MORE than 80 varieties of vintage cars made their presence felt at the Mercedes-Benz Classic Car rally on Sunday morning in Mumbai. The route from Sofitel Hotel in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) to Worli Sea Face and back, saw some star cars, including the century-old Benz model 8/20 PS Runabout Tourer Car, 1914.
Perseus Bandrawalla, curator of the rally, said that not more than three varieties of any type of car was put on display. “While this was not the grandest display of vintage Mercedes cars compared to the previous four years, it surely had more quality. Every generation of E-class, S-class and SL-classes of the Mercedes-Benz was on display in the rally. Besides, the rally included different body styles of the cars ranging from estate to convertibles and saloons. The most popular Mercedes Benz model cars from the 170V range, considered to be the predecessor to the E-class, also made it to the rally,” he said.
The replica of the first Benz Patent-Motorwagen 1895 was on display. “We also had a 190 SL Mercedes car owned by the late actor Shashi Kapoor. Many cars which were owned by the then Maharajas including the Roadster, 1958, which is the only 300SL in India and is owned by the Maharaja of Gondal, were also driven in the rally,” he said.
Participants from Chennai, Pune, and other parts of the country brought their vintage beauties to the event. One among them is Dhananjay Badamikar, owner of a catering enterprise in Pune, who drove his W123 Mercedes 1984 from Kothrud in Mumbai to attend the event. “I have a collection of almost 80 vintage cars. I ensure I attend as many rallies as possible. I purchased this car recently from Pune, and will drive back in this one,” he said.
For brothers Ramesh Babu and Rajesh Somasundaram, showing their model of Benz 8/20 PS, in the rally in Mumbai was a moment of pride. “It is a family heirloom and we have taken great care to preserve it. The car was ready to use only two years ago and after showing it off at a couple of rallies, we drove it first in the 21 Gun Salute International Vintage Car Rally and Concours Show in Delhi, early this year. Today, we just drove around the premise and did not take the entire route,” said Somasundaram.
Babu and Somasundaram, who are promoters of Fortune Pandiyan Hotel in Madurai, recall the efforts of obtaining the papers of the car. “While we thought that many of the car documents would have been lost in World War II or other events, our elders had preserved much of them. We struggled to get spare parts but we finally made it.” The brothers, who loaded their car onto a truck immediately after the rally, hoped they could showcase it at more rallies.
Chairman and Managing Director, The Express Group, Viveck Goenka brought his popular Mercedes-Benz Nurburg and Unimog to the rally. He displayed nearly nine vintage Mercedes-Benz cars.
Well-known faces at the event included Nitin Dossa, President, Western India Automobile Association; Madan Mohan, President, Vintage and Classic Car Federation of India; Indian racer Sneha Sharma, and Martin Schwenk, MD and CEO, Mercedes Benz India. According to advertising consultant Maneesh Phathak, who joined his friend Anoosh Dondy in driving his father’s S-class W123 Mercedes, 1981, said car lovers are increasingly buying vintage automobiles. “More people are displaying their vintage cars in rallies today as it gives them recognition. The key though is to restore the cars and keep them running,” he said.