Country's Love for Vintage Cars

Hey!!! Just look at that 1916 Ford T, and the 1928 Plymouth following it….oooohh! 1935 Rolls Royce is silently following them and heyyy! How can I miss the 1959 Buick ...., the list is endless as you watch a Vintage car Rally in one of the cities in India where events like these are a common sight at least once in a year. Here one is bound to instantly fall in love with these all-time beauties that leave you in total awe gasping for breath. Definitely India has some of the finest collection of Vintage cars to flaunt.

India's fixation with automobiles dates back to more than a century, when the first automobile to be brought to India was in Bombay (now Mumbai) by Mr. Forster in 1897-98. Mr. Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata was the first Indian to import a car in 1901. In the following years, the Maharajas, Rajas, Ranas, Nawabs, Mirs and Nizams, who once ruled over 565 princely states in India, acquired some of the finest cars in the world. The Maharajas who used to purchase such exotic and exclusive cars from British, European and American car makers, mainly before India's independence in 1947 are now considered the precious gems in the crown collection of Indian vintage cars.

Stylishly designed vintage cars have now become a prized collection. Association of Vintage Cars holds regular rallies in several parts of India. These rallies have been instrumental in inculcating people's interest in vintage cars. One would find all old beauties like Rolls Royce, Mercedes, Jaguar, Lincoln, VW Beetle, Plymouth, Cadillac and Ford competing in these events. These rallies are very popular in Jaipur, Jodhpur, Chennai and Delhi. The Jaipur Vintage Car Rally occurs annually in the month of January. Here winning is not as important as the exhibition of the pride and joy of these vintage car owners.

Few places where the beauty of vintage cars may be witnessed are Garden Hotel, Fatehgarh Palace and Raj Bagh in Udaipur, Umaid Bhawan Palace and Ajit Bhawan in Jodhpur, Khimsar Fort in Rajasthan and Wankaner Palace, Dowlat Vilas Palace, Orchid Palace (Gondal Palaces) and Auto World Vintage Car Museum in Gujarat which display a massive collection of cars by Pranlal Bhogilal. Not to forget the personal collection of Maharaja Gaj Singh II of Jodhpur who is one of the aficionados of vintage classics.

Tourists can have an unforgettable trip by experiencing Rajasthan in a Vintage car. It is expected that the state of Rajasthan is likely to be the first state to have a 'Vintage and Classic Automobile' policy that would add a new dimension to its Heritage Tourism. The Indian Heritage Hotel Association (IHHA) has requested the Chief Minister for a policy on Vintage and Heritage Cars within the state to enhance the tourism experience. Since these cars are not officially registered, it is estimated that Rajasthan state has nearly 300 vintage and classic cars. Some of these cars are owned and displayed for tourism at 22 heritage properties in the state, but due to lack of a policy, the owners can't really use them for tourism.

Across the globe most developed countries have a proper policy that encourages restoration of Vintage and Classic Cars. These cars substantially enhance the heritage ambience of a place and promote tourism. Besides, these vehicles are more a piece of art and antiques, history and culture and provide valuable aesthetics and create National wealth. Hardly seen on roads, these vintage beauties are driven at much slower speeds, under safe conditions and by experienced drivers only.

Fortunately, there are no known cases in the history of automobiles in India where a heritage automobile has been involved in an accident of any consequence. Earlier, different states owned far more heritage cars that were exported pre-1970s when the government enforced a total ban on the export of cars manufactured till 1940, classified as Vintage because they are classified as 'National Heritage'.

Till some time back, vehicles manufactured between 1941 and 1960, labelled as 'Classic', could be taken out only after sanction by the Chief Controller of Imports and Exports (CCIE). But now with restrictions being lifted on the import of pre-1950 cars into India, a lot of automobile enthusiasts are awaiting a policy wherein the government facilitates use of heritage cars for tourism.

The passion continues …