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  •  Awesome automobiles from the files: Heritage Vehicle Display @ DI

Awesome automobiles from the files: Heritage Vehicle Display @ DI Author:Roshan Choudhury   Posted On:2023-03-28


Sunday, 26 March 2023 witnessed the labour of love and passion as immaculate vintage beauties rolled onto the awaiting lawns of the DI. The Dalhousie Institute (DI) and the Eastern India Motoring Group (EIMG) had come together to organise this most memorable Heritage Vehicle Display.

The venue was bedecked with balloons and colourful buntings under a canopy of little tuni lights, their golden glow reflecting on the polished bonnets and roofs of these motor cars of yore, transporting viewers further into an old-world charm.

Shrivardhan Kanoria, president of EIMG and an eminent vintage car collector/restorer, was behind the wheels, steering the evening’s proceedings with a stylish hat and cool demeanour. He had hand-picked the 75 heritage vehicles on display.

Inclement weather did try to intervene. But the clouds that had rolled in finally yielded to the beauty of the gleaming machines lined up below, taking a detour after jettisoning a few raindrops. The threat was meagre, and the show carried on.

The shining bonnets, classic grilles, painted wheel spokes, plush leather seats - all spoke of great devotion and tremendous love bestowed by the proud owners and carers of these grand beauties.

The heritage vehicles on display were classified in four distinct categories:

  • Vintage and Antique cars – usually manufactured between 1919 and 1930 (vintage) and between 1930 and 1975 (antiques).
  • Classic Cars – usually at least 20 years old
  • Indian Heritage Cars – Indian-make heritage cars
  • Two Wheelers– of vintage or classic periods.

Popularly known as SVK, Shrivardhan pointed out: “This line up is really special, since this is the first time we have as many as 5 Rolls-Royce parked side-by-side for a single occasion. Three are from my private collection. These are all our babies, our labour of love”. His family has been collectors and restorers for over 50 years.

The five majestic vehicles held centre stage, with their grace, elegance and energy. They were –

1923 Rolls-Royce 20HP Sports bought from the Uttarpara Royal family, 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom 1 which took 7 years to restore, 1926 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, an American car with left-hand drive (all from SVK’s collection); 1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom from Azam Monem’s collection; and the 1929 Rolls-Royce from Jaywardhan Kejriwal’s collection, a 2-door convertible acquired from the Darbangha royal family and restored by Rajiv Auto centre.

One cannot talk about Rolls-Royce cars without the spectacularly-sculpted logo, the famous ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ coming to mind. The insignia was more popularly known as the Flying Lady. Mr Monem’s 1937 Phantom had the Kneeling Lady, another iconic version of the Spirit of Ecstasy. It is interesting to note that The Spirit of Ecstasy was born in 1909 when sculptor Charles Sykes transformed Eleanor Thornton's likeness into an automotive icon. By 1911, the Spirit of Ecstasy was gracing every new Rolls-Royce model.

Rajiv Ghosh, vice-president of EIMG, a vintage car aficionado and collector and restorer, shared several of his prized automobiles, including his 100-year-old 1923 Panther Sloper from England, the only one of its kind in India, perhaps in Asia.

The oldest at the show was a 1913 Stoewer owned by Ananda Chaudhury, restored by his father Pratap Chaudhury. The car looked spectacular with the side lights run on kerosene and the headlamps run on carbide gas.

The red-rimmed 1932 Ford V8 at the show was first owned by High Court judge, Justice J.P. Mitter, great grandfather of Rajiv Ghosh. “This car has been with our family since 1932 and has won numerous trophies. She has been an unbeaten champion and often termed as ‘Calcutta’s sweetheart’,” he said with unabashed pride.

“This car was owned by the Governor of Bombay, who imported it in 1937. We bought it in 1950 after India became a republic. It went all the way to London, to the Hooper factory, where the Governor’s red light was removed,” said Azam Monem, sharing a bit of this car’s history,

Impeccably dressed in crisp white dhoti-kurta, Gadai Chandra Dey, proud owner of the 1939 Morris 8, when asked about how he maintained his gorgeous car, quipped: “Kolkata team e amader DD engineer aache – DekhaDekhi engineer”.

Siddharth Swarup, proud owner of a 1947 Wolseley 14, shared, “This car has several special features including backlit logo, built-in jacks, and a small hydraulic pump which can elevate the car for tyre change or undercarriage repairs.” He also showed how his car had special flip-open indicators on the sides. A car truly ahead of its times, the Wolseley featured on the silver screen in Shyam Benegal’s film Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose – the Forgotten Hero. It won the preservation cup at the EIMG Concourz 2022 for originality best preserved.

Swapan Kumar Lahiri’s phenomenal Blue 1948 Plymouth Special Deluxe, also known as ‘Neelu’, was earlier owned by the legendary Hemanta Mukherjee.

Subhajit Kumar, EIMG secretary who was key in bringing EIMG and DI together for this wonderful event, had on display his beautiful 1964 red Standard Herald which has been with him for the last 10 years and has won several rallies and shows.

All the vehicles were spectacular and had their own interesting history and anecdotes. Other noteworthy cars were a  1931 Lancia Dilambda, a 1932 Ford V8, Buicks and Austins. The classic section vehicles, lined up in the parking lot of the Club, comprised 3 Mercedes Benz, two Volkswagen Beetles, a Chrysler and Morris Minor. The Indian classics on view included Fiats, Herald, Ambassadors and a Contessa – all at least 40 years old.

As members and guests ogled and posed with the old crocks, the two-member Velvet Ladder belted out popular numbers, some of them matching the era of the vehicles, adding to the nostalgic and mystic mood. It was quite an experience – many enthusiasts got to see firsthand and at close quarters the magnificent machines they had so far seen in the movies. Added to all this was the opportunity to interact with the owners and maintenance teams.

The Thanksgiving Ceremony:

Thanksgiving mementos were handed out at the end of the display. Persons and organisations responsible for the success of the event were felicitated. The EIMG board, Joydip Sur, editor of ‘Kolkata on Wheels’ and ‘Power Drive’, photographer Deepanjan Sarkar, whose art-work captured the mesmerising beauty of these heritage cars, Ms. Cooper & team for the car line-up and layout of the display, the DI committee for partnering and providing the venue, and journalists from T2, which was associated with the exhibition. One by one, the car owners and maintenance teams were called out to appreciative applause. A few awards couldn’t be given out owing to a drizzle that managed to break through.

The mementos comprised a vintage car trophy specially ordered from Mumbai and a vintage car-themed calendar produced by Titus and Co. The handsome keepsakes and the dinner for the car owners were sponsored by Shrivardhan Kanoria‘s restoration unit, ‘Concourz Restorations’. There were partnerships with T2, Apollo Hospitals, and Exide as well.

As the cars rolled out after the display, going back to their respective garages, members and enthusiasts could not help but wave the proud owners goodbye. Eight-yr-old Tashia Shroff commented she loved her father Vishal’s 1991 yellow Mercedes. “I love this car because it makes me very happy,” reflecting the reactions of all those fortunate to have been a part of the vintage evening.