This past summer, Motor Cars of the Raj was one of the featured classes at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The class included cars owned by provincial princes and their native royal families from the days when British ruled most of India.
During the concours, Pebble Beach presented its Lorin Tryon Trophy for contributions to the hobby to His Highness Manvendra Singh Barwani, an Indian automotive enthusiast and historian and organizer of his country’s own concours d’elegance.
India’s collector car culture will be featured again February 27 when Osian’s – Connoisseurs of Art stages what it claims to be the nation’s first live auction of vintage and classic automobiles, with 38 vehicles on the docket.
“We hope you will enjoy this automotive feast, as the best of engineering and design, speed and cool, heritage and functionality, combine to open up a new transparent market for Historical Vehicles,” Osian’s head of historical vehicles, Gautam Sen, is quoted in the auction house’s announcement.
“With more than 8,000 vintage and classic cars still existing in India that cannot be exported (under current government regulations), the market potential is rather vast,” he added.
One goal for the sale, said Neville Tuli, Osian’s founder and chairman, is to “destroy the ‘cash’ economy mindset as Osian’s did over two decades ago with Modern and Contemporary Indian Art (auction).
“It is a great opportunity, as there are many die-hard enthusiasts and collectors of vintage and classic automobiles in India, waiting for a new credibility and structure, a few even braving imports at the unbearable 240 percent Import Duty, which will disappear as the government recognizes the archaic nature of such a deterrent, especially as it has no ‘Infant Industry’ justification existing today.”
Tuli was in his early 30s when he founded Osian’s in 1997 as an art auction house, and the sale of the 38 collector cars will be held in conjunction with the company’s auction of Indian Modern Fine Arts. Osian’s also maintains an online library and gallery of Indian arts, cinema and culture.
“India’s first live automobile auction promises to be an exciting start to giving greater transparency, financial credence and a deeper historical insight to the world of historic vehicles in India, as enthusiasts and experts warm up to the idea of openly buying and selling automobiles so as to deepen or modify one’s collection and interest, and in the process deeper integrate the living automotive heritage into the fabric of daily Indian life,” the company said.
“The auction also hopes to act as a catalyst and barometer to the realistic values and appreciation of historic vehicles in India, as has been experienced throughout Europe and USA, as well as ignite the excitement of all enthusiasts, across age, background and gender, to take a renewed look at the pleasures of experiencing, owning and enjoying a historic vehicle, one that has been evaluated and described correctly by experts.”
Among the cars on the docket are a 1947 Jaguar Mark IV, a 1927 Rolls-Royce Twenty, a 1948 Bentley Mark VI, and an all-original 1934 Cadillac Series 20 7-passenger Imperial sedan. But the auction also offers a 1952 Fiat Topolino, 1957 Dodge Kingsway, 1961 Wolseley 15/60 and a 1961 Hindustan Ambassador Mark I.
Pre-auction estimated values range from as little at $5,660 for a 1971 Fiat 1100D to as much as $425,000 for the 1927 Rolls-Royce.
The auction preview opens February 15 with the sale February 27 in New Delhi.
The auction catalog can be viewed at Osian’s website.