“Cars come and go but their collectors never go.” Any guesses who I’m talking about? Of course, it is none other than the legendary vintage car collector and Guinness World Record holder, Mr. Pranlal Bhogilal. If you are a car enthusiast and are intrigued by the history of cars and are visiting Ahmedabad then you must visit Daastan Auto World Vintage Car Museum, one of the top tourist places in Ahmedabad. Pranlal Bhogilal and his family own over 250 classic and vintage cars and 112 of these beauties are on display at his Vintage Car Museum in Ahmedabad.
Interestingly, the majority of cars in the museum were not bought by the family to build a huge collection to showcase their affluence to the world. These cars were bought by them for their personal use or as a collection of art. This sets them apart from the entire collection other vintage car collectors in the world have. A tour of this fascinating place will blow your mind away!
Pranlal Bhogilal's grandmother, Bai Aditya Bai who was a matriarch of a rich zamindar family was an avid car lover herself during the British rule in India. She purchased more than 50 cars during her lifetime, most of them for the use of her family members. Importantly, the family never sold any of their cars even if they reached end of life; instead those cars were well maintained in their garages in Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
Rolls Royce Phantom I of 1926 built by Barker was painted in tricolor and named "Azad" to celebrate 50th anniversary of India's independence in 1997
Pranlal Bhogilal did not claim to be a "car lover". His love was for the arts. He bought these cars purely because they were aesthetically appealing to him. He regarded them as works of art. Many of his cars came with distinguished pedigrees like Queen's Rolls Royce, King George VI's Daimler and custom-built Rolls Royce for Maharajas (Kings) of various dynasties in India.
1933 Rolls Royce built by Barker in London for The Divan of Palanpur displayed at the vintage car museum Ahmedabad
Dastan Auto World Vintage Car Museum Ahmedabad is nestled inside the extensive 2,000-acre Dastan farm in the outskirts of Ahmedabad on Sardar Patel Ring Road. It is an hour's drive from the city centre. Visitors need to pay a fee of Rs. 100 ($1.5) per person to embark on this unique time-traveling adventure. You also have to pay an additional Rs. 100 for the camera. If you fancy riding in one of the vintage cars you can indulge by paying Rs. 1,000 for a 3-kilometer ride.
Talbot of 1930 built by Saloon Coach Work in England
Pranlal Bhogilal was so passionate about his collection that he developed a habit of naming or christening his cars, mainly Rolls-Royces and Bentleys. He had to be creative, having a whopping collection of 36 Rolls-Royces and Bentleys. Some of the names given to these cars are Darya-I-Noor, Durga, Chamunda, Chetak, Shahenshah, Pushpak, Caesar, Cleopatra etc. He also made nameplates and fixed them on cars' bonnets.
1947 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith (built by Hooper) with a nameplate "Mysore". This car was bought from the Maharaja (King) of Mysore.
Having such a unique passion and possessing such a splendid collection, Pranalal Bhogilal and the vintage and classic car museum shot to the limelight. Words get wings faster than you can ever imagine. This also brings surprise visitors you had never dreamt of and some of them may want to buy a specific piece from your collection no matter what it costs them. One such visitor was Ulrich Schmid-Maybach, who flew from Germany to Ahmedabad to convince Pranalal Bhogilal to sell him one of his prized possessions. Does the last name ring a bell? His grandfather had designed a 6-cylinder 1937 Maybach SW38, which is the prized possession of Bhogilal. Unfortunately, he had to return empty handed as Bhogilal never sells any of his cars.
4-door 1937 Maybach SW38 built by Spohn Sports Saloon in Germany
Two cars occupy a special place in Bhogilal's collection, no prize for guessing their makes. The 1937 Rolls-Royce, a silver grey Sedanca de Ville named Pushpak. This beauty was gifted to Bhogilal's only child, Chamundeshwari, on her first birthday by her grandfather making her the youngest ever owner of the Rolls-Royce. The other one is a 1923 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost designed like a Victoria carriage. Every vintage Rolls-Royce in his possession was custom-built, one of a kind. This is because before World War II, Rolls Royce did not build car bodies. Customers had to purchase the engine and chassis from Rolls Royce or Bentley, and then hire a coach builder to customize the car according to individual preferences. How cool is that!
The Rolls Royce Silver Ghost having a Victoria State Landau body with gas lamps on the side and a floor bell instead of a horn
Tired of Rolls Royce? Not to worry, the car museum has a wide variety of other makes and models that deserve a good mention in this story. The collection spreads over cars made in the United States, Italy, England, Germany, France, Belgium, etc. with brands like Mors, Minerva, Fiat, Ford, Daimler, Auburn, Lagonda, Bentley, Morris, Lancia, Buick Talbot, General Motors, Chrysler to name a few. However, the car that started the love-affair of Bhogilal is a 1940 Packard 110. He absolutely loved this car and so did his neighbor, the then governor of Bombay State.
The car that drove Pranlal Bhogilal to school every day
The museum not only possesses vintage cars but also has a good collection of classic cars of the early 1900s that includes some of the first models of manufacturers like Ford, Mors, Minerva, Fiat, Daimler, Lagonda, etc.
Mors, one of the early french car manufacturers & the first to take part in automobile racing
Ford Model T is regarded as the first affordable automobile for the masses. Ford was the first company to adopt assembly line production technology to manufacture this car for the American middle-class.
One of the first models of Ford "T", 15 million "T" were sold between 1908 and 1927
Dastan Auto World Vintage Car Museum also possesses a good collection of Sports Cars manufactured by Riley Sprite, Fiat, Sunbeam Talbot, MG Magna, etc. They also have a small collection of Sports Motorcycles.
Sports Car section of the Auto World Vintage Car Museum
Being a legend, you are always up for favors and advice. Sir Richard Attenborogh approached Bhogilal to lend his Rolls-Royce for the film he was making on "Gandhi". Bhogilal brought to his notice the fact that Gandhi would not have used a Rolls-Royce and instead offered him his 1934 Buick. He also advised that "Those were not the cars used by the national leaders who were representing the masses."
Various models of Buick, it is believed that the model of 1934 in the center was used in "Gandhi" film
Collecting vintage cars and maintaining them for over 50 years are two completely different aspects. Pranlal Bhogilal was a tycoon and visionary. He was determined to keep his fleet humming. Over a period of time, he employed a team of more than 20 mechanics, chauffeurs and automobile engineers. He also developed an in-house workshop to develop mechanical parts of these old cars. You can feel his penchant with the way the entire museum is organized into segments with guards watching you at every turn.
Well organized "Vintage American Cars" section
The museum also occupies a section for horse-drawn carriages. You can find various carts here used in the yesteryears, mainly during British rule. Unfortunately, not much information is available about these carriages unlike the vintage cars.
Vintage Horse-drawn carriage section
Although he was the President of Vintage Car Club of India, he never participated in the vintage car competitions. "I have the time and the resources to restore my cars. It won't be fair if I entered my Rolls to compete with people who spend their life savings and time on restoring a Ford or a Dodge. My cars belong to a much larger cause" he used to say. His cars truly belong to a much larger cause and he remained a custodian of his legacy.
Auto World Vintage Car Museum Ahmedabad - A visual treat!
Pranlal Bhogilal passed away in 2011 leaving behind a huge legacy that is being carried forward by his loyal staff who operate and maintain this beautiful vintage car museum under the guidance of his daughter Chamundeshwari. Just a word of advice for those venturing into this wonderland of vintage beauties - do some homework before you get there because there is no guided tour offered here. That being said, I left the Auto World Vintage Car Museum thinking Pranlal Bhogilal is probably the best car collector in the world!