View Bob Rupani`s article


View Bob Rupani`s article
Class Act
The Cartier Travel with Style Concours d'Elegance may just be the
dawn of a new beginning for the classic car movement in India.
Text : Siddhraj Singh with additional inputs from Bob Rupani
Photos : Makarand Baokar
DECEMBER 2008 Auto India 35
In focus
ever before has India seen
such a magnificent classic car show. In
fact it can safely be said that the
Cartier Concours d’Elegance event,
was quite definitely a historic moment
in the history of Indian motoring. The
Parisian jewelry major announced its
entry into India in grand style hosting
India’s first International level Concours show on 1st and 2nd November
at the Royal Turf Club in Mumbai.
While we know the India has a rich
history of automobiles, the show was
an eye-opener of the extent of this rich
heritage. Sixty of the most rare and
historically significant cars were on
display, many being shown in public
for the first time ever.
The event, that was the brainchild of
Mark Shand, took over a year to put in
place and one of the keys to the
success of the show was the strict
‘participation on invitation’ only policy.
All the cars were hand-picked and their
owners invited by renowned automotive historian and curator of the show,
Manvendra Singh Barwani. With
numbers limited to only sixty, choosing the cream of the crop was a
difficult task. “Unlike western countries, where there might be a large
volume of cars and a few special cars,
India is the opposite. We may not have
as many classic cars. But what we have
are very unique cars. Many from
70 Auto India DECEMBER 2008
erstwhile royal princely states and
heavily customized and built to order
to suit the personal requirements of
princes. This made the task of
selection very difficult. My job was not
necessarily to show the best maintained car, or the one that has had an
expensive restoration job done. But to
highlight the eccentricities, and the
uniqueness of Indian automotive
history,” said Manvendra.
The cars assembled for the show
were some of the rarest cars not only
in the country but also in the world.
They were divided into four broad
categories – Classics, Post-war
Classics, Roadsters and Exotics. The
classifications were in line with the
international system where all pre-war
cars are Classics, as against Vintage
ones. The Roadster category was done
in line with Cartier’s Roadster range.
The oldest car on show was a 1913
Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost that is still
with the same family that bought it
originally. Other single family owned
DECEMBER 2008 Auto India 71
In focus
cars included the Best of Class winning
1924 Rolls-Royce 20hp of Arvind
Singhji of Mewar Udaipur, the 1947
Packard Clipper of Maharaja Gaj
Singhji of Jodhpur, the Rajmata of
Jaipur’s Jaguar XK120 and her stunning 41/4-litre Bentley, and the Gondal
royal family’s Mercedes-Benz 300SL
and Jaguar XK 150.
Some of the participating cars had
interesting histories. Like the 1936
Auto India DECEMBER 2008
Daimler Double-Six. This car was one
of three made for the use of the King
of England. This particular one was
shipped to India for the use of King
George V, whose visit was cancelled
later. Another car with Royal British
connections was Dr Mallya’s 1928
Mclaughlin Buick. Made for the use of
the then Prince of Wales in Canada,
this car was to have been us by him
when he visited Calcutta but this visit
was also cancelled.
Other notable entrants were the
three 1931 Pierce Arrows of the
original six that were displayed at the
1931 Princes Convention in Delhi.
These cars featured conventional
round headlamps, as against Pierce
Arrow’s usual headlamps which some
said made the cars look sad, and thus
would not have sold in India.
The Exotic category - showcasing
DECEMBER 2008 Auto India
In focus
Indian rebodied cars with the somewhat unique requirements of their
princely owners– was an unusual but
welcome display. A number of
rebodied cars were shown including a
wooden boat-tailed Rolls-Royce 20hp
and a Rolls with a body specially made
to carry the Udaipur Princely State
cricket team! But top honours in this
category were taken by another
20hp, one with hand controls, built
for the late Maharana of Udaipur,
who was handicapped.
