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Sunday Drive by Hormazd Sorabjee: Stars and warriors

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When you have the legacy of being the oldest car manufacturer in the world, the inventor of the motor car itself, you might as well flaunt these enviable credentials. This is what Mercedes-Benz does every year at the annual Mercedes Benz Classic Car Rally, in Mumbai. Better known by its abbreviation, the MBCCR, amongst classic car aficionados, this parade of classic Mercs has grown to become by far the largest single-make event in Asia, with entries at its peak mushrooming to 130 classic Mercs.

This year due to the Covid-19 restrictions, entries were severely limited to under 50 cars but what the event lost in mass, it made up in class with some incredibly rare and timeless Mercs showing up for the 2020 edition. The MBCCR is also a showcase of the evolution of the automobile and parked in a corner was a replica of the 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen. The original can lay claim to being the first car in the world and the one that kicked off mankind’s greatest revolution.

Out in force

Despite the limitation of numbers, a stellar selection of classic Mercedes-Benzes gathered at the Taj Lands End seaside lawn – each car was of legendary pedigree. Forty-six cars participated in the 7th edition of the MBCCR, with enthusiastic participants bringing together the rarest collection of Mercedes-Benz model families through the years.

Supercar fanatic Gautam Singhania drove in with his impeccable 190SL, while industrialist Viveck Goenka stunned everyone with his rare and immaculate assortment of Mercedes-Benzes, including icons such as the W111 Fintail cabriolet. Other noteworthy mentions include the W136 170V, belonging to Yashvardhan Ruia, and also Zahir Merchant’s W191 170 S. Mr Vikram Bokey from Pune took part in his immaculate 500SEL (W126), that is believed to have run under 48,000km since new. Every classic generation of the E-Class, SL-Class and S-Class was represented at the event.

For owners, a classic car is a great way to digitally detox, to escape from touchscreens…

The MBCCR has upped the interest in old Mercs, with the classic car market in India witnessing a sustained increase in demand for vintage and classic Mercedes-Benz cars.

Back in time

Amar Sheth, managing director at Shaman Wheels, who runs an authorised Mercedes-Benz service centre in Mumbai, has also seen the demand for vintage and classic Mercedes-Benz restorations grow. “For the owners of classic and vintage Mercedes-Benz cars, it’s a statement to be present at MBCCR, and they want to come out with all guns blazing, so they make sure their cars are ready and in top shape. At any point in our workshop, we have about seven-eight classic Mercedes cars being restored. This figure has grown over the years,” he says.

This W08 Mercedes Nürburg in touring body style is the only one in India

That the event retained its timelessness and popularity even in the face of adversity is a testimony to the resilience of the classic car movement. Underscoring this perseverance, this edition of the MBCCR saw the felicitation of frontline Covid-19 warriors, especially the women in the Maharashtra Police department, who were recognised and lauded by the event’s chief guest, home minister of Maharashtra, Anil Deshmukh. “For the last nine to 10 months, we have all been fighting back against the pandemic. The Mumbai Police are not going to give up and the fight will go on for as long as it takes. I’m extremely happy to see events such as these recognising their service to society in this unprecedented time,” said the home minister in his address to the participants.

It was heartening to see enthusiasts and families out on the streets to watch these beauties gracefully roll by. There is something about a classic car that makes you smile. They have a special retro charm and feel delightfully analogue in a digitally overloaded world. In fact, for owners, a classic car is a great way to digitally detox, to escape from touchscreens and simply go back to a time when the world was a saner, less stressful place.

The views expressed by the columnist are personal

From HT Brunch, January 10, 2021

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