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Carrying a part of India to Austria

MURALI GOPALAN | Updated on January 20, 2018

Memory in motion This Bajaj 150, a 1975 model painted a light green, is the souvenir Hermann Prax is taking back with him to Austria

How a VW executive hunted down a ’75 Bajaj 150 scooter

It is just a little over a week since Hermann Prax wound up his three-year tenure with Volkswagen in India and is now back at headquarters in Europe.

Apart from the many souvenirs he has taken along, the one prized possession that will soon join him is a Bajaj 150 scooter now en route to Austria in a ship. Prax is kicked to bits at the prospects of riding it around his beloved Salzburg once it lands up home.

Why would someone from Europe be so kicked about owning a Bajaj scooter especially when it is no longer produced? And how did he get it in the first place?

Two wheel story

Prax was, of course, delighted to share this story even as he was in the midst of a hectic last day at the VW Pune factory. His love for scooters began riding with a 50cc Vespa. His father owned a more powerful 125cc red (Vespa) model but was fiercely possessive about it. He finally gave it to his son only when he turned 70!

In the meantime, Prax had begun working and this was when he was asked to take over as Head of Communications at VW India three years ago. Sure, he was part of a car company but the passion for scooters was still strong.

It was in early 2015 when Prax’s colleague, Adhish Alawani, became part of the mission to hunt down a Vespa. He took the help of a friend who had a good network of Vespa owners in Pune. The duo saw at least 15 scooters but realised that people were either asking for the moon or that the vehicles were in bad shape. Worse still, some were devoid of any papers.

This was when the scope of the hunt was widened to look for a Bajaj scooter which was the closest Prax could get to own a Vespa. The prospective seller came riding on his Bajaj 150, a 1975 model, which was in pretty decent condition given its age. The deal was struck except that there was a lot of hard work ahead in doing up the scooter.

Back in shape

It was at this point that Alawani met a Pune-based restorer, Yogesh Raut, an expert in his field. He needed three months to get things in order which included an engine overhaul, body work, painting and getting the seats back in shape. The body work also had oodles of rust that also had to be dealt with.

Prax and his wife opted for light green as the new colour to replace the original white. A spare wheel was also added as an accessory.

According to the rules, he would have to own the scooter for at least six months in India first before shipping it overseas. In the meantime, Prax rode it around the relatively calm Koregaon Park area from time to time. Three months later, the scooter was back with Raut for engine servicing and also underwent a final polishing with changes made in its electricals. The next step was to de-register it for export before it could be put on a ship bound for Prax’s native Austria.

All in all, the combined cost of acquisition and restoration worked out to barely ₹60,000 which was not a bad deal at the end of the day. “In my view, Bajaj is something special and a part of the heritage landscape in India. Right from the time we bought the scooter and put it through its revival process, it was akin to seeing a child born. Today, I am carrying a part of India back to Europe,” said Prax.

What was bizarre during this entire exercise was that his wife’s uncle had picked up an old frame of a Bajaj scooter in Austria. He was seeking parts from India to put it back in shape and Prax was quick to lend a helping hand. “When my scooter reaches Austria, I will perhaps need to modify the silencer since the environment there is less noisy,” he quips.

Published on March 17, 2016

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