Cartier Concours d’Elegance and Magnificent Motorcars of the Maharajas
Story by Gautam Sen & Photography by Makarand Baokar
Into its fourth edition, the Cartier Concours d’Elegance, other than managing to gather some of India’s finest historic vehicles, has contributed immensely to the betterment of the classic car and bike movement in India.
Alternating between the cities of Bombay and Delhi, the latest Cartier concours—held in mid-March—was at the sprawling Jaipur Polo Grounds in central New Delhi. As many as 80 cars and 19 motorcycles were competing in nine classes for cars and three classes for motorcycles, with 21 trophies to vie for.
With well known international figures such as FIA President Jean Todt; leading hotelier Sir Michael Kadoorie; classic car expert Simon Kidston; Sandra Button, Chairwoman of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance; and racing veterans Giacomo Agostini and Ricardo Patrese, the judging should have been without any controversy…yet there were some surprises.
Three of the most remarkable cars at the Cartier show went home empty-handed, including a 1936 Lanchester Straight Eight, one of just six specially built Lanchesters by marque-owner Daimler for the Maharaja of Nawanagar and Prince Albert (later King George VI of Britain). The other two included an elegant Saoutchik-bodied Hispano-Suiza H6B, from 1925, which used to belong to the Maharaja of Mysore, and a very stylish Jaguar XK140, from 1953, with star-studded history, now owned by Shomenath Roy Chowdhury.
But most weren’t surprised when the 1933 Minerva Type AL of Delhi-based collector Diljeet Titus won the Best of Show. Its sheer elegance and rarity value—just eight are known to survive against a production run of fewer than 50—made the Minerva a serious contender, as did the fact that the car had undergone a four-year-long restoration by Manvendra Singh Barwani. Barwani is both a prominent restorer and dealer of classic cars and also the curator and the organizer of the Cartier event since its inception.
Four of the seven entries by Bombay-based classic car collector Viveck Goenka won trophies: an immaculately-restored 1948 Hindustan Ten (the first model of a car with an Indian marque badging), which won the Indian Heritage class, a 1950 Indian-assembled Fiat 500C that won the Piccolo Fiat class, a fabulous 1961 Imperial Crown Southhampton—the runner-up in the Fabuleux Fin section for fin-tailed American cars from the post-war period—and a flamboyant 1938 V16 Cadillac. All four were testaments to the quality workmanship of Goenka’s state-of-the-art restoration set-up in Bombay.
A very rare (one of two surviving) American Moon 6-42 from 1920 won two trophies, one for runner-up for pre-war American classics (behind Goenka’s V16 Cadillac), and another for best restoration. Owner Shrivardhan Kanoria’s efforts to preserve a car that has been lying with the family for some three decades, was most impressive.