That vintage sparkle

Shilpa Dhamija | Updated on March 28, 2019

Making heads turn The cream-and-green coloured Rolls Royce Phantom II won the best car award beating 80 other contendors at Cartier Concours d’Elegance 2019

The movers-and-shakers at the Cartier Concours d’Elegance

“This car has been in our family for over 60 years. I grew up with this car. I remember our parents taking us out at night for a drive or an ice-cream as children. We would stick our head out of the sun-roof.” Warm with the blush of a fresh make, the cream-and-green coloured 1935 Rolls Royce Phantom II Continental, shone in the spring sun as its owner recalled fond memories with the ‘Best car of the show’ at Cartier Concours d’Elegance 2019 edition. Amir Jetha stood proudly and protectively by his heirloom while journalists enquired about his faultlessly restored vintage car. “My dad acquired the car in the early ’60s and it is special in many ways. The two-door coupé Continental was originally custom-made for Umaid Singh, the erstwhile maharaja of Jodhpur. It was built by the celebrated Chelsea coachbuilder J Gurney Nutting. Most importantly, it was the single last Continental that was manufactured!“ Competing with over 80 contenders on four wheels, the vintage beauty stood on the Rambagh Palace greens in Jaipur amidst a backdrop of peacocks and canapes being passed around. Wearing tranquil colours and boosting a long hoodline, the streamlined body of the 1935 Rolls Royce Phantom II Continental is impressive with its sweeping belt line, proud stern and flowing fenders.

“It is an all-aluminum body. Although aluminium is a light material, the car weighs almost 2.5 tonnes! There is no pillar in the middle of the car. It is a great car to drive. The engine itself is about 7.8 litres”, adds Jetha. “Rolls Royce Phantom II cars are considered one of the nicest pre-owned Rolls Royces to own. There were maybe about 1,500 to 1,600 Rolls Royce Phantom II manufactured. Out of them about 280 were Continentals, which are higher performance cars making them more desirable,” explains Jetha. “From the little that we know about its first few years,” he continues, “the Maharaja never really used this car. It very quickly went from Jodhpur to Reva. It spent about 10 or 15 years in Reva and was acquired by a collector out of Mumbai. My father met him a few years later in early ’60s and bought the car from him.”

Old faithful

To keep a 60-year-old masterpiece radiating like it was never old, calls for constant care and upkeep. “My dad was always very finicky about keeping the car in good condition. There was a time when managing imports to India was difficult and we couldn’t even import simple things like tyres. The size of tyres on these cars was not manufactured anywhere in India. I remember we had to use rubber tyres that were meant to be used on animal-driven vehicles. Those tyres had a speed limit of not more than 20 to 25 kmph. We had no option but to use them to make sure that at least the car keeps running.” Jetha’s car went through a detailed restoration in 2012 in an attempt to bring it back to its original standards. “Over the years, the car had taken a beating. We did a lot of research to figure out the exact specifications, such as its timeline of manufacture, down to the colour scheme, the kind of seats, headliner and all other details to restore it,” he says.

The vintage Continental has done India proud even at the most celebrated Concours of all, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance hosted in California.

In 2018, it won the best car award in a sub-category dedicated to vintage cars of the Maharajas. “We also won the Lucius Beebe Trophy for the most elegant Rolls Royce at Pebble Beach in 2018. It is given to the most elegant Rolls Royce at the gathering.”

All stars

The Cartier Concours d’Elegance 2019 edition hosted several vintage cars from the erstwhile royal families of India and three cars of Gayatri Devi as well. Including the last car that she drove till the age of 75— a 1968 28 0S Mercedes Saloon now with owner Sudhir Kasliwal. The event also recognised vintage two-wheelers. The best Motorcycle of the Show was awarded to the 1940 Indian Junior Scout owned by Sandeep Kapoor. The 2019 edition was the sixth edition of Cartier Travel with Style and was curated by Manvendra Singh Barwani from erstwhile royal family of Barwani, Madhya Pradesh. Concours d'Elegance was judged by a host of vintage car experts lead by Simon Kidston, a historic car consultant whose clients include the designer Ralph Lauren. The first ever international Cartier Concours d’Elegance was hosted in India at the Royal Western India Turf Club in Mumbai in 2008.

Shilpa Dhamija is the founder of

Published on March 28, 2019

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