Vintage car a cherished link to the past for Sri Lankan immigrant

Sri Ramalingam spent years working to fix up the car of his Sri Lankan childhood - and he'll show off the result at this weekend's Tamil fest.

Restoring car of his childhood took Sri Ramalingam on multi-year journey spanning 3 continents

A snapshot of Sri Ramalingam and the restored Austin A40 Somerset - the exact same make of car his parents drove when he was young in Sri Lanka. (Submitted by Sri Ramalingam )

At this weekend's Tamil Fest, Sri Ramalingam will stand proudly beside a gleaming piece of his past — a light green A40 Somerset he spent years fixing up.

The elegant car, produced in the early 1950s for Britain's Austin Motor Company, was a common sight in the Sri Lanka of Ramalingam's childhood, and was the car his parents drove when he was young.  

Ramalingam appeared on Metro Morning to discuss his connection to the A40 Somerset ahead of this weekend's Tamil Fest. (CBC)

Being in a Somerset figures prominently in one of his early memories, he told CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

"My parents are driving the car, I'm holding onto the speedometer, I think I'm 6 or 7 years old at this time," he said.

It had been years since Ramalingam had seen a Somerset when he happened upon one on a rural Ontario property in the late 1990s.

When Ramalingam found his A40, it was rusted out and headed for the scrap heap. (Submitted by Sri Ramalingam )

"I saw this car broken down in the bush," he remembered. "I went and knocked on the door of the house and said, 'Do you want to sell this car?'"

He immediately put down a deposit and got to work finding the correct parts, a difficult task even for Ramalingan, who owns an auto service business in Scarborough.

Ramalingam's mother with the original family car in Sri Lanka. (Submitted by Sri Ramalingam )

"The parts were very hard to get in those days, it was 1998 I guess I bought this car. I went to England… I bought some parts from there. I went back to Sri Lanka, and every time I went to Sri Lanka I brought [back] a little bit of the parts," he said.

Over five years, he and his employees worked to restore the car to its current gleaming state, complete with a vintage Sri Lankan license plate that matches the one on his parents' car.  

Ramalingam will bring the Somerset, along with several other vintage vehicles, to display at Tamil Fest, where others who grew up in Sri Lanka will have the chance to have their own dose of automobile-induced nostalgia.

A selection of the vintage cars, including the A40 Somerset on the right, and a motorcycle that Ramalingam will show this weekend at Tamil Fest. (Submitted by Sri Ramalingam )

With files from Metro Morning