Ahmed Kabir and Mohammad Didarul Islam Sujan, the dedicated members of the Classic Volkswagen Club of Bangladesh. Cosily relaxing on a leather sofa they were enjoying a cup of tea, eagerly waiting for their missing comrade Bijoy.
Completely out of passion, the Classic Volkswagen Club of Bangladesh was founded back in August 1997 with cumulative efforts from club convenor and president Zubeir Moin, his brother Javed, Saleem Samad and Mohsinul Mulk along with the members mentioned above.
So why Volkswagen? It could have been any other brand. There are a lot of them in Bangladesh. “Because Volkswagen are durable and very simple and elegant when it comes to looks,” replied Sujan.
“There was an article in Car and Driver Magazine back in 1985 which referred Volkswagen’s engine among the top 10 engines in the world,” added Zubeir while wiping his glasses.
The club runs with the motto “Keep Your Volkswagen Alive”, completely dedicated to classic and vintage Volkswagen cars.
Now the question arises, how do you decide whether an automobile is a vintage or a classic? To which Sujan replied, “A vehicle aged 30 years is referred to as a classic. The vehicle on reaching 50 years will be termed as vintage.”
Reminiscing about the good old days, Zubeir said, “Our first rally was in '97. I remember as if it was yesterday.” Kabir informed 15 vehicles took part in that rally in Uttara, back when the area was being heavily developed. Hard to believe but back in those days, Uttara had open fields.
The biggest rally however was the one the club had in ’98. 20 cars took part in the rally and it was sponsored by Rahimafrooz. A car enthusiast German gentleman was present as the judge of that rally. Sujan remarked laughing, “Saleem Samad’s Beetle was judged as the ugliest Beetle of the rally. He was so happy about it!”
As of this moment, the estimated number of Beetles in Bangladesh is around 150, out of which 60 are in good condition and propelling our roads. With a heavy heart, Zubeir said, “Back in the day, the number was even higher. You had Beetles in most of the divisional cities, even in Sujan’s hometown of Narsingdi.”
So where are these bugs one might ask? The members of this club have acquired some of them. The others are corroding away, either sitting in some stubborn guys’ garage or have been smuggled outside of the country, thanks to those who put more emphasis on money rather than their true value and appreciation.
The club has a solid line-up of experts and technicians completely dedicated to restoring and refurbishing automobiles. Rouf is the engine expert. The club members usually call him the ‘Professor’.
“I remember the father of the nation, Bangabandhu, gifting architect Mazharul Islam with a Volkswagen Thing for his contribution to the nation. Rouf bhai was the one who drove it to the architect’s home,” added Sujan.
Other technicians of the club include Rafique (dent), Siraj (paint), Sumon (upholstery) and Mukta (electric). Unlike other clubs, the technicians are dedicated members of this club as well. Kabir claims they are all equal here, and brothers by bond. A bond that has taken the club far beyond the borders of Bangladesh.
Few years back, Kanak Dixit, a Nepalese Beetle lover, was on a trip to Bangladesh when his Beetle broke down. After looking around a little bit, he came to know about the Classic Volkswagen Club of Bangladesh and got hold of Professor Rouf who managed to fix the foreign Beetle. After leaving Dhaka, Kanak called to say that he was mesmerised by Rouf’s work as the vehicle now worked perfectly.
Putting emphasis on the love for Volkswagen, Sujan said, “Even if two strangers come in Volkswagens from the opposite sides of the road, we’d wave to each other acknowledging our cars.”
The club made trips to numerous places. One such memorable trip was the cross-country one they took from Bangladesh to Nepal through India. “It was some adrenaline filled trip we undertook back in 2004. We went full manual with maps and all. A trip from Bangladesh to Nepal and that too in a Beetle, cars of today might not endure such a trip,” exclaims Sujan.
For now, the club is gearing up to do something on June 22, World Beetle Day. Bijoy suggests it could be a good day to meet up with the club members. And who knows, the rally might even provide fans and lovers of Volkswagen with another grand spectacle.