The Royal Indian Car Conclave on the Beach!
Sounds incongruous this but wait there's more! When you are talking about the world's most prestigious classic car concours d'elegance, you have to understand that the venue for the last 62 years has always been the greens on the 18th fairway of the golf course on the Californian seaside resort. And as was the case of most of our Indian royalty who more often than not would indulge in holidaying on the continent in the heat of the Indian summer, this time round the US beckons with a completely nostalgic fervour.
It is all about luxury and movement combined, about trappings of a kind where Indian clientele ruled the roost, at least in the first half of the last century and this reign threw up some of the most stunning, and not to say exquisite automobiles the world has ever seen. While the automobile may have got going in India courtesy a handful of Parsi diehards in Bombay and Poona, as the two cities were known then, the big boost to automobility in the land came thanks to our Maharajas and their innate quest to show each other up, in a nice and non-violent manner of course! Cars became the weapon to prove a point, about power and pelf, prestige and standing and in such a scenario the car makers and the coachbuilders had a field day.
It was not just about Rolls-Royce which survived the tumultuous period between the two world wars thanks to the largesse of Indian royalty but the fact that we also got a taste of the aesthetic when some of the greatest car stylists wrought their craft on stunning one-offs for our rajas, maharajas, nawabs, thakor-sahibs, et al. The Italians had yet to make their mark but then there were names like Mulliner, Park Ward, Barker, Hooper, Windover, Figoni, Saoutchik, Le Baron, who were the initiators of the art form to embellish the hordes of Daimlers, Napiers, Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Hispano-Suizas, Isotta-Fraschinis, Pierce Arrows, Cadillacs, Buicks, Lincolns, and many other makes which our royals invested in. And this investment was top notch, the quantity of the quality was mind-numbing in its entirety and the legends which sprung up in the automotive world have become a by-word for luxury, sophistication, technological prowess and one-upmanship.
After independence, the socialist clampdown on thought slammed the brakes on the profligacy of the royals to a great extent when it came time to splurge on cars and other items of conspicuous consumption! Many royals couldn’t keep what they had and many great cars became easy pickings for the unscrupulous. And lest it be said, dominating this breed of unscrupulous were the goras who raided the royal garages time and again in the unregulated 1950s, ’60s and part of the ’70s and made away with some of the richest automotive treasures that had an Indian connect.