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The royal Bufori La Joya casts a modern-day spell on a vintage-looking coach. Adhish Alawani explores this extraordinary piece of Malaysian craftsmanship
Photography  Bufori Motors

What would exclusivity mean to someone who has enough money to buy, say, 100 Nanos, wants to own something that is probably the only one in the town, looks classically vintage yet runs like a modern-day car? If you ask the Indian market, there isn’t an answer so far. The scenario is set to change, though, with Bufori making an entry soon. Based in Malaysia, Bufori is a brand less heard of in the automotive industry and the founder is responsible for this. Gerry Khouri of Australian origin started building cars in his garage, which later turned into a full-time car manufacturing business. However, he preferred to keep both the production and profile low, keeping in mind the promise of exclusivity and top-notch customisation. Today each car that is manufactured by Bufori takes close to 500 man-hours of hand-crafting and that itself tells us how the company’s philosophy is being put into practice.

When Twice Group of Chennai gave me a call and asked me to have a feel of the La Joya, Bufori’s first offering that would land on the Indian shores, I was more than just looking forward to getting into this piece of beauty. Certainly, looking at the pictures doesn’t do justice to the kind of presence this car has on road. It’s huge, but with contours that flow smoothly. The bulbous front wheel arches with headlamps mounted on them, flow downwards as you move towards the rear and suddenly change the line of curve to form the rear arches. The classic old design of the 1930s and ‘40s oozes from every detail of the car. The rear of the car, however, didn’t suit my personal taste with the boot lid sweeping low and elongated. The front bonnet opens like gullwings and, much to one’s surprise, has a tool-kit on one side and a six-CD changer on the other. With a fine stainless steel mesh grille at the front and some more steel laid out on the bumpers, there is no denying this car looks vintage. However, make no mistake, though it looks vintage, the technology and material that go into the making of this car are nothing short of modern. The complete bodywork comes from carbon-kevlar composite material. The engine is a V6 and the driver gets aids like ABS, EBD, airbags and automatic transmission etc. Inside the cabin, there is some confusion with 24-karat gold plated bezels of the clocks lending vintage feel and the four-spoke leather-wood steering wheel, electronic buttons for window panes and seat adjustment and such other bits giving it a modern-day look.

The La Joya engine is encased right behind the seats in a completely soundproof space. The car that I got to drive was the one brought in for homologation purposes and thus came with an outgoing engine, a 2.7-litre V6 borrowed from Hyundai. However, the car that the customers will pay for will be powered by a 3.3-litre V6. A car of vintage looks is not expected to do blisteringly quick zero-to-100 sprints and, hence, instead of concentrating on how fast the two-tonner could gather speed, I was more keen on how well it rode. The suspension is on the softer side as expected and provides a comfortable ride without making it feel like a huge floating boat. The steering was a mite lighter than I expected, but good for manoeuvring within the city.

So, what is the cost of this beautiful piece of automobile craft? The exact tag is yet to be known, but expect an approximate price of Rs 1.5 crore (ex-showroom) for the basic car. Now the question is, apart from a vintage looking car with contemporary technology, what else do you get? Complete customisation is the answer. Once you decide to buy a Bufori, the delivery time is about six months. The first thing the company does after you book your car is take you to their manufacturing facility in Malaysia, where your body measurements are taken for tailor-made customisation of seats and cabin.

Thereafter, you are given the option of choosing every bit of the cosmetics – from the leather, its colour, wood inserts to the stitching thread and its pattern, exterior colours, the style of the emblem (you can get one studded with Swarovski crystals too) and what not! You can even put your own signature engraved on a metal plate in the car to mark your exclusive ownership. After that, the car takes about three months to be hand-built. The transport, import and other formalities take some more time before you get the leather-clad key of your own Bufori.

Sounds like a big deal, doesn’t it? It is. The company plans to sell about eight to ten cars to start with in the first year and then grow gradually. Twice Group, the sole distributor for the Bufori cars, promises service backup for the cars across the country. Based on the response for the La Joya, the company will also bring in the Geneva later in 2012, which is a four-seater, six-litre machine. Until then, let’s wish Bufori the very best for their advent in India!

1.The Bufori La Joya has an astounding road presence. The bulbous wheelarches, monopod headlights, foglights and steel laid out in abundance – it’s truly vintage looking
2. The V6 engine resides right behind the seat in a sound proof cabin
3.Notice the tail lights? Those have been taken straight from a Jaguar by aquiring one of their old dyes
4.A combination of wood and leather gives the car a  modern touch
5.24-karat gold-plated bezels on the clocks are standard
6. The toolkit sits in the bonnet at the front

Today each car that is manufactured by Bufori takes close to 500 man-hours of hand-crafting


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