Cartier's "Travel with Style" Concours d'Elegance is all about remembering and celebrating automobiles which have seen history pass before their eyes, while catering to individuals who have an astounding passion for cars. Here's a report of the 2019 edition
By: Veronique Poles, Luxury Lifestyle Fashion Consultant
Posted on: March 7, 2019
In India, ‘6’ is considered a lucky number, as it allows everything to be smooth and free flowing. That is exactly how the sixth edition of the renowned Cartier “Travel with Style” Concours d’Elegance went!
The sixth edition took place in the land of Maharajas, more specifically in Jaipur, Rajasthan. And what better venue than Rambagh Palace, the ‘true jewel’ of the pink city, for this prestigious and exceptional vintage automobile show?
History in context
The Rambagh Palace, originally built in 1835, used to be the residence of the Jaipur Royal Family. Extravagantly decorated with hand-carved marble jaalis, sandstone balustrades, cupolas and chhatris, and elaborate Mughal Gardens, it was the perfect conjunction between regality, history, culture and art for Cartier’s Concours d’Elegance which is one of the world’s top-rated and ranked concours.
A nostalgic atmosphere was prevailing in Jaipur, back to the era when Maharajas were meant to personify power, which was sometimes also shown by their princely passion for luxury cars, which were purchased in fleet quantity.
Those cars, very often designed according to the specifications of their owners, were status symbols used during royal ceremonies, rituals, and for another ruling passion: hunting.
Maharajas with their eccentricities, exuberance, and search for rarity established themselves as the new creative patrons of European high designs! They were leading patrons of European manufacturers, and in particular the Maharajas of Patiala, who were the first to import cars in the 1898, followed by many more wonders which were “haute couture automobiles” with their custom coachwork, spectacular curves and flamboyant chrome.
With such historical context of automobiles and luxury, it’s not surprising that Cartier, 10 years ago, came to India with the inception of Cartier “Travel with Style”, bringing India to the forefront of the Concours d’Elegance tradition, much in the style of France’s Retromobile and USA’s prestigious Pebble Beach concours.
The 2019 story
This year’s edition was hosted by Mr. Christophe Massoni, CEO Cartier Middle East, Africa, and India, and curated by the Mr. Manvendra Singh Barwani, who also serves as a Judge at the Pebble Beach concours. Ms. Sophie Doireau, Managing Director of Cartier in UAE and India, was also present. The iconic event was held in the presence of His Highness Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh of Jaipur, HH Princess Diya Kumari of Jaipur and Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur.
The chief judge for Cartier “Travel with Style” Concours d’Elégance 2019 was Mr. Simon Kidston, known around the world as a multilingual commentator and columnist, historic car consultant and entrepreneur. The world’s leading designers, successful industrialists, arbiters of taste and knowledgeable collectors of classic cars were part of the impressive and international judging panel of Cartier “Travel with Style” 2019. Among them were HRH Prince Michael of Kent, Sandra Button, Sir Michael Kadoorie, Jean Todt, Simon and Yasmin Le Bon, Lorenzo Ramaciotti, Stefano Domenicali to mention few of them.
They applied a very specific set of criteria, focusing on the vehicle’s condition, in terms of restoration, including the number and percentage of parts that are genuine or reproduced according to original specifications, and noting any non-authentic elements as well as superfluous or redundant decorative addition.
Master of Ceremonies Mr. Alain de Cadanet enchanted the audience during the award ceremony, narrating the story of each beauty, either connected with the Palace of Jaipur or of its own. The love affair of the Royal family of Jaipur with cars is quite well-known. Maharani Gayatri Devi is known to have been very passionate about cars.
Regaling with stories
In this edition, Cartier “Travel with Style” showcased three cars of Maharani Gayatri Devi, including the last car that she drove till the age of 75: a 1968 28 0S Mercedes Saloon, now with owner Sudhir Kasliwal; a 1947 Super 8 Buick Convertible which also won the award in the category of Best in Class – post-war Classic American and currently owned by Mr. Dinesh Lal; and a 1951 Red Cadillac SERIES 62 Convertible whose owner is Vikram Singh.
The Maharaja of Jaipur received his guests in this Cadillac which was also used by Jackie Kennedy during her visit to Rambagh Palace! This car has received much fame as the great Maharani Gayatri Devi, the Queen of England, and Jacqueline Kennedy, all have sat in this car!
The ‘Ford Thunderbird’ class exhibited the 1960 Ford Thunderbird Convertible. This car, with ‘Jaipur 1’ number plate, has a fascinating story. There was a film made by the Ford Motor Company in 1959, when they bought two cars that they traveled the world over with to Jaipur. There is a picture of this car with the previous Maharaja of Jaipur sitting on the elephant and the gentleman from Ford sitting in the car. Then the Ford official gets out of the car and they both change their vehicles! This gentleman from Ford gets on the elephant and Maharaja sits in the Ford and goes away. This is how the Ford Motor Company gifted this car to the Maharaja and is currently owned by His Highness Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh.
For this edition, 86 classic automobiles from nine distinctive classes and 26 motorcycles from three signature classes, from the esteemed stables of India royal patrons and noted private collectors, were featured.
In 2011, Cartier “Travel with Style” Concours d’Elégance had introduced both, the Preservation class, that showcases original unrestored cars, and the Indian Heritage Class, highlighting early Indian built cars. These two classes have since seen an increase in popularity. The Indian Heritage class in particular has become very popular, giving a new lease of life to cars built in early independent India, and saving them from perishing. These cars are now seen as genuine collectables.
The 2019 edition highlighted a very significant mode of transportation in India, and created a new category: the “Pre-war transportation class”. Trucks and buses, with a very Indian character, have played an important part in moving goods and people in this vast country.
This unique experience was a delight for every one. Celebrities and royals socialized with automobile collectors, restorers, and the crème de la crème of the Indian society. This elegant gathering enjoyed mingling over lunch and high tea, clicking selfies next to all those vintage automobiles, which are unparalleled jewels part of the rich heritage of India!
Since the first Cartier Concours d’Elégance in 2008, the number of restorers in India has increased, which is a major change in comparison with other countries. The growing interest and success of this Concours d’Elégance in India is seeing increase in demand for participation in this prestigious and internationally recognized event.
From now to 2021’s next rendezvous, the challenge is open!
Veronique Poles is a luxury lifestyle fashion consultant based in Mumbai, with more than 15 years of extensive experience with luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Givenchy and Waterman/Gillete Pen Company just to mention a few. Bespoke creations, however, are her first love.