The Cartier “Travel With Style” Concours was held March 12, 2011 in New Delhi, India.
Royalty from India and abroad, a philanthropist, Formula One, sports car and aircraft interior designers, a former supermodel who still turns male heads with her daughter, a singer, a French actor, a British newspaper editor, a trio of Americans – two industrialists and a professional sports franchise owner and a construction equipment manufacturer descended upon New Delhi not very long ago, to judge the Cartier Travel with Style Concours 2011 at the city’s Jaipur Polo Grounds as connoisseurs of cars, beauty, taste and design.
The panel of judges also included a few who were back for a second knock, like HRH Prince Michael of Kent, patron of the RAC Foundation and The Brooklands Museum Trust, Gordon Murray of McLaren F1, Rocket and Brabham fan car fame, Peter Stevens (Lotus Elan, Esprit and the Jaguar XJR-15 designer) as well as Yasmin Le Bon, the former supermodel and wife of Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon with daughter Amber in tow. This time however there were two judges from Pebble Beach, John McCaw and William ‘Chip’ Connor who judged the Post-War Classics, along with Bryan Ferry, Olivier Martinez, Lapo Elkann, Marc Newson, Geordie Greg and David Clark.
The first Cartier “Travel with Style” Concours d’Elegance in Bombay in 2008 brought in a new type of vintage and classic car events in India. Earlier and even today, events were localised – Calcutta had its own annual ‘have-car-so-participate’ event (sponsored by a fading local newspaper) as did Bombay, New Delhi, Bangalore as well as other Indian cities. The Cartier Concours has much higher standards of eligibility and judging being an invitation-only, exclusive event, thus it brings together the best cars in the country.
Cartier has had links with India from several years ago when Jacque Cartier visited India in 1911 to showcase his Rue de la Paix line to Indian royalty. In 2008 that link was renewed with Cartier setting up shop in India and organising the first ever Cartier “Travel with Style” Concours d’Elegance in Bombay to celebrate. The coveted Best of Show award went to a magnificent 1937 Delahaye Roadster by Figoni et Falaschi and owned by Maharaja Duleep Singhji of Jodhpur.
While the first Concours in Bombay saw cars participating in four categories and vying for four special judges’ prizes, the 2011 edition had 56 exotic (some not so) cars gathered at the Polo Ground vying for ten awards from seven different categories – Classic Class, Classic Rolls-Royce Class, Jaguar Class, Roadster Class, Post-War Classics, Indian Heritage and Preservation. Of these four were new for the Delhi edition – the Indian Heritage Class which included cars that were assembled in India after Independence between 1946 to 1959 and featured a Fiat Millecento, a Hindustan Fourteen and a Standard Vanguard, the Preservation Class which featured ‘as found’ unrestored cars in their original paintwork and upholstery like a Steyr Typ 220, a new Rolls-Royce subdivision of the Classics class for pre-1939 Rolls-Royce cars and a special Jaguar Class.
At an event like this one expects the cars to be of a very high standard which implies, in theory at least, that any of the cars on display could drive away with the Best Car of the Show Award for 2011. In truth, the Best of Show award is given to an exceptional car that is extremely rare and has a very compelling aura about it.
At the 2011 Cartier Concours d’Elegance, the judges found it extremely difficult to bestow that award on anything but the Nizam of Hyderabad’s 1911 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Limousine with a Dome Roof, resplendent in yellow and currently owned by HIH Princess Ezra of Hyderabad. The car was ordered by Mahbub Ali Khan, the 6th Nizam of Hyderabad. Unfortunately the Nizam never saw the car because he passed away in August of 1911 and the car was dispatched in December 1911 to reach the port of Bombay in March 1912. The brief given to Barker & Co was to have a raised seat with a canopy and panoramic glass. Hence the car was called the Throne Car. In 1937 the Silver Ghost was modified to reflect Rolls-Royce styling of the day and this work was carried out by the Railway Workshop of the Nizam’s Guaranteed State Railway. A hundred years later at the Cartier Concours, the car is back in its 1911 form, restored by Manvendra Singh of Barwani.
