The 21 Gun Salute Concours d’Elegance 2020, a celebrated vintage international car rally, that took place in Delhi over the weekend, was truly an extravagant affair with over 125 classics on display. The showcase is meant to establish India as a motoring tourism destination, but the jury is out on whether it will succeed or not. Among the participants was Yohan Poonawalla, an avid car enthusiast and vintage car collector. Poonawalla won ‘Best in Show’ title for his 1949 Bently, which earlier belonged to the Maharaja of Mysore. Other winners included Arjun Oberoi’s 1947 Indian Cheif 1200 Sportsman motorcycle for ‘Best in Motorcycles’, and Dhananjai Singh Khimsar’s 1959 Chevrolet Impala, for ‘Preservation Class’ category.
Three motor cars owned by leading industrialist and renowned collector Yohan Poonawalla won major awards at the Salon Prive Concours d’Elegance at Blenheim Palace, UK, one of the world’s leading automotive events. The cars were evaluated by esteemed jurors from the International Chief Judge Advisory Group and included two cars owned by Maharajas and a Rolls Royce that served as the transport of Queen Elizabeth II. The awards represent both the rich automotive heritage of India as well as the strength of the Yohan Poonawalla Collection which features diverse and historically significant cars that have won critical acclaim in international circuits.
Winning the top honours, the prestigious ‘Duke of Marlborough Award’ was Yohan Poonwalla’s 1949 Bentley Mark VI 4-light Saloon by Hooperfondly referred to as the ‘rhubarb and custard car’ for its bright red and yellow colouring and cream leather and piped green upholstery. Originally ordered by the Maharaja of Mysore, Sir Jayachamaraja Wadiyar, reportedly the second 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 Page 1 of 3 gold, and an illuminated plaque on the centre of the front of roof engraved with the royal coat arms of Mysore.
Yohan Poonawalla’s 1927 Rolls-Royce Twenty HP by Barker (pictured above) was awarded the ‘Most Exceptional Coachwork Award’. The car started life as a Rolls-Royce demonstrator and trials car, was subsequently owned by the Nawab of Sachin, HH Haidar Muhammad Yakut Khan. 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. Also winning an award was a majestic 1979 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI Limousine by Mulliner Park Ward which was used by Queen Elizabeth II on several occasions. Motoring historian & Concours consultant Mohammed Luqman Ali Khan stated, “PGH 116 was the transport of Her Majesty during her state visit to Sweden in 1983. It was also the flagship demonstrator and press car for Rolls-Royce Motors and was acclaimed as ‘The Ultimate Phantom’. Reacting to the success of the cars, he added: “It is an absolute privilege to see these fabled maharaja cars back on UK soil.
Their recognition today on a world stage is a testament to the ever-increasing popularity of the storied and historic automobiles of the erstwhile Maharajas. Commendable is the zest with which India’s motoring legacy is being preserved by such dedicated collectors”. The three cars come from the Yohan Poonawalla collection which is based in Pune and is the labour of love of the family – Yohan, his artist, businesswoman, and philanthropist wife Michelle, and children Tania and Zayan, who have both taken to motoring.
Commenting on his award-winning cars Yohan Poonawalla said: “I am delighted to see the cars do well in a global contest. They represent the rich automotive heritage of India and this is indeed a proud moment for all involved. This would not have been possible without my family’s complete support, and my entire team’s dedication and hard work. I am happy to showcase these cars here in Britain amongst the finest cars in the world.” Salon Prive Concours d’Elegance took place at Blenheim Palace from 1-5 September 2021. Now in its 16th year, the event welcomes leading international car owners, enthusiasts and experts to celebrate the rarest and very best automobiles in the world. Chief Judges from the ICJAG include Nigel Matthews, Ed Gilbertson, James Wood and Keith Bluemel amongst others.
Yohan Poonawalla is one of India’s leading car collectors known for his special liking for Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and Ferraris. The Yohan Poonawalla Collection, built passionately over many years, houses some of the most exotic and important motor cars in the world, showcasing various marques from all eras. His expansive Rolls-Royce collection includes an eclectic mix of vintages, classics and modern bespoke models, regularly shown in international Concours events. His wife Michelle Poonawalla is an acclaimed artist and philanthropist. The couple lives in Pune with their children Tania and Zayan who have taken up motoring at an early age.
Yohan Poonawalla’s Bentley Mark VI won the ‘Best in Class’ award at the RREC (International Club for Rolls Royce & Bentley Enthusiasts) Concours d’Elegance in the UK. Receiving the ‘Rob Emberson trophy’ from the REC Chairman David Wyld, owner of the ‘Mysore 1’ Yohan Poonawalla said “I am happy the car was judged as the finest in its class from a line-up of very impressive Bentleys.
I see this as a testament to the dedication and passion of my hardworking team and would like to thank everyone involved with this car”. The royal families of pre-independent India were huge petrolheads, and since the dawn of automobiles, many bespoke units made their way into the royal families of India.
One such luxurious car was a Bentley Mark VI now owned by billionaire industrialist Yohan Poonawalla, which is named ‘Mysore 1’. The ‘Mysore 1’ participated in the Annual Rally & Concours d’Elegance organized by the International Club for Rolls Royce & Bentley Enthusiasts – the largest gathering of Rolls-Royce and Bentley motor cars in the world – and competed in Class 10 of the contest. The event was held at the Burghley House located near Stamford, known as England’s greatest Elizabethan House, between July 1 – July 3, 2022. The Mysore 1 went up against a collection of beautiful Bentleys and emerged victorious in the class.
Commenting on the success, Concours consultant and curator of the car Mohammed Luqman Ali Khan said, “I feel privileged to have been part of this journey and to have presented this historic car to the judges. Being adjudged as the best in a class by the REC, in the face of such stiff competition, is indeed commendable and that pronouncement, makes this extraordinary car; one of the best and most important Bentleys in the world” The Bentley Mark VI – chassis B-294-EY in particular – was then owned by the then second richest man in the world, the Maharaja of Mysore.
The car was coach built by Hooper & Co for the Maharaja in 1949 and had a whole host of bespoke features like illuminated shields and plaques in 24k gold & silver, coat of arms on doors, flag staffs, cabinets, and folding trays, and cut glass toiletries set with silver tops. Its colorful scheme gave it the nickname “the Rhubarb & Custard car”. Post being built, the car was photographed in front of the Hampton Court Palace, before making its way to India. 73 years after being photographed in front of the Hampton Court Palace, the Bentley Mark VI ‘Mysore 1’ was taken back to the scene for an iconic before and after photograph a day after the event. The car’s final outing will be a visit to Crewe, the home of Bentley Motors Limited and the place of the car’s birth, before making its way back to India. The ‘Mysore 1’ has previously also won the ‘Best of Show’ award at the 21 Gun Salute Concours d’Elegance and also the prestigious ‘Duke of Marlborough Award’ at Salon Prive and is one of the highlights of the billionaire’s collection.