Santosh Rajkumar and some of his creations
Santosh Rajkumar and some of his creations

Turtle Torque: The Art Of Auto

Might twist the throttle, might push the pedal 
But let’s settle we get hella sentimental ‘bout our painted metal
And love bragging wheelies and oversteer over too much beer,
‘Cause it was soul satisfaction getting here.

– Excerpt from ‘Motorhead’, an original single by the author, whose music can be found at ‘Turtle – The Tunes’ 

I’m not sure whether it was the thump of Appa’s silver Bullet or an import maroon-and-gray Porsche brochure original back in the 80s that first spelt ‘boom, getting hooked on vroom vroom’. ‘Em vivid memories hark back to (plenty) more than three decades ago, but life has been kind enough to allow my heart to dictate work thus far, and I’m truly grateful to be able to employ Turtle Torque’s creative ninja here in beautiful Kodaikanal today. Motoring is the art form of my heart and soul, that’s why Turtle Torque is ‘The Art Of Auto’.

Classic Turtle Torque artwork by Santosh Rajkumar
Classic Turtle Torque artwork by Santosh Rajkumar

Business here is never guaranteed, but one has hope if it’s different. Proudly local from 2016, this thick-skinned creative consultancy is one-of-a-kind.

Turtle Torque tribute illustration Italian Job film
Turtle Torque tribute illustration to the original Italian Job film

Turtle Torque offers motor folks varied services, starting with art. A self-taught artist when it comes to this genre (while my art teachers at Kodaikanal International School gave me valuable formative training), I began drawing when I was four or five, and immediately knew the auto world was going to be my favourite subject. It was the race cars, trucks, bikes, pickups, tanks, aircraft and the like that filled sketchbooks through my childhood. 

The company seeded as a tiny personal motoring blog on Blogspot back in 2012, but began creative operations in 2016. In addition to art, it offers consultation with concept sketch services for car customization – so you’ll know how your ride will look before you sign the generally long, dotted line at a custom shop. The mantra’s uncomplicated – keeping true to original design philosophy ends with an appealing result. You won’t be advised to install a bullbar on your Swift till the zombies arrive, in other words. And I work the old-fashioned way, by hand, pen or pencil to paper; no rushed software edits for me. Most pieces of illustrative work still demand four or five days’ labour.

Enthusiasts can also have their vehicle shot and showcased beautifully for personal collections or social media. Much of my automotive knowledge stems from voracious motoring journal and technical literature consumption; Lego Technic gave me hands-on car-basics training very early. 

Additionally, more than seven years of automotive media, research and advertising experience with Autocar India, The Asian Age, DriveSpark, Segment Y, and AdVerb Inc., my specialized storytelling services for motorsport, classic car, test-drive and other such special automotive events showcase motoring spirit, passionately, creatively, and credibly. Turtle Torque was thrice part of the Indian edition of the Rainforest Challenge, the most gruelling and serious week-long off-road event in the country, as illustrator and documentation-in-charge for a consistently high-ranking participant team.

I currently steer every business process personally, from art ideation and creation through biz-dev, marketing, communication, client services, and logistics, while attempting a simple model with controlled overheads by functioning from a home studio. Small-volume sales and scale of merch and artwork keep afloat the boat’s stubborn stand on indie enterprise.

True, some complex pieces really take the blood, sweat and rear out of you, but one is lost in a mostly beautiful space during the sometimes week-long, almost-entirely handmade production process. This painstaking method of illustrative work and fine art is gradually reaping rewards, seeing recognition in the recent past from Porsche India, Goodyear Tires International, MINI India, and Pennzoil, along with high regard from individual motoring purist clientele. All have shared my work on their social media channels and sent appreciation by means of gifts such as model cars.

Turtle Torque T-shirts
Turtle Torque T-shirts

I have sold maybe 50 fine art pieces to date and delivered around a collective 400 custom hoodies, tees and magnets to clients across the country.

Fridge magnets by Turtle Torque
Fridge magnets by Turtle Torque

Kodaikanal may be tough for small enterprise. But picture a free work space with flowing filter coffee, choice retro tunes turned up as you please, with a valley backdrop to gaze at between screen or sheet, and you realize why the Turtle Torque nook at Rainbow Point works. The creative process doesn’t function well in city-style, fast-paced environs with yakety-yak on heat, so the fact that everything takes longer to move down our beloved, twisting town streets is par for the course. After all, only Kodaikanal gave me the freedom to jumpstart and redefine the whole life thing.

A popular Turtle Torque illustration of a motorbike
A popular Turtle Torque illustration of a motorbike

For more about Turtle Torque see:
Corporate film:
Art portfolio:

Santosh Rajkumar

Santosh Rajkumar, 39, is the founder of Turtle Torque. An artist, photographer and singer-songwriter, he has a deep passion for motoring and retro music. He lives in Pachamarathodai, Kodaikanal.

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