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India may seem an unlikely place to hold a classic car concours d'elegance, given that the country's most famous cartier love bracelet box car is the Ambassador, based on the long defunct Morris Oxford. Yet India enjoyed a golden age of motoring from the turn of the 20th century until the late 1950s.

The first car in India was a De Dion Bouton   graced with the symbolic registration number '0'   which was ordered by Maharaja Rajinder Singh of Patiala in 1892. From then on the maharajas (there were once more than 600) ordered cars by the dozen from manufacturers around the world eager to pander to their every extraordinary whim.

To demonstrate India's wealth of classic cars, in 2008 Cartier staged the first high end concours event in India, complementing the Pebble Beach concours held each August on California's Carmel peninsular and the Concorso d'Eleganza that takes place every spring on the banks of Lake Como in Italy.

This year's Cartier Travel with Style show, held in the gardens of Mumbai's Taj Land's End hotel, attracted about 70 cars and motorcyles. Entries were divided into seven classes, from Edwardian (built before 1919) to Indian Heritage (built in the country between 1946 and 1959). The judges included the Pebble Beach organiser Sandra Button, Prince Michael of Kent (a lifelong motoring enthusiast), Lapo Elkann (the former marketing manager at Fiat), the McLaren F1 designers Gordon Murray and Peter Stevens, the FIA boss Jean Todt, the designer Marc Newson and Sir Stirling Moss.

The Shikar, or 'hunting car', class fielded four vehicles built specifically for sporting outings, and all had remarkable histories. A 1951 Chevrolet pick up truck, for example, was originally owned by Crown Prince cartier pink gold love bracelet Singh of Dungarpur who, legend has it, liked to be transported to the jungle with a bevy of dancing girls on a bench in the back to perform for him in the camp after a day's tiger shooting.

Another shikar, a 1940 Fordson, was used by the Maharaja of Mysore for tracking bison. They used components from three new cars to make the precise vehicle he needed for hunting the imperial sand grouse   a four door convertible with a Jeep style folding windscreen, gun mounts, binocular storage and a game counter.

The Preservation class (for original, unrestored cars) attracted equally remarkable time warp entries, such as a 1930 Rolls Royce Phantom II limousine that had been abandoned in a shed at the palace of Maharaja Udit Pratap Deo of Kalahandi for more than 70 years. Despite its peeling paint, an opaque windscreen and upholstery that spewed springs and horsehair, it was in perfect running order and ended the show as a worthy prizewinner.

Another Rolls Royce in excellent, unrestored condition was a 1927 Phantom I, ordered by the Maharaja of Darbhanga as a 'drinking car' for his Maharini. Disapproving of his wife's penchant for alcohol, he specified the car should be fitted with crystal glasses and decanters so that she could imbibe away from the palace, while being chauffeured around his 2,410 square mile estate.

The outright winner of the motorcycle class was a beautifully restored 1915 Indian that is believed to have been shipped from the United States at a time when all things American were becoming popular among the maharajas. The motorcycle judges   who included the riders Giacomo Agostini and Phil Read   also recognised Colonel Boppanna Shashidhar, who in the space of two weeks restored his 1936 Triumph from a rusting hulk to a machine worthy of any concours d'elegance in the world.

Fittingly, however, it was a modern day maharaja who walked off with the coveted Best of Show prize, for a 1935 Rolls Royce Phantom II Drophead that has been in the family since it was acquired new by the grandfather of the current owner, His Highness Maharaja Gaj Singhji of Jodhpur. Meticulously maintained in unmarked condition, it still carries the decidedly exclusive registration mark jodhpur 1.

Rolls Royces were popular among the maharajas, and the Maharaja of Bharatpur amassed a fleet of them that at its peak is said to have exceeded 200. However, when the firm became complacent and ceased to treat him in the manner to which he was accustomed, he decided to teach its directors a lesson by turning some of the cars into garbage collection vans and circulating photographs of them. Perhaps understandably, there were no Rolls Royce garbage vans to be seen at the concours.

The Maharani Sethu Parvati Bai of Travancore, on the other hand, made rather better use of her 1933 Rolls, having a footstool fitted to accommodate a dwarf to massage her legs while remaining hidden from onlookers.

Such tales are all too familiar to Manvendra Singh of Barwani. He is the man responsible for curating all three of Cartier's Travel with Style shows. Aside from being a prince, he is India's most highly regarded automotive expert. His forefathers have been among the country's most enthusiastic buyers, and his royal connections have given him access to maharajas whose vast car collections have remained intact, often untouched, for up to a century. Indeed, one of the most fascinating aspects of the classic car movement in India is that it exists in a peculiar bubble. In 1956 car imports were banned, making foreign cars a finite resource. Bringing in parts can be a problem, too, and Indian enthusiasts have had to teach themselves how to repair, restore and maintain their collections.

'The event came into being because Cartier has a connection with India that goes back more than 100 years,' Singh says. 'Just as the maharajas were obsessed with buying the finest cars, so they were obsessed with buying the finest jewellery and watches, and they would order Cartier pieces by the truckload. My grandfather imported the first steam powered car seen in India, at the turn of the 20th century, and it has been said ever since that automobiles have been the family vice.'

But perhaps the biggest surprise of the event came with the discovery that the largest private car collection in India belongs to a woman, Chamundeshwari Bhogilal, a demure and enigmatic 32 year old socialite who inherited dozens of Cadillacs, Rolls Royces, Daimlers, Lagondas, Bentleys and Buicks (as well as several other marques) on the death of her father in January 2011. Her father, a tycoon who began collecting cars during the 1960s, famously used one or other of his classics on a daily basis, being driven in them through the chaotic streets of Mumbai. He left the lot to his daughter   his only child   together with instructions that they should be continuously maintained and, most importantly, exercised regularly.

Although they were not included in the competition, Miss Bhogilal exhibited four cars from the collection to the Cartier crowds   a 1937 Rolls Royce Phantom III, a 1956 Mercedes Benz cabriolet, a 1932 Invicta S Type and a 1930 eight litre Bentley.

When asked whether or not she ever drove any of the collection, an advisor politely replied, 'No, sir. Like her father, Miss Bhogilal has people who do that for her.'

Greaves Travel offers tailor made tours to the Indian Subcontinent and provides a 4 night stay at The Taj Land's End, Bandra, Mumbai from 1300 per person, cartier rose gold love bracelet b This includes BA flights, private sightseeing

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