Erdoğan Gönül’s passion for cars and the story of the Buick on show at the Istanbul Rahmi M. Koç Museum
The 1933 Buick was bought by my father as a present when my mother became pregnant with me in 1933. Only 152 of these were manufactured worldwide. Only three are thought to still be in existence. When war broke out in 1938, the government banned the use of private cars. My father put the car up on blocks in the garage at the back of our apartment building. If I remember correctly, in 1945 my father was in the bathroom, listening to the radio while shaving. The presenter announced that the government would once again allow people to use private cars. So my father said, “Come on, son, let’s get the car going”. Just 11 years old, I went down to the garage with my father. He put the battery in its place underneath the front seat and connected it up. He tried the ignition and the car started on the first go. The exhaust fumes and smoke entered my lungs and body, and that’s how my addiction began... Due to my experience at Otosan, I was made president of the Otosan Group and member of the board of directors of Koç Holding. But as someone who had become accustomed to spending every hour of the past 25 years occupied with plans, production and machine tools, I felt a little like a fish out of water after my appointment at Koç Holding. There’s a big difference between being a senior manager and being on the front line. I’m a little nostalgic for my Otosan days. My passion now had another general manager, but this made me nostalgic for the smell of exhaust fumes, the scent of the cars and the glue. At which point, I turned to classic cars for entertainment. If I had continued in my roles at Otosan, I would never have considered such a hobby.
Within a month of our starting to use the Buick again, my father had ordered a 46 Ford Model. When the 46 Ford arrived, my father sold the Buick to the owner of a farm in the area now called Ayazağa. The farm owner cut the car in half and turned it into a pick-up. He used it for many years to transport his goods. I say many years because I came across him using it in this way on the road 3-5 times over the years. But I didn’t feel the slightest hint of nostalgia. Because the latest models were now in my life: the 46, 47 and 48. Although I was young, my father allowed me to drive. Later on, about seven years ago, my nephew brought me a photograph. In the photo, my mother and father were sitting in the car together. That really reignited my feelings of nostalgia. After about 4-5 years of research, I found the car in Canada. I called the owner and said that I would like to buy the car. At first, the owner didn't want to sell it. Later, I sent him the photo. A while afterwards, I received a phone call from Canada. The owner told me, “You’ve got a right to this car. I’ll sell it to you”.
“Kendi gitti, ‘Gönül’ü otomobilde kaldı” (He left, but his heart stayed in automobiles), Hürriyet, July 17, 2003