Dwi Yuni Purbayanti is one of a kind. When she is not busy embroidering, she races cars. And it’s not just a hobby — she was the first woman to win a classic car race in Indonesia.
“I will continue to race cars until I get bored and will then return to my original hobby, embroidery,” she said.
The first Classic Car Race of 2009, held by the Indonesian Association of Old Car Lovers (PPMKI), saw a strange turn of events. During the event, a woman driving a VW Beetle won three of six stages, which were held on Sentul Circuit in Bogor, West Java.
“When I removed my helmet after I had to pass the finish line, other drivers and crew members were surprised,” Yuni said.
No wonder they were shocked. Yuni was the only female racecar driver at that event. When she wears a helmet, this mother of three children — Tiffany Anandhini Putri, Dinda Unyil and Duduy Itu Gue — easily passes four men.
“I believe you can’t tell that I’m a woman,” she said, laughing.
Yuni’s first encounter with cars was in 1997, when her husband Asmarwan, decided to take over her brother’s service station, Rektas, in Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta.
She never thought it would lead to her new hobby.
“I thought our new service station would be like an ordinary service station in Jakarta, but I was wrong,” she said.
After meeting several Volkswagen mechanics, she decided to cater exclusively for VWs.
“And it worked!” she said.
Although Yuni and her husband started running a VW service station, they still didn’t own any VWs.
“Shamefully, we only had a jeep,” she said.
But slowly her interest in VWs increased, and so one day she decided to sell their jeep.
“After I bought my own VW Beetle, I started loving it more than any other car,” she said.
Now she has two identical yellow VW Beetle V type.
“We called them the VW twins, one for me and one for my lovely husband,” she said.
Dealing with classic cars like VW is just like dealing with something fragile yet strong, Yuni said.
It only costs around Rp 20 million (US$2,000) to buy a classic car. But once you own it, your job is far from over, as it must be serviced at least once a month.
“Classic cars require a special touch. If you don’t like getting your car serviced, then you shouldn’t own a classic car,” she said.
“Classic car owners should also be prepared to pay extra money for maintenance.”
Yuni, for instance had to paint her VW’s body, build its motor and add accessories to make it “pretty”.
Accessorizing classic cars can be challenging. Especially considering the cost of classic car spare parts.
Alex Bram, a classic cars accessories salesperson, said the price of classic car parts was sometimes higher than a new car.
“Classic car lovers are ‘crazy’, they don’t care about the price – as long as they like it, they will buy it,” he said.
Old, original and broken Merr Baker radios, for example, could set you back Rp 1 million (US$108).
“Even though the radio is unusable, it’s still expensive, crazy or what?” Alex said.
Lucky for Yuni, she is not a car-accessory maniac.
“I prefer to build the engine than spend money on accessories. Putting together the engine is the most expensive thing to do.”
Especially as Yuni races her VW.
“To gear up the car for circuit-racing is much more difficult than readying it for street use,” she said.
To make a VW suitable for circuit racing can cost at least Rp 75 million.
“I still feel that is not enough, and probably could never be enough,” Yuni said.
When she thinks her car is ready, she will let her nephew test-drive it on the Sentul International Circuit of Bogor.
The car, which was made in 1968, has to compete with newer cars in a regular drag race competition.
“But this car must be driven by the owner — me — and I can prove the old car win,” she said.
Although Asmarwan has always said he would continue to support his wife’s activities on the circuit, he confesses he worries when he sees his wife racing.
“I am always encouraging her to return to embroidery, once she cannot race anymore.”