To judge such fabulous cars at an
International level Concours, requires
Concours level judges. So Pebble
Beach judge Simon Kidston was roped
in to head the panel of judges, which
included a mix of automotive experts
and celebrities like Imran Khan. Some
88 Auto India DECEMBER 2008
of the notable judges who travelled to
India especially for this event wereH.R.H. Prince Michael of Kent, Sir
Michael Kadoorie, Prof. Gordon Murray
of F1 fame, Prof. Peter Stevens,
Yasmin Le Bon, Mark Stewart, James
Lindsay and car-fanatic and Pink Floyd
drummer Nick Mason. The master of
ceremonies was Alain de Cadenet.
Despite their experience and wide
international exposure the judges
were stunned by the cars on display.
All of them took great pains to study
the cars. They spoke at length with the
owners and found out all they could
about the history and uniqueness of
each car. What left them quite astounded was the fact that so many
cars were single-owner cars passed
down from generation to generation.
DECEMBER 2008 Auto India 89
In focus
They were also most impressed by the
unique alterations made to cars for the
special requirements of the owners.
Where else in the world will you find
shikhar cars, or cars with special
lights, flags and shields to announce
that the head of the princely state was
aboard? And nowhere else can you
find a Rolls-Royce without any leather
and a special fabric interior made
because the ladies of the royal
household used it to go for their
pujas! It was all this that completely
floored the judges.
In the end, the most prestigious
prize on offer ‘ the best of show’ quite
expectedly went to the gorgeous 1939
Delahaye 135MS with flamboyant
coachwork by Figoni et Falachi. One of
the nine surviving cars in the world of
the eleven built in this style, this
Delahaye owned by Maharaj Dalip
Singh of Jodhpur has had a unique life,
including being exchanged for a Willys
Jeep! Yes, Maharaj Dalip Singh’s elder
brother the Maharaja of Jodhpur
owned it originally. He liked younger
brother Dalip Singhji’s Jeep and is
believed to have asked him to send it
across and he gave him his sports car
(the Delahaye) in exchange! This can
only happen in India.
90 Auto India DECEMBER 2008
The highly exclusive event also saw
Mumbai’s celebrities and stars turn up
in their Sunday best. Jackie Shroff was
there as a participant and visitors
included Shahrukh Khan, Yuvraj Singh,
Koel Purie, Minisha Lamba, Bikram
Saluja, Nisha Jamval, Queenie Dhody
and Shobha De, amongst others. The
Cartier Concours d’Elegance event has
provided a much-needed boost to the
fledgling classic car movement in
India. With only a handful of prestigious prizes on offer and completely
unbiased and expert judging by the
highly qualified foreign judges, the
most deserving cars were rewarded
with a number of the usual suspects
going home empty-handed. But even
most of them gracefully accepted the
decision of the judges. What everybody welcomed was the international
exposure their cars were awarded and
the absence of the petty politics that
dog almost every other show or event
in India. Most participants and visitors
also appreciated the work and effort
that had been put into some of the
better cars. Many also felt that this
event is sure to raise the standard and
quality of restoration as every classic
car owner will now be vying to win an
invite to and a prize at this event. The
organizers, who were overwhelmed by
the response, are also keen to stage the
show again after two years. “We have
only scratched the surface and got cars
mainly from the northwest. Another 60
cars should not be a problem, and with
international entries also expected, the
Indian collectors will have to up their
game,” says Manvendra.
Cartier, we have begun the countdown to 2010!
Cartier Concours d’Elegance Results:
Best of Show: 1939 Delahaye 135MS –
Maharaj Duleep Singhji of Jodhpur
Best of Class:
Classics: 1924 Rolls-Royce 20hp –
Arvind Singhji of Mewar
1st runners-up: 1935 Rolls-Royce Phantom
II Continental – Amirali Jetha
2nd runners-up: 1930 Lancia Dilambda Hemant Kumar Ruia
Post-war Classics: 1952 Cadillac Coupé
Deville – Diljeet Titus
Exotic: 1923 Rolls-Royce 20hp - Hand
Control car – Dharmaditya Patnaik
Roadsters: 1949 Healey Westland –
P. P. Asher
Judge’s Awards:
Preservation: 1950 Jaguar XK120 –
Rajmata Sahib of Jaipur
Resurrection: 1949 Bentley Mark VI Nishant Dossa
Designers: 1937 Daimler DB18 –
Viveck Goenka
Ladies: Jaguar SS100 – Jackie Shroff
DECEMBER 2008 Auto India 91

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