• Column: Siddhraj Singh EP-9

Witnessing the best of the best at the Pebble Beach Concours

Picture this: You are at a traffic light waiting for the light to change, when you hear a distant roar. Your ears stand up sensing it’s something exotic, something with a lot of horsepower. The roar becomes louder and you realise it’s not just one, there are multiple cars. You crane your neck to catch a glimpse as the roar draws close. It’s low, very red with an unmistakable shape – a car of million dreams, the Ferrari F40. The driver blipping away as he downshifts to a stop, right next to you. Behind it are two more, both in red. Before you can comprehend, a hellacious burble turns your attention to the opposite side of the road as a loud Shelby Cobra, with fat race tyres, rolls past menacingly, its 427 cubic inch V8 shaking your very core as it rumbles by. All this may sound like an opening of a video game but for a week in late August, it is the norm in Monterey, California.

Monterey is home to Pebble Beach, the famous golf course that lends its 18th fairway to arguably the greatest classic car show on the planet, the Pebble Beach Concours. I’ve had the privilege to go there on multiple occasions and it never ceases to amaze with the quality of the cars. It is truly a pilgrimage for classic car lovers. Thanks to the popularity of the show, multiple shows, auctions and vintage races take place through the week, leading up to the Concours. For a week the entire collector car community in the world is concentrated in Monterey, which on other days is just a small holiday town on the coast, about two hours south of San Francisco and five hours north of Los Angeles. The reason my column perhaps sounds like a brochure for what is known as ‘Car Week’, is because I believe all car lovers should go there at least once. The hotels are expensive that week and so are the tickets to get into shows, but it is eye opening. You get to see the best of the best and it truly lives up to all the hype around it.

At this year’s Car Week I finally got to see a very special ‘ex-India’ car up close, a 1926 Daimler 45HP Salon Cabriolet by Barker. It is popularly known as the “Star of India”, a name it got when it was first exported out of India back in the 60s, as it features an almost mirror-like, highly polished nickel plated body work. It’s a very special car that was made for the Maharaja of Rewa and features external seats for attendants to sit and fan the Maharaja or the idol of the deity often taken in it. It was NOT built for tiger hunting as its description would have you believe. In western countries every Indian maharaja car is conveniently attributed for tiger hunting, a popular sales tactic! The auction company selling the car has written its description very diplomatically, insinuating it was meant for hunting. Common sense will tell you that sitting in a large mirror is not the best hunting tactic. It ended up selling for $880,000 (approx ` 7 crores). I do hope it was some wealthy Indian or NRI who snatched up this extremely unique car with great provenance and will rectify all the minor modifications made to it over the years, and perhaps bring the car back to India, even if temporarily.

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