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— Jasmeen Dugal

Managing Director, Deneb And Pollux Group of Companies and Founder Managing Trustee, 21 Gun Salute Heritage And Cultural Trust, Madan Mohan's passion for vintage cars dates back to his childhood days when as an eleven-year-old kid, he would watch the Maharaja of Khetri drive by in his royal cars. In conversation with the acclaimed vintage car collector as he reaches home from Cartier — Drive With Style.


How significant was it to showcase your cars at Cartier- Drive With Style? Do share some thoughts about this edition of the event and your association with it.


Cartier's commitment to promote and preserve Indian automotive heritage is very visible as only cars and motorcycles with Indian histories, or recent imports restored in India, were eligible for entry. I showcased my 1928 Gardner Model 8-85 Roadster, which was one of the finest examples in its class. Rarity, history, condition and provenance was taken into account when entries were being selected and this Gardner Roadster was a perfect combination of all. The event is a great platform for vintage car and motorcycle enthusiasts to display their distinctive collections.


Let's rewind a bit- when and how did you get interested in vintage cars? Is there a special reason or memories behind your deep passion? How did it all begin? Which is the first vintage car you purchased?


Most antique car enthusiasts have the life-altering automotive epiphany at an early age when they discover the car they will strive to own later in life. I always wanted to own a vintage car, the passion developed into reality when I bought my first vintage car — followed by seven more. I never lost sight of my automotive fascination, which, in one regard, became a reality in the year 2000 when I purchased my first vintage car, Dodge Victory 6, 1928 [owned by Raja Saheb of Khetri]. Now, in a time span of nineteen years, I own 328 vintage cars, 43 jeeps and 106 bikes along with clocks, typewriters and other antiques! Each vintage beauty that I own or aspire to own, has set a benchmark within the automobile industry that will never be reached again, within our lifetimes; that is why these prized possessions are so precious. The exotic precision, rare technical and aesthetic excellence of a vintage or classic car is what matters the most to me and my adoration for these masterpieces arises from the fact that I believe in preserving our automotive heritage.


Which are your favorite vintage models and why?


The finest of the best marques that are close to my heart are: Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Moon, Bugatti, Hispano Suiza, Hotchkiss, Isotta Fraschini, Marmon, Maserati, Maybach, Mercedes Benz, Minerva, Pierce Arrow, Tatra and I look forward to adding all the brands which were in existence up to 1940, to my brand wagon. I also aspire to buy a Bugatti Type 57, Delahaye [Figoni-et-Falaschi]. Talking about bikes, Brough Superior, Norton, Ducati, Royal Enfield are a few of my favourites.


How do you search for and acquire vintage cars?


I have a very wide network within the global motoring fraternity. I am a regular visitor at all globally renowned motoring events and I am also a member of many car owners clubs.


What are the challenges you face while maintaining these cars?


I am working very diligently towards creating a world-class restoration unit. I have created an efficient team of forty-seven technicians from different areas like mechanics for all engine and other mechanical jobs, dent specialists to work on the metal job, carpenters to work on the wooden structure of the cars, painters to work on the paint job, upholstery specialists for interiors of the car, chrome specialists for the high amount of chrome parts in vintage cars. Also, my elder brother has ventured into a full-time restoration course — Automotive Restoration Technology Course — at Penn College of Technology at the age of forty-six, to help me in setting up a premium restoration unit in India that would provide services to global clientele. His learnings from the west and International restoration expert associations will help us improve the low-end restoration facilities, technology and knowledge base for restoration in India.


Do you receive requests from potential buyers who want to purchase cars from your collection? Would you consider these requests?


NO! We do not sell any cars or bikes or even antiques for that matter! I strongly believe in preserving the fading glory of the magnificent art and culture of India and to preserve the rich motoring heritage, I continuously keep adding cars and bikes to my never ending collection.


Would you plan to invest in a vintage car museum?


With our vast experience of over a decade and a half, we've developed cordial relations and a thorough understanding of the corporate world, hotels and other specialties of the travel, tourism and hospitality industry. After serving in the travel industry for more than a decade with world-class services, Deneb And Pollux Group entered the hospitality sector, with 21 Gun Salute, which offers a majestic dining experience. In the future, we aim at venturing forward into the hospitality industry by developing a beautiful mélange of adventure, nature and plush amenities with our concept of Fort Palace And Resort that would be amongst one the finest resorts in Asia. It will have a unique concoction of thirty water, air and land based activities and also feature a vintage car museum that will attract tourists from all over the world; offering a royal rendezvous with more than two hundred and fifty hand-picked, rare and premium cars of the bygone era, ranging from 1886 to 1970 at the start and we plan to take the number forward to fife hundred in a few years, a huge collection of bicycles from the sixteenth century, locomotives from early seventeenth to late nineteenth century, trucks, buses, hundreds of horse carriages and bullock carts along with a rare assemblage of photographs from the different princely states of India — this would be one of Asia’s biggest and world's best automotive gallery.


Looking at the bigger picture in this millennial age- do you feel collecting vintage cars is becoming a lost art?


Taking forward my passion of collecting vintage cars and bikes as a automobile enthusiast and collector, I undertook a personal responsibility of passing on the rich history of vintage cars and evolution of motoring to the next generations. In 2011, we celebrated the kickstart of the first Edition of 21 Gun Salute Vintage Car Rally and Concours d’Elegance.  The rally is hosted by 21 Gun Salute Heritage And Cultural Trust every year that aims at preserving and promoting the great cultural heritage of India, worldwide. Our strong association with royal families, dignitaries, eminent personalities and International connects works as a driving force in constantly striving to achieve new heights in quality service. As we rang the opening bell to the unmistakable sound of vintage engines at full throttle, we knew we were doing much more than just a vintage car rally.  Also, in the future, the rally route will be extended from Delhi Red Fort to F1 track Greater Noida; to Taj Agra, further moving to Jaipur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Barmer, Gondal, Kutch, Udaipur, Ranakpur and Jodhpur — bringing tourists from all over the world to these destinations through our rally. The 21 Gun Salute International Vintage Car Rally And Concours Show carries forward my vision — 'It aims at establishing India as a World-Class Motoring Tourism Destination by spreading awareness and interest among the people of the country and the rest of the world through participation and involvement of vintage and classic car enthusiasts and collectors.' Celebrating the spirit of motoring, this show narrates the untold legacy and rich cultural heritage of India. An experience, second to none, every edition of this vintage fable adds a new facet to Heritage Motoring in India.

Madan Mohan, MD, Deneb And Pollux; Founder Managing Trustee, 21 Gun Salute Heritage And Cultural Trust
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