Antique car collector MADAN MOHAN spoke to SAATVIK JHA about the tedious restoration process.
When I was a child, I was madly in love with a 1928 Dodge Victoria Six owned by the Maharaja of Khetri, From there my passion began. “Then I restored my first car, people used to admire it a lot. Kids used to love it since they never seen such a car. The curiosity gave life to questions like what model it is and the price range. It is my moral responsibility to showcase these cars to the younger generation so that they can see and learn the evolution of motoring from 1886 to the present day” It is what inspired the business- man to devote his life to vintage cars. In the past 17 years, he has amassed 321 old cars and even erected a home for them in the form of the National Motor Museum, Gurugram. In the early 2000, when Mohan began indulging in his hobby; the motor restoration industry in India was practically non-existent. Even today, India lacks the expertise required to adjudge motor shows, the likes of which are hosted by Mohan’s trust. Evidently; motor restoration is an industry where lndia is yet to shake off its post-colonial moorings.
“Being a collector was the beginning of a vision.Due to my extensive tours across the globe, I found that there’s a huge scope for motoring tourism. It’s a very niche segment and people who own these cars are filthy rich – it’s an expensive hobby which requires a lot of money to purchase and maintain them,” The antique’s collector went on to set up the 21 Gun Salute Heritage and Cultural Trust. He has been organizing international vintage car rallies in the national capital for the past seven years. “My travels inspired me to do this event on a global stage where individuals could view the gleaming vintage automobiles. Moreover, the average expenses of vintage automobile collectors is over USD 28000 benefiting the Indian economy.
The Ministry of Tourism is supporting the event to spread awareness across the world: With a lack of Indian expertise in motor restoration, Mohan faced an upward climb in establishing a culture appreciative of the craft. On the subject, he asserts, “In India, very few people understand the importance of preserving automotive heritage. There were no major restorers in India when I began my journey of restoring these cars. It was a difficult phase for me. Luckily, international travel had exposed me to the export trade in India I sent my elder brother who was Director HR in my company, to do a three year course at Penn State University about restoring cars: “I’m a first-generation entrepreneur’; says Mohan, who has inherited nothing from his forefathers. My education was in the field of commerce and all that I had earned was invested on the vintage beauties. Economic liberalization in India has been criticized for the growth of inequality. Yet, Mohan’s tale represents the benefits of having open access to international markets and expertise. Using inter-national resources, this businessman has converted his wealth into the foundations of India’s motor restoration industry. He contends, “Other countries understand the importance of preserving this heritage. If we do not preserve them now future generations would never get a glimpse.These cars have brought back our glorious past retaining the state they were in at the time of manufacturing. I want to do my best and preserve the best for the future,”
Since his initial pursuit of the industry, the market in India has grown. The veteran claims that there is now an adequate degree of technical support for restoring vintage vehicles within India. On this note, he says, ‘There are few youngsters from Bangalore and Pune who have done courses abroad and are now approaching this avenue. Worldwide, the restoration car business is worth 100 billion dollars. It will be a big business in the forthcoming years. In UK alone, more than 30000 people get direct employment from restoring cars:’ Such abounding growth was not with- out its hiccups, In 2016, the National Green Tribunal outlawed all vehicles over 10-years-old from plying in Delhi. Implemented in an effort to combat vehicular emissions, these environmental regulations hindered Mohan’s restoration efforts. Given the Indian emphasis on culture, the irony, in Mohan’s view is, “some people sitting in the courts do not understand the importance of motoring heritage. New regulations haven’t impacted the cost of the restoration but they made it difficult for people to actually execute the job resulting in loss of interest. This caused various problems but in the end but the government was compassionate to om cause and had given permanent exemption for these cars. Also, the support from government has made it easy for people who want to get their cars restored.”
On February 17, hundreds of rare and premium vintage cars will participate in the 21 Gun Salute Drive – a drive of Lutyen’s Delhi, The rally will flag off from lndia Gate and feature historic points. Mohan said, “The 5th edition of the 21 Gun Salute International Vintage Car Rally and Concourse show is probably the only Indian event where cars will be coming from across the boundaries of the Indian subcontinent:’ Set to be a cultural extravaganza, the showcase in Gurugram will feature elegant classical dance performances ranging from Kathak, Katbakali, Bharatnatyam, Odissi to various folk dances. On the subject of Introducing the contrast between vintage cars and traditional dance forms, Mohan believes, ‘We can’t ignore om great heritage and culture if we want to promote motor tourism in the entire world. Our idea is to actually combine both – the great Indian heritage, dance forms and music with the legacy of cars. People who’ve come from world over have praised it highly, making it an extraordinary event:’
Donations towards the cause of spastic children amounting to nearly 15 lakhs from international visitors along with contributions by a few Maharajas last year was another feature of these rallies. “This year, we will raise funds for them, For the past six years, we have been raising funds for the cause of spas- tic children. Confirmed participation from US, Australia, Singapore, Italy and UK is a sure indicator of people’s generosity. International adjudication in assessing the quality of the restorations assists a fair market evaluation of the vintage cars themselves. Mohan observes, individuals who charge money from owners and are responsible for restoration, they believe they’ve done the best work. But when an international judge comes and says ‘No, this is not the right thing and there are better ways to execute this task.’ . It’s not about the car but more about the quality of restoration which is being judged by our international guests.
Exclusive reliance on experts from abroad exposes the nascent nature of India’s motor restoration industry. Mohan comments, “In our first six events, Indian jury members were also present. But, we later realized that unbiased judging is only possible with disinterested jury. This year, only the aforementioned countries will be participating. Mohan expresses the desire to grow this list in future years. “In 2020, we are organizing an enormous rally where the cars will cover 4000 kms, starting in New Delhi. Our aim is to organize 10 rallies a year by 2022, with all cars from international participation. The trust does not make light of this promise. Mohan elaborates on the judges, “There’s Christian Kramer coming from Germany who is the chief juror, having judged a lot of high profile events. Apart from Kramer, there’s Adolfo Orsi, the grandson of the man who started Maserati. Then we have Quinna Louwman and James Wood who own Holland’s largest vintage car museum. Jochen Mass, a famous Formula One driver, world champion would also be present. Ken Gross is coming from the US as a judge.”
Courtesy: The Pioneer