The allure of vintage beauties

Henna Rakheja, March 20, 2015, DHNS

As far as the eyes could see, there were vintage beauties (cars and bikes) parked in the sprawling area of Jaipur Polo Ground. Though Delhiites have become acquainted with the vintage car rallies that happen of and on, the fourth edition of ‘Cartier Travel With Style Concours d’Elegance’ was an event that provided a platform to not just showcase the vintage cars and bikes in India, but also celebrate the Indian automobile history


“I have to represent to the world what India has to offer,” says Manvendra Singh Barwani, the historian and expert who curated the show and picked each car, keeping in mind the class that it was required to represent and how well it had been restored in the period.

Barwani explains with an example, “I chose two-door cars in the Pre-War American Classics. These were specially made right-hand drive to be exported in India. While many would think why I did that, these were the only ones that could have been picked up.”   

In between the 10 classics, it would have been confusing for someone documenting the history of Indian automobile to relate each to its period, but the judges rose to the occasion. What impressed them most was the quality of restoration of vintage automobiles. “My wife and I came to India in 1978 for our honeymoon,” said Prince Michael of Kent GCVO (chief judge for the event), “since then the standard of restoration in India has gone up.
You can’t tell the difference if a vintage car has been restored in England or India. People in your country have more patience than in England and therefore keep working on old machines till they are restored.”

His thought is shared by most other judges in the panel. Among this panel, Yasmin le Bon mentions the relevance of stories behind these machines. “I met the owner of one of the roadsters who has the car not just as a showpiece but also brings it to his daily use, such as while going to the golf club!”

When it comes to the history behind them, each car or bike has its own identity. A 1940 Sunbeam Talbot placed amidst the Pre-War European Classics has a Kashmir number plate, arousing curiosity.

“Only 216 models of this kind were produced, out of which only four have survived in the world. This one particularly, belonged to Maharaja Hari Singh of J&K who especially ordered a convertible

so that he could wave to his subjects,” informs Rajwant Singh Grewal, the present proud owner.

At Metrolife’s request, Dharmaditya Patnaik opens the roof of his 1959 Chevrolet Impala (in Post-War Fabuleux Fin class) convertible and the loud red colour of its interiors speak of the car being American!

“I bought this from a trader in Lucknow four years ago and it was restored in six months,” says Patnaik who tries to “Restore one car every year.”   
All stood with bated bre­aths, waiting for the prize to be announced. Diljeet Titus took to the steering of his 1933 Minerva and all eyes followed it.

“This car belongs to the Raja of Mahmudabad and was with their family for several generations,” informed Titus.
So, what made him buy the car ? “Its designs and art decor impressed me,” he says sounding hopeful that he will win atleast one award.  

Minutes later, his prized possession didn’t just win the prize for the class it represented but was also awarded ‘The Best Car of the Show’.

It is difficult to believe that all these remain in our country, somewhere, covered to not arouse curiosity and brought out mainly for such events.

“It is for Cartier to decide how important these shows are for Indian automobiles,” says the curator, sounding not very confident of another edition. Will these beauties be never seen again, together?

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