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The Taj Falaknuma Palace at Hyderabad saw a fascinating collection of elegant, beautifully maintained vintage cars hand-picked for the fifth edition of the Cartier Concours d’Elegance by renowned Indian automotive historian, Manvendra Singh of Barwani. “For each edition, we try to raise the bar higher by introducing new display categories and elements that augment the visual montage of India’s automotive legacy,” he said.
The event judging was led by HRH Prince Michael of Kent (Chairman) and included Chief Judge Simon Kidston (an authority on heritage automobiles and judge at Pebble Beach), John Fasal (renowned Rolls-Royce historian and expert on Indian Rolls-Royce), Sandra Button (Chairman of the Pebble Beach Concours), Jean Todt (President of FIA), Giacomo Agostini (15-time world champion motorcycle racer), Lord March (Founder of Goodwood Festival of Speed), Prof. Gordon Murray (award winning F1 designer), Peter Stevens (renowned automobile designer), the Hon. Sir Michael Kadoorie (leading industrialist), and Yasmin le Bon (former supermodel).
A 1914 Wolseley 30/40 HP owned by Shrivardhan Kanoria won the Best of Show car prize and a 1947 Indian Chief, owned by Arjun Oberoi, won the Best of Show motorcycle award.
The very special FIVA Preservation Award was also introduced this year. It is a big step forward for the painstaking efforts of Indian collectors. The Américain Aérodynamique Class, which showcased rare cars like the Chrysler Imperial Airflow, Hupmobile Model J and the Cord Model 810, was also an exciting and new category.
Cars that were not competing made up the Exhibition Class. Here, past winners and cars recently imported to India, but restored abroad, were showcased. A gold-plated Daimler 45 HP Special with Windovers coachwork built for Sir Seth Hukumchand was one such car. Refurbished in 1936 in Coventry for $7,000, it was painted gold and had gold plating on all exposed parts. It was reported to be the most expensive refurbishment of its time. A 1912 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Throne Limousine, that won Best of Show in 2011 at the Cartier Concours d’Elegance in New Delhi, owned by the Nizam of Hyderabad was on display too.
A rare addition to the Exhibition Class was the 1910 Wolseley–Siddeley 50/60 HP, owned by H. I. H. Princess Esra of Hyderabad. It is one of 16 examples made. A 1936 Chrysler Imperial Airflow owned by Amal Tanna, and winner of the Américain Aérodynamique Class and the first American car designed using a wind tunnel, also received its fair share of attention.
The oldest known Mercedes in India, a 1914 Benz 8/20 Runabout was present too. It took over two-and-a-half years to restore and the original owners, the same family that still owns the car, have the original bill for it.
Madan Mohan from Delhi has also brought in a stunning and rare 1922 Moon 6-40. It was recently purchased from the grandson of the company’s founder in the USA.
A 1921 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, owned by Yuvraj Kesri Singh of Wankaner won the FIVA Preservation Trophy. The car was originally a tourer by Maythorn and later rebodied by James & Co. of Bombay in 1935 into a more contemporary Tourer. The royal family of Wankaner has always owned it.
A 1947 Indian Chief, owned by Arjun Oberoi, won the prize for the Best in Class Motorcycle - Post War.
Viveck Goenka’s stunning 1957 Hindustan Landmaster Traveller, based on the Morris Oxford Traveller, built by Hindustan Motors in India was the Indian Heritage Class winner. All the wood work on the car was done locally.
There was a line-up of Rolls-Royces that were, as always, a class apart. The Pre-War Rolls-Royce Classic Class award was won by Manu Raman’s 1936 Rolls-Royce 25/30 HP limousine, with Thrupp & Maberly coachwork. However, the Rolls-Royce Grand Prize was taken by Inder Krishnamum’s 1921 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Torpedo Tourer with Barker coachwork. This car was discovered in 2002, locked in the palace garage of Raja Sahib of Korea (currently spelt ‘Koriya’, it was a princely state of the British Empire of India). It is original in every aspect except the paint and upholstery.
With its hidden headlamps and coffin nose, Viveck Goenka’s 1936 Cord was at crowd puller. This car has a four-speed electrically-selectable semi-automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, all in perfect working condition.
Goenka had a total of seven cars on display, the most by any collector at the show. His collection achieved three Class wins, including the prestigious Mark Shand Adventurer Trophy for the Studebaker Conestoga estate previously owned by the Maharaja of Bikaner. This car was used for hunting and has a special searchlight installed.
The prestigious Cartier Resurrection Cup was taken by Mumbai’s Amit Sapre’s 1949 Bristol 400. It is the only known Bristol in Asia, and was built up from almost a bare chassis. Only 487 of these were ever made.
The 1914 Wolseley 30/40 HP owned by Shrivardhan Kanoria won Best Car of the Show. After fading away in an ashram for many years, it was bought by the current owners because they promised to return with the award. The sympathetic manner of the restoration of this 7.0-litre limo was one of the reasons it won. Instead of foam, packing material like coir was used for authenticity; also decades-old leather was also used. It’s Vickers-made straight-six running beautifully also helped their cause.