Posted on 23 April 2013 by Chris
Written By: Claus Mueller
Photos: Property of Claus Mueller
The trip to India started in pebble beach where I met the Maharana fo Udaipur who showed his 1924 Rolls Royce Tourer 20 HP in the Maharaja class. Our conversation ended with the promise that I will come to India and visit His Highness to see the royal collection of classic cars.
Just 7 months later I was on a flight to Dheli. The trip was on such short notice that I had just two weeks to try to arrange some other classic car highlights. Luck would have it that I just came in contact with the right persons.
Diljeet Titus of New Delhi, a lawyer and a famous collector of classic cars responded to my email and so he became the first on my list of this Indian Classic Car Adventure. Just 3 hrs after touch down at Indira Ghandi Airport I rang the bell of his office. With my being slightly late and he being short on time, he was gracious enough to show me his cars and he gave me a lot of good contacts to other collectors on my route to Udaipur. As Mr. Titus is the general secretary of the Heritage Motoring Club of India and well known by his fellow club members. Right from his desk he called a few of them, introduced me and announced my visit fort he next few days.
Titus’ collection of cars, all assembled in a building which in about one or two years will become the Titus Museum of Transportation and Collectibles. I saw not only a Rolly Royce or other British makes but also a lot of American cars as well: Buick’s, Chevrolet’s, a 1959 Cadillac and an Auburn.
Besides all the automobiles I recollect my first mode of transportation, a 1977 BMW motorcycle which was a modified period cafe racer which I still own. I’ve been looking for some time for another bike to fit my “Iron Age Garage.” The Royal Enfield (pictured below) would be a great match. I was surprised to meet two guys in India who are also Royal Enfield enthusiasts. It should be only a matter of time before I receive a special bike from India.
My path touched the Taj Mahal and the ancient palace of Fetehpur Sikri bevor I reached Jaipur where I met some members of the Rajputana Automotive Sports Car Club who is organizing the annual Jaipur Classic Car Rallye and Exhibition which attracted 114 cars last month. At the lawn of hotel Jay Mahal Palace. I just missed the meeting by two weeks – but I was promised to get an invitation for next year. Thanks to Avijit Singh Badnore’s (he runs a hotel in Bundi, just 130 mils south) help I saw a lot of cars and met some really nice and interesting people in the pink city of Jaipur. Again, a lot of American cars here: 1931 Studebaker, 1933 Dodge, 1941 Packard, 1942 Jeep, 1956 Cadillac or 1947 Hudson Super Six, just to name a few. Oh, by the way, there is also the famous Palace of the Winds and the Amber Fort – two very important sights you should not miss if you will be here some day.
Next stop was Jodhpur where I could see all the cars of the collection at the Ajit Bhawan Hotel, India’s first Heritage Hotel. I remember vividly a very art deco Packard Clipper, a nice Ford Model A and a very unusual 1936 Pontiac „Phaeton“ of which I did not even know that it exists.
The royal family used to live in what is now mostly a museum – the very impressive Merangarh Fort. They moved to Umaid Bhawan Palace in the late 1930s. This art deco palace is now also home of the royal car collection of Maharaja Gaj Singh II of Marwar (Marwar means „land of death“). The most impressive car is a Rolls Royce with polished aluminum body. – a wonderful car with just 9000 original miles on the odometer.
The last city on my round trip through Rajasthan was Udaipur with the world famous Lake Palace in the middle of Lake Pichola. Maybe you know the location if you watched the James Bond movie „Octopussy“. Now the incredible City Palace became my home for a week and it turned out to be one of the most spectacular weeks in my life. A rich program of traditional music and dance, a lot of interesting sights, full of religion and heritage and – not to forget – the most wonderful host you can imagine – the Maharana of Mewar. He is the 76th custodian of the Mewar Dynasty which serves unbroken since 734 AD. This makes it the oldest serving dynasty in the world.
The City Palace Complex is the address of two first class hotels of the HRH Group of Hotels, the Shiv Niwas Palace and the Fateh Prakash Palace. Our room faces lake Pichola and the view was just unbelievable.
Now heading to the Vintage & Classic Car Collection of His Highness: The semi-circular dream garage with its forecourt is housed within a greater courtyard, creating a pleasant hideaway from the bustle of the streets. One of the original Burmah Shell petrol pumps is not only still standing, but also in a usable condition. The garage itself was built at a time when the only cars in town belonged to the Royal Family.
The collection is housed in the original Palace Garage, a glorious setting for such a unique and remarkable collection of classic cars. The bougainvillea-coated Garden Hotel and Restaurant, another member of HRH Group of Hotels, is also housed within the elegant complex. This part of the complex used to serve as the quarters of the drivers and mechanics of the royal cars.
This is where I meet again with the bright blue 1924 Rolls Royce 20 HP Tourer which i already know from Pebble Beach. This wonderful car is the centerpiece of the collection but only one of a total of 3 Rolls Royce built in this fashion. All cars are in driving condition and most of them are unrestored and proud of the real patina which seems to tell stories of tiger hunting and carrying around Queen Elizabeth II or Jacqueline Kennedy. Again, mostly European cars (British and German) and a hand full of American iron: nice Cadillac, Buick and a very nice red Ford Model A Phaeton.
The last highlight after all these cars was the Holika Dahan Festival. Three days of traditional Indian music and dance, culminating in the Holi festival of colors. Just incredible!
Two weeks went by too fast and I was more than impressed of the cars and sights I saw and the wonderful people I met. This trip was such an experience that we spontaneously came up with the idea of organizing a very – I mean very! – exclusive classic car „rallye“ through „the Rajasthan of the Maharajas“. This experience of a lifetime will take place in March 2014 (or maybe 2015 if the time is too short for organizing everything). If there are interested parties, please do get in contact with me (Claus) at firstname.lastname@example.org soon because this event is strictly limited to 15 pre war cars only.
All Photo’s Copyright: Claus Mueller
Find out more about Claus at www.Classicmedia.de