THE BLOG

Goodwood Is Glorious But Don't Forget The Real Heyday Of The Motor Car

11/09/2017 12:37

The Goodwood Revival has become one of the biggest historic motorsport events in the world, staged at the spiritual home of British motor racing and attended by sell-out crowds in period dress. The three-day festival takes a step back in time, celebrating the heyday of racing and recapturing the romance and glamour of a bygone age.

The event's attraction is obvious: beautiful cars on the track; tweeds and trilbies, furs and frocks off it. It pays homage to a post-war era when everything seemed simpler and driving was a more carefree experience.

I love old cars, but my interest goes back even further to the pre-war years. I collect vintage cars -defined as any car built before December 1939 - and I have been lucky enough to acquire a substantial collection since buying my first one in 1980.

My first vintage car was a 1938 convertible Mercedes. It was in a terrible condition, with cats living in it and I acquired it for the princely sum of 50,000 rupees - about £9,000 in today's money. It was only much later that I discovered it was custom-built. My first vintage Rolls Royce cost me $3000-$4000 and is now worth about $250,000, but that's not the reason I enjoy collecting them.

My love affair with vintage cars goes all the way back to my childhood. I fell in love with them when I was six or seven years old, growing up in India, and began collecting Dinky toys and Matchbox cars. When I was at college I went to vintage car rallies and, in later years, my wife Anita took part in races and won plenty of them - so it really has been a lifelong love affair.

So, what is the special appeal of vintage cars - why do I find them more satisfying than the classic cars on show at the Goodwood Revival, beautiful though they are? I think it's the simplicity of the engineering, combined with the quality. I have some of the earliest vintage cars to be built, Cadillacs from 1900 and 1902, and a 1906 Rover, brought to southern India by a British tea estate manager, and they are all beautifully designed.

Another attraction is the challenge of restoring a vintage car to its original condition. It's a labour of love which can easily take five or six years, in some cases more than 10 years. It's much harder to find original parts for a vintage car than for a classic car; sourcing them can require a lot of ingenuity, plenty of patience and sometimes a dose of luck too. But that makes it all the more satisfying.

The stories behind the cars are often very interesting too. I have a Bugatti, a 1921/1923 model, which was originally imported into India by a Muslim family based in Bombay, who manufactured umbrellas. They bought it for their son, but he became blind and was never able to drive it. The car was kept in a garage but the roof fell in and the car was badly smashed. It has taken more than 10 years to restore and there's still another year of work to be done; we've put the body back together, now we need to put the engine in. It took three years just to get permission to send the engine to the UK to get it re-built!

My 37 vintage cars are kept in a garage in Delhi and a team of seven mechanics work on them. They are not on public display, but one day they will be. We are planning to build a car museum, which will sit alongside an art gallery exhibiting our collection of Indian art, a hotel and convention centre. It will be a place to mix business and pleasure. Vintage cars have given me so much pleasure over the years and I plan to put my collection in a Trust so they can be enjoyed by generations to come. For me, the pre-war period was the real heyday of the motor car and this is a way to ensure it is never forgotten.

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