My personal favourites included the Diljeet Titus-owned Stutz Series M Dual Cowl Speedster, the only one in India. It was bought by the Maharaja of Baria in Gujarat when he saw it at the Earl’s Court Motorshow in 1929. In 1952 the car was bought by a person from Godhra and has been there ever since, narrowly escaping the not-too-recent Gujarat riots. Ranjit Mallik’s Phantom 1 Boattail Tourer also caught my attention (and Prince Michael’s too, for he took it for a spin after the event). Other standout cars in my view were Rajiv Kehr”s rather European-looking1934 Packard Super 8, Dharmaditya Patnaik’s Series 1 E Type and the Daimler Dart roadster from Badnore while in the Preservation class my vote went to the Steyr Cabriolet Typ 220 owned by Harshvardhan Singh of Dungarpur.
The judges thought a little differently though and TT Raghunathan’s superlative 1937 SS Jaguar was the best of the Jaguar Class while the Roadster Class went to a magnificent 1959 Daimler SP250 (Dart) owned by V P Singh of Badnore and driven in from Jaipur. The best of the Indian Heritage class was a 1955 Fiat 1100-103 Millecento owned by Owais Moshin Kidwai. The Post-War Classics had two runners-up, an American 1956 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible owned by Sudhir Kasliwal and a European 1958 Mercedes 300D owned by Mr K.C. Anand but the best of the class according to the judges was the 1947 Cadillac Series 62 owned by Amal Tanna. The Preservation Class went to another American car, a 1959 Chevrolet Impala owned by Mr Sukhwant Singh while the Resurrection Cup went to a 1929 Mercedes Nurburg owned by Viveck Goenka. The Ladies Choice was the 1928 Lancia Di Lambda owned by Mr Prahlad Agarwalla and restored by Sanjoy Ghosh while children unanimously voted for Yadupati Singhania’s 1925 Rolls Royce Phantom 1 seven-seater Hunting Saloon.
The Cartier Concours is testimony to the fact that Indian motoring heritage owes a lot to the Rajas, Maharajas and Nizams of the past, thanks to their taste for the finer things in life and the means to acquire them too. Manvendra Singh Barwani, an automotive restorer cum historian and curator of the Cartier “Travel with Style” Concours d’Elegance, pointed out, the existence of special custom body styles like ‘shikaar’ or hunting cars and ‘purdah’ (curtain) cars for ladies make the Indian vintage and classic cars very unique compared to what exists in Europe. Asked to compare the two Cartier events, Prince Michael of Kent said that while Bombay had been a big success and it was difficult to think how the organisers could improve on that, they had indeed still managed to have an improved show in Delhi. The Polo Club had much more space and so there were many more cars that had not been seen before.
One hopes the Cartier Concours d’Elegance becomes a regular feature in India as the vintage and classic car movement certainly needs all the help it can get. One has to mention however that more than one eyebrow was raised when the announcement was made that the Nizam of Hyderabad’s car had won. Yes, it was a very rare car with an interesting history and restored very well to boot, but – the restoration was carried out by the curator of the event and the restoration work was funded by the event sponsor. Think of that what you will.
Cartier Travel With Style Concours 2011 – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture and description)
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Cartier Travel With Style Concours 2011 – Winners
Best of Show
1911 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Dome Roof Limousine (the Throne Car) owned by HIH Princess Ezra of Hyderabad
Runner up — 1947 SS Jaguar owned by Mr Laxmi Raman
Best of Class — 1937 SS Jaguar owned by Mr TT Raghunathan
Best of Class — 1959 Daimler SP 250 Dart owned by Mr V.P. Singh Badnore
Indian Heritage Class
Best of Class — 1955 Fiat 1100-103 Millecento owned by Mr Owais Moshin Kidwai
Post-War Classics Class
American Runner up — 1956 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible owned by Mr Sudhir Kasliwal
European Runner up – 1958 Mercedes 300D owned by Mr K.C. Anand
Best of Class — 1947 Cadillac Series 62 owned by Mr Amal Tanna
1929 Mercedes Nurburg owned by Viveck Goenka
Judges Choice (Ladies)
1928 Lancia Di Lambda owned by Mr Prahlad Agarwalla
Runner up – 1930 Stutz Series M owned by Mr Diljeet Titus
Best of Class – 1938 Bentley 4.25 litre overdrive MX Series owned by Mr Jaiswal
Best of Class – 1959 Chevrolet Impala owned by Mr Sukhwant Singh
Classics Rolls-Royce Class
Runner up — 1937 Rolls-Royce 25/30 h.p. owned by Roshni Jaiswal
Best of Class — 1911 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Dome Roof Limousine Owned by HIH Princess Ezra of Hyderabad