Yohan Poonawalla Talks About His Love For Cars

By IANSlife Features
New Delhi, Sep 19 (IANSlife) Leading industrialist Yohan Poonawalla scooped up major awards at the Salon Prive Concours d’Elegance in the UK, one of the world’s leading automotive events with a jury of esteemed judges.

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Poonawalla’s trio of award winning automobiles, include two Maharaja cars shown in Britain for the first time in 70 years and a Rolls Royce that served as the transport of Queen Elizabeth II.The awards include the Duke of Marlborough Award and the Most Exceptional Coachwork award for a 1949 Bentley Mark VI4-light Saloon and a 1927 Rolls Royce TwentyHP respectively.The awards represent the rich automotive heritage of India as well as the strength of the industrialists collection which featured diverse and historically significant cars.

The Yohan Poonawalla Collection is the result of Poonawalla’s passion for cars.The collection, an ever-growing one, with cars added sporadically is a mix of everything — spanning from early cars to modern cars.

All cars are treated equally and each vehicle is unique with its own story to tell.However, there are a few cars which are very popular and are known very well around the world — such as the Rolls-Royce Phantom II which was owned by the Speedster Sir Malcolm Cambell; the Maharaja of Panchkote’s 1937 Phantom III; the Mysore Bentley which was fondly called the ‘Rhubard & custard car’ owing to its colour scheme; and the 1939 4¼ Derby Bentley owned by the son of the last Nizam of Hyderabad.

Winning the top honours, the prestigious ‘Duke of Marlborough Award’ was Poonwalla’s 1949 Bentley Mark VI, fondly referred to as the ‘rhubarb & custard car’ for its bright red and yellow colouring and cream leather and piped green upholstery.Originally ordered by HH the Maharaja of Mysore, Sir Jayachamaraja Wadiyar, reportedly the richest man in the world after the Nizam of Hyderabad, the car was personalised with special features, including plaques and shields in solid silver and 24k gold, and an illuminated plaque on the centre of the front of the roof engraved with the royal coat of arms of Mysore.

In an exclusive conversation, IANSlife caught up with the industrialist to speak about his collection and love for cars.

Read Excerpts:

Q: At what age did you realise collecting cars was your passion and then went on to take it as a serious hobby?

A: From an early age, I was extremely passionate about cars.My first car was a Gypsy which was gifted to me in 1989 when I turned 18.During my childhood, I had been greatly influenced by my parents and families automobiles which left a lasting impression on my mind.

Q: Would you say that you collect cars that not only stand out for their vintage and pedigree but also cars that have a history and a legacy?

A: Personally, for me, a car is more than just its appearance.Whilst the design and performance play a key role the aspects which draw my interest are the bespoke features, and pedigree — an insight into the past owners of the car and the events the car was a part of are a few of the factors that drive my decision.

If the automobile narrates a story for itself, that definitely piques my interest.

Q: Of the several collectors’ vehicles you own, which is closest to your heart and why?

A: My collection is a mix of early cars to modern cars, the collection has them all.Marques and makes on display from around the world exhibit the different stages of development in the world of automobiles, from the dawn of motoring to the present day.

Each vehicle is unique owing to its features and has its own story to tell, hence all cars are treated equally.However, there are a few cars which are very popular and are known around the world — such as the Rolls-Royce Phantom II which was owned by the Speedster Sir Malcolm Cambell; the Maharaja of Panchkote’s 1937 Phantom III; the Mysore Bentley which is fondly called the ‘Rhubarb & Custard car’ owing to its colour scheme; and a 1939 4¼ Derby Bentley owned by the son of the last Nizam of Hyderabad.

Q: Do you get attached to any of your daily use vehicles or is the special place reserved only for those in your collection?

A: Each car is special and unique, hence they all have a connection or a special place and bond with me.

Q: Tell us a little about the three award-winning cars 1949 Bentley Mark VI, 927 Rolls-Royce Twenty HP by Barker,1979 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI?

A: The three award-winning cars include the opulent Bentley Mark VI which was delivered new to the Maharaja of Mysore with several bespoke features such as flag posts, coat of arms and regalia such as shields of 24k gold and silver.Originally ordered by HH the Maharaja of Mysore, Sir Jayachamaraja Wadiyar, reportedly the second richest man in the world after the Nizam of Hyderabad, this car was personalised with special features, including an illuminated plaque on the centre of the front of the roof engraved with the royal coat arms of Mysore.

The second winning car is an exquisite Rolls-Royce twenty tourer which started life as the company’s demonstrator or trials car and was subsequently owned by the Nawab of Sachin.The car is an elegant four-door tourer in black and was used for state ceremonial and touring purposes.

Its unique features include ivory colour painted controls, Stephen Grebel hunting lights, dual windshield with twin aprons, the Sachin State flag mounted on the radiator, the Nawab’s monogram hand-painted on doors, and an unusual set of 3 spare wheels.Both of these royal cars represent the rich automotive heritage of India.

Lastly, the third-winning car was acclaimed as ‘The Ultimate Phantom’ — The Rolls Royce Phantom VI was the transport for Her Majesty Queen during her visit to Sweden in 1983, it was also used on several of her state-visits over the years.The opulent limousine was built to royal specifications with luxurious interiors, velvet carpets, curtains, flag masts, cocktail cabinet in the division, clock on division rail, reading lights, vanity mirrors, electric rear seats, air-conditioning and an alluring black over burgundy colour.

Q: Over the years, or in your youth, can you recount one absolutely crazy thing you might have done in a car, and looking back you can’t believe you could have done such a thing?

A: I remember in the early 2000’s driving off to Bombay at 2:30 a.m.for breakfast at a hotel near the International airport with Michelle and a few friends and then driving back to Pune straight after that.

Q: Customisation is what really counts when it comes to collectables?

A: I have a particular interest in cars with significant pedigree, for example, who were their past owners, what events and actions a car was part of etc.

These vehicles often came from the manufacturer with customisations chosen by their original owners which make them unique and special.For example, my 1949 Bentley Mark VI, which was awarded the prestigious Duke of Marlborough Award, was originally built for the Maharaja of Mysore and came personalised with features, including solid silver and 24k gold plaques and shields.

Q: Any other collector you admire and why?

A: All collectors must be admired however big or small or whatever may be their budget for their passion and enthusiasm towards this wonderful hobby.

(IANSlife Features can be contacted at [email protected]

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