Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Passion for the classics

Passion for the classics

Resort owner has a host of vintage cars to add to the atmosphere of his property

Published on January 2, 2008

The impressions of childhood have made Narong Thamchai a classic-car enthusiast. "I've been a nature lover since I was young. I can also remember being interested in car engines at that time. There were few vehicles on the roads near my house and pictures of classic cars fascinated me. It is one of my most enduring memories," he said.

Narong is the owner of Ban Toob Home Stay, a Lanna-style long-stay resort in Chiang Mai's San Sai district.

A few years after starting his business, Narong followed his dream to own classic cars.

"I told my friends that if they found classic cars, to please call me, because I wanted to buy them for restoration.

"The first thing I insist upon when buying a classic car is completion of the car ownership registration book. Without it I might breach the law and buying vehicles without the book is not worthwhile. The book is very important, even if the vehicle's engine no longer works," he said.

Now, there are more than 10 vintage cars parked at his resort, adding to the atmosphere of a time gone by.

"Those who stay at my resort want serene and natural surroundings, and when they find these cars, they are very impressed," he said.

Narong's fondness for nature makes his 1958 convertible Volkswagen his favourite.

"When I was a teenager, Volkswagens were charming cars. Now I feel lucky to own a convertible Volkswagen produced in 1958 and powered by a 1.6-litre engine. As far as I know, there are fewer than five such cars in Thailand.

"When I first saw the car, its condition was very poor. It was parked at the house of a state official in the northern region. I bought it and had it restored, although the colour is now brighter than the original colour. I think this is correct for a convertible," he said.

The restoration process took only a few years because engines and spare parts for the model are still available in the Kingdom. However, spare parts for some models that gained less popularity in Thailand are rare and expensive and owners must order them via the Internet and wait some months for delivery.

"This model gained popularity around the world. Most classic-car collectors who have a limited budget start with Volkswagen cars. I have many Volkswagens parked at my home, but this [the convertible] is my favourite as I can see 360-degree nature when I'm driving it.

"I often drive it to pick up foreign customers and, without exception, they are impressed," Narong said.

Thanadol Rila

The Nation

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