Magazine article The Spectator

Classics of the Subcontinent

Magazine article The Spectator

Classics of the Subcontinent

Article excerpt

It is largely forgotten that, until 1954 when the government banned the import of cars, India was home to a vast number of exquisite automobiles.

In 1940 alone, a quarter of all RollsRoyces made were to be found in India.

Such facts have long been buried, along with many of India's past glories -- until now. At the end of October, those lucky enough to receive an invitation will gather at the Royal West Indian Turf Club in Mumbai and have a chance to view the rarest collection of classic cars ever seen. Hosted by Cartier, the 'Travel with Style' Concours is one of India's most eagerly awaited events of the year. It is so exclusive that there is not even a dedicated website, though already the internet is buzzing with tantalising snippets of information.

The Concours will consist of four categories: Vintage Classics, Post-War Classics, Exotic Cars and Roadsters and the Best Car of the Show Award. The identity of the judges alone hints at the event's splendour -- they include Prince Michael of Kent, Imran Khan, Pink Floyd's Nick Mason, Don McCullin, Sophie Marceau, Olivier Martinez, Monica Bellucci and the Earl of March.

Orchestrating the Concours is the Duchess of Cornwall's brother, the travel writer and conservationist Mark Shand. Following the success of the Cartier Elephant Polo Match that he laid on in Jaipur two years ago, Shand has temporarily switched his attention to the motor car. 'Elephants and motor cars are not so dissimilar -- both are means of transport after all, ' he says, twinkling.

Key to him pulling off this ambitious event is Manvendra Singh Barwani, who co-authored a handsome and rigorously researched book, The Automobiles of the Maharajas. Mark and Manvendra have been working in close partnership for 18 months, using all Manvendra's knowledge and expertise to track down the rarest cars from India's remotest corners.

Mark's relationship with Cartier extends back to the time he was in partnership with Harry Fane, selling their jewellery. When Cartier was looking to draw attention to its Indian market, elephant polo was the perfect stylish event to do it and the Concours is his follow-up. Mark and Manvendra aim for 'Travel with Style' to rank alongside Goodwood's Cartier Style et Luxe, the Concorsa d'Eleganza at the Villa D'Este and the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in California. On Saturday night there will be a gala dinner for 130 at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, overlooking the Victorian Gateway to India. …

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