Cartier recently hosted the second Travel with Style Concours in New Delhi. Our thoughts? Blessed to see these classic cars, because you won't get to see them again in the near future!
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: April 10, 2011
It was a warm sunny afternoon when I walked up the stairs of the Jaipur Polo Grounds in New Delhi and a beautiful vista opened in front of my eyes. The huge Polo field was scattered with beautiful, colourful vintage cars in various positions and places. People were milling around the red-rope-protected cars with drinks in their hands as they moved around admiring the cars, stooping down to read the details and stopping here and there to get pictures clicked with whichever car caught their fancy. It was the Cartier ‘Travel with Style’ Concours.
You could see young fashionistas decked up in flowy dresses and contrasting heels moving around gossiping and nursing their chilled cocktails in the hot weather. The older women, Princesses and Maharanis, were wearing chiffon sarees and pearl strings, much in the style of Late Maharani Gayatri Devi, and moving around in groups. Most of the men were dressed in formal shirts and trousers, protecting their faces with broad-brimmed hats.
It was a vivid scene indeed – something which you don’t usually get to see in India. You would rather fancy yourself in an idyllic, sun-kissed Italian town. The only thing missing was a nearby sea…
After doing my round of the fantastic cars – all in different colours and interesting shapes – I sat down with a tall glass of juice and roved around my eye to see if I could discern anyone I knew and to just lazily observe the happenings.
One thing was for sure. The yellow, regal looking 1911 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Dome Roof Limousine, owned by HIH Princess Ezra of Hyderabad, was getting the maximum attention possible. Guests kept coming back to it to admire it once more, while the better-known celebrities jumped the rope to get a quick Page 3 photo with the car.
The 1911 Rolls Royce had been commissioned by Mahbub Ali Khan, Nizam VI of Hyderabad. Known to be the wealthiest man in the world at his time, he was extremely generous and affectionate towards his people. Always dressed simply, Lord Curzon once asked him that why he was not wearing any jewels. Mahbub Ali Khan is said to have gestured to his nobles and remarked: “There are my jewels – how can I wear them?”
But Mahbub Ali Khan was as much a lover of jewels as much as the other Maharajas in India. Cartier says proudly that it had made superb gold cuff links for the Nawab.
Quite sadly, Mahbub Ali Khan was not able to even glimpse the Rolls Royce he had ordered himself. He died on August 29, 1911 in Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad. The Rolls Royce had been dispatched on December 1911 and received in the then-called Bombay in March 1912.
The body of the car was built by Barker & Co with a raised seat under a canopy – hence the moniker ‘Throne Car’. Accentuating the royal look was brocade and silk upholstery and the canary yellow coachwork embellished with silver trim and door handles. Though owned by one of the wealthiest man in the world, it was still used for the most special purposes only. It has clocked less than 360 miles in its 100 years – and I was quite privileged to see it move a short distance more during the Cartier Concours, when it drove up to claim the prize of ‘The Best Car of the Show for 2011’.
There were many other beauties at the show as well. The pride of the place was occupied by the 1939 Delahaye 135 MS, owned by Maharaja Duleep Singhji of Jodhpur, and the winner of the 2008 Cartier Travel with Style Concours which had happened in Mumbai.
Another interesting tale, and quite a fearful one, is that of a 1930 Stutz. Stutz was a luxurious brand akin to Rolls Royce, and was made in America during the height of coach-built luxury car-era. This particular 1930 Stutz, features a unique 4-passenger Speedster body-style with a dual cowl, and is the only known Stutz in India.
It was bought by the Maharaja of Baria (Gujarat) who used it for special state occasions and sometimes for long distance travel when holding court in remote villages in his area. In 1952, the car was bought by a gentleman in Godhra (another area in Gujarat), for just Rs 3,000, from the Maharaja’s garage. The gentleman was very proud of owning and driving the ex-royal car. Later, due to unavailability of tyres, the car was locked up in a garage for a few decades, till it was sold again after the gentleman’s death.
During the 2002 Godhra riots, troublemakers set fire to the property which was housing the Stutz, hoping to destroy the ‘big car’. But fortunately, the car had been moved to the new owner’s house just a short while before, and thus saved from a tragedy. The car today is owned by noted car collector Mr Diljeet Titus.
At the second Cartier ‘Travel with Style’ Concours, staged in March 2011, the capital truly experienced the mystical opulence and elevated elegance of Indian Maharajas with a private viewing celebrating automotive design and coach building of India’s belle époque. However, this year, to make it exciting and a more world-class Concours, every car had to be in running order and make one circuit at the event, which turned into a truly wondrous spectacle for all the high-profile guests present.
Rana Manvendra Singh of Barwani was the curator for Cartier ‘Travel with Style’ Concours 2011. Extremely knowledgeable about vintage cars, he scoured the country to get the best of the best creations at Cartier’s doorstep. The event was orchestrated and planned by Conservationist and travel writer Mr Mark Shand, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall’s brother. He was moving around cheerfully, talking to friends, explaining the media, and was altogether jolly that afternoon!
Mr Bernard Fornas, President and CEO of Cartier International, who was present on the occasion, said, “India has had an influence on the creativity of Cartier. We are very close to the country and our relationship goes back to more than 100 years. Cartier Concours d’Elegance is part of the four big concours in the world, and it’s a significant endeavour which takes a lot of effort for us to put together.”
The show strongly reminded me not only of India’s past and present opulence, but also of our creative nature, and our bent towards acquiring things which are especially made for us, as per our taste and requirement. In short, possessions, which are truly unique, exquisite and rare…