words and photos: Nishant Pillai
Editor’s Note: Welcome to a new monthly Audi Club North America series called Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes (Nogaro) Blue. Nishant Pillai is a 10-year Audi Club North America (Audi Club Florida) member. He and his wife, Tara, are buying a 25th Anniversary Nogaro Edition RS 6 Avant. This is his long and winding road to making his brown eyes Nogaro Blue.
Cars have always been an integral part of my life. The first smell I remember is not of mom’s cooking but rather the smell of gasoline when dad would stop at the gas station before taking us on long drives.
Growing up in Mumbai India, the car dealership was my playground. Dad was the GM of a dealership that sold the Ambassador, a post-World War 2 relic. When I would come home from the dealership, I’d crawl under the table and pretend I was repairing cars. Dad would later become the GM of the first Mercedes-Benz dealership in India. I think I was more excited than him as I was hoping to see some cool cars besides the “boring” ones we used to have in India.
On weekends, dad would take my sister and I to car meets where we would see really cool Rolls-Royces, Jaguars, Aston Martins, and Bentleys. I started travelling with my dad to Delhi for auto shows and remember seeing Mercedes, Nissans, Toyotas, and Mitsubishis but one car left an indelible mark on me…a red Audi A4 (ed. – see header photo).
Thanks to my dad, we had a different car every month; man those were good times. I remember taking my driver’s test in a W124 Mercedes 300E, having a Chevy Camaro Z28 as a daily, and laying my eyes on a red Audi 80 Cabriolet when I accompanied my dad to deliver the first 190E in India to one of his VIP customers. I thought the Audi was so much cooler than the Mercedes; my dad was not amused.
I remember getting subscriptions to the two car publications we had in India. I used to eagerly wait every month for the magazines to arrive and after reading them cover to cover, I would tear the pages with my favorite cars and just like the great designers Pinanfarina, Zogato, etc., I would draw over the pics to modify the cars to make them sporty and cooler (at least in my eyes). I then started taking some drawing classes and sketching my own designs.
Like every Indian kid, my parents aspired for me to be an engineer or a doctor. They were so proud that I was getting good grades in Engineering school, that they got me a Porsche 944 turbo. What a glorious machine it was. I thought I was the coolest kid in town and partied real hard. You know what happened after that; my grades tanked and my parents took it away. I went from a kid who had this cool set of wheels to someone who started walking to school.
For my college thesis, I knew hybrid technology was the future and chose to do a project on the first gen Toyota Prius. And then it was time to choose grad school. To pursue my studies and my love for cars, I could not think of a better place than the University of Southern California (USC). As part of my application, I designed a hybrid.
Fresh off the boat from India, I was a nerdy kid who would take pics of cars in Los Angeles using a disposable camera, aspiring one day to have a cool car. My roommate was also a car aficionado and had a B5 S4. I loved that car. One day, he asked me to pick it up from the shop and bring it home. I jumped at the opportunity and loved every moment of it, especially driving the Los Angeles freeways for the first time with printed out turn by turn directions.
On the weekends, I used to walk to the Audi and BMW dealerships to go see what they had on their lots. I find it funny now but looking back, for some reason, I would always gravitate to the B5 S4s or the E46 M3s. Unfortunately, the staff at the BMW dealership got tired of me going there but the folks at the Audi dealership were always very welcoming and even though they knew that I was not ready to purchase a car then, they used to always treat me well. That’s when I knew I was going to work hard to get an Audi when I got my first job and that’s how my journey with the Volkswagen/ Audi brand began.