Vintage Car Collectors

Mithila Mehta

Meet the passionate tribe of vintage car collectors

He eats, sleeps and drinks cars. He has an impressive collection of 225 vintage cars and 60 motorcycles along with carriages and palanquins. He also has over 70,000 books, journals and catalogues on cars, meet Dr Ravi Prakash, secretary of the Karnataka Vintage and Classic Car Club, “I have always been passionate about cars. In fact, I started off with rally racing, after which I gradually moved into collecting. I plan to open a museum dedicated to automotive history soon,” says Prakash.

Fragments of history

There’s something about vintage cars that makes them rather special. They effortlessly span the worlds of luxury and history.

Bangalore-based Christopher Rodricks, who collects and restores classic cars, says “A classic car is such a head-turner when you drive it on the streets; there is tremendous novelty value. The most luxurious car in my collection is a 1933 Ford V8 Delux.

It is a Phaeton body style touring car, which was owned by the Maharaja of Rajkot.

“Everything about this beautiful red and black car spells indulgence. The car also has special accessories such as external horns, parking lights and wind wings, which were originally custom fitted.”

Prakash’s collection includes exquisite cars from every era—Edwardian, Veteran, Vintage as well as classic cars, right from an 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen (the first gasoline-powered automobile), to Jaguars, Rolls-Royces, Mustangs and Mercedes. He finds it difficult to pick a single favourite. “Every car is like a volume of history; keeping alive what we have left of the past. It is a story by itself as well as a piece of art. What fascinates me is, how many of today’s modern automobile inventions can be traced back in time and seen in the cars of yesteryear. It is amazing how they thought of everything those days!”
Eye on India

Collecting classic and vintage cars has caught on in the past few decades. “Initially, no one really knew much about classic cars in India, but awareness has gradually been increasing owing to the various vintage car rallies that we organise. Additionally, people have a greater disposable income and realise that vintage cars are a good investment,” Rodricks reveals.

Being a collector of the old-world cars in India comes with its share of opportunities and challenges. “The Maharaja vintage cars, tailored to the opulent taste of the royal families, are exclusive to India, making them extraordinarily special to collectors,” says Mushtaq Jamal, an aficianado of these enticing models, describing the unique opportunity in these lands.

“You really need to hunt for spare parts in the country. Restoring cars to the standards that are seen internationally is a touch of a challenge,” says Prakash.

Fuelled by passion

According to Rodricks, “Collecting these wheels of elegance is fuelled purely out of passion for the cars. They are not easy to collect and require tremendous investment in terms of time, effort and money. It’s not always about the monetary profit—it’s more important to possess something you truly love.” Interestingly, he finds it is difficult to accurately valuate his collection of these historic gems, “the valuation keeps changing as it is essentially determined by demand and supply.” Prakash believes that pouring money into an emotionally fueled investment is similar to spoiling a loved one. “Without question, you willingly indulge in these collections purely for happiness, no matter the price tag.” Over the years, his fleet of antiques has greatly appreciated in value. “This is a very notional thing simply because I have not sold a single car from my collection in years.”