Shine on you crazy diamonds

Srinivas Krishnan | Updated on: Mar 28, 2019
1935 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental

1935 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental

1919 Packard Twin Six limousine

1919 Packard Twin Six limousine

1951 Standard Vanguard

1951 Standard Vanguard

The finest of heritage cars come into the spotlight at the Cartier ‘Travel With Style’ Concours d’Elegance. A report on the sixth edition recently held at Jaipur

“My other car is a Rolls-Royce” is a famous bumper sticker that’s usually affixed to humble, mass-produced cars. In Amir Ali Jetha’s case, his sticker can read “My other car is an award-winning, rare and extremely special Rolls-Royce”. The car in question is a 1935 Phantom II Continental with a magnificent ‘Streamline Coupe’ body built by the famous coachbuilders Gurney Nutting. Originally ordered for the Maharaja of Jodhpur but never delivered owing to vagaries of fate, the car has been with the Mumbai-based Jetha family for several decades now. The last of the sporty, ‘owner-driven’ Phantom II Continentals ever built, it is an exceptional car. A fact acknowledged by the judges at the famous Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance last August, where it picked up not one, but two trophies.

Back in India, at the recent Cartier ‘Travel With Style’ Concours d’Elegance, Jetha’s pride and joy picked up the top honours, by being acclaimed The Best Car of the Show. For those not in the know, a concours d’elegance is essentially a beauty contest for heritage cars. Here, cars are classified across categories and are judged based on various aspects including their overall design, period correctness, appeal as well as their provenance.

The Cartier ‘Travel With Style’ Concours d’Elegance is easily India’s top event when it comes to vintage and classic cars and of a quality that’s at par with other global concours. Held every two years since 2008, the sixth edition was hosted in Jaipur this year and was judged by international names in the fields of automotive, motorsport, fashion, lifestyle, engineering and design. The categories include not just Pre-War and Post-War European and American classics, but an Indian Heritage class as well — this category celebrates independent India’s automobile history. The Jaipur event had three special categories: Thunderbird class, the Sports Cars (1960-1979) class and the Pre-War Classics Transportation category, which showcased various types of commercial vehicles that were plied in India before Independence.

One of the vehicles that stood out in the latter category was Delhi-based Diljeet Titus’ 1933 Chevrolet 1.5-ton Series M bus that once belonged to the Kolhapur royal family who used it to transport their household staff. A clever feature that stood out was a section built into the side of the bus that opened up to reveal a platform as well as all the elements required to make tea on the road, including a stove!

A remarkable car that participated in the Pre-War Classics American category was Mumbai-based Amal Tanna’s 1919 Packard Twin Six limousine. Looking like a well-appointed period drawing room on wheels, the Packard was painstakingly restored, right down to the insignias of the French Governor of Puducherry for whom it was originally built. A 21-year old French woman motor agent called Miss Maynard, who undoubtedly was a pioneer in this business, sold the Packard to him. This unique provenance apart, the Packard Twin Six was a legendary 12-cylinder engine that built the reputation of this marque as the Rolls-Royce of America.

Apart from reputed names, the Jaipur Cartier event had cars from some rather unusual and obscure car brands. This included Nitin Dossa’s 1922 Ansaldo Tipo F tourer, Abdul Hameed Ghani’s 1929 Erskine Model 52 sedan, Madan Mohan’s 1928 Gardner Model 85 roadster and the 1920 Overland Model 4 tourer of Gaj Singh of the erstwhile royal family of Jodhpur.

There were humble cars too. Aniruddh Kasliwal and Dhruv Karki’s two generations of Studebaker Champions reflected a forgotten era when Hindustan Motors used to assemble Studebaker cars at Uttarpara near Kolkata. And so did the Standard Vanguard estate, which was offered by Standard Motor Products of India out of the Madras of those days. Viveck and Zita Goenka’s immaculately restored example, which once belonged to the Maharaja of Bikaner, was superbly turned out, right down to its period accessories.

These were just the few highlights of the 86 vintage and classic cars that were present at the Cartier concours, all of them with many stories to tell, including the effort taken by their respective owners and restorers to bring them back to life and maintain them. What’s also important is that in the last ten years of this international standard heritage car event, the spotlight has finally focussed on India’s automotive jewels and their unique position in automotive history.

The Mumbai-based author writes on classic and vintage cars for national and international publications

Published on March 28, 2019
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