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Delhi’s own vintage man

Diljeet Titus, celebrated lawyer who founded his firm Titus & Co in 1997, is known in the Capital for his sterling and most enviable collection of vintage cars.

Anshu Khanna

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Diljeet Titus is known for his sterling collection of vintage cars.

A respected collector who approaches the subject with rare reverence, Diljeet Titus, celebrated lawyer who founded his firm Titus & Co in 1997, is known in the Capital for his sterling collection of vintage cars. But few know that under his heritage-driven endeavour — The Titus Museum of Transportation & Collectibles. This legal luminary’s collection boasts of not just cars, motorcycles, horse carriages, Osler chairs, gilded furniture and chandeliers, but even a Douglas DC3 Dakota aircraft!

 He advises, “Only sell something if you really need to sell it. Don’t discard your family inheritance in a hurry.” He also talks of the car he is entering this year to the much awaited global forum for vintage cars, the one contest everyone awaits with bated breath. He offers the first peek into the1933 Minerva Type AL Landaulette entered by Titus Museum this year. Concours d’Elegance has a deep relationship with India, given the love for automobiles that the royals and the rich of the country showed in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Over the years it has made India an important pit stop, hosting a super duper showcase in New Delhi and Jaipur. This year however it goes virtual and single as it is no longer supported by its title sponsor: Cartier.

Concours d’Elegance invites celebrated car owners to send in their entry for a virtual contest. Inviting aficionados to enjoy and participate in the contest without leaving their own homes, the management invites car lovers to vote from more than 180 of the world’s most beautiful automobiles curated into seventeen genres and judged by the world’s most acclaimed experts.

In the lineup will be found an amazing unrestored 130-year-old steam wagon, Steve McQueen’s Land Rover, one of the world’s most valuable Bugattis, and even the ‘Outlaw’ Porsche belonging to John Oates of Hall & Oates. This year Concourse is hoping to raise aid for UNICEF’s pandemic appeal, to help children affected by the COVID-19 crisis worldwide and is aiming to raise a whopping £100,000. Talking of his entry in the contest Titus shares, “I bought my Minerva from His Highness the Raja of Mahmudabad, Mohammad Amir Ahmed Khan. He had bought this magnificent machine during his 1933 grand tour of Europe. The Belgian beauty featured in the Raja’s coronation ceremony in 1936, and got to be known as ‘Mahmudabad 1’.” A beauty with a stunning salon today, it was an absolute ruin when Titus had found it. He shares, “When this ultimate ‘barn find’ was first rediscovered at the palace in 1995, the Minerva appeared largely untouched as if unused for an extensive period of time. Water had leaked on to its rear end through a cracked garage ceiling, but the car was at least intact, with an untouched engine compartment and all mechanical components in place. Because the tyres were rotten and the wheel rims had sunk into the ground, it had to be craned out of the partially dismantled garage, and temporarily fitted with tractor tyres to roll it on to a truck for transportation to Delhi. It initially underwent a complete mechanical rebuild by noted English restorer Julian Williamson, and later had a comprehensive ground-up renovation executed by HH Manvendra Singh Barwani and Kunwar Tripureshwar Pratap Singh of Classic Cars, Indore.”

Debuting in various shows, with already many awards in tow, the car is now on permanent display at the Titus Museum in New Delhi, accompanied by an extensive set of ‘before and after’ photos demonstrating its dramatic transformation and revival at the hands of passionate Indian restoration specialists.

Diljeet, a romantic collector, made this museum for the 106 beauties he has collected over the years. Though he confesses that his all time favourite is the 1933 Minerva, Type AL. “It was astoundingly well preserved and in original condition. “Except that Raja sahab refused to let go of the Louis Vuitton trunk that was part of the car. “I ordered LV for the trunk and interestingly this is the first car trunk they are manufacturing on order after 60 years!”

A careful collector, Titus feels that every collector should have a clear collector’s policy. His is crystal clear. “I shrunk my collection of cars from106 to 36 because I feel you should only retain the best and skim your collection from time to time,” he says. He feels collectors must adhere to antique restoration techniques and remain true to originality. “It’s best to let an expert do the job. Never use an element that should not be there, like a fabric that did not exist then or a finish that is not that circa.” Diljeet further says, “The provenance of whatever I acquire is important. I must know the original buyer.” He also implores the government to help collectors bring back what was originally made in India by making the import duties friendlier. “Also, cars that are vintage should not be subjected to compliance expected of new cars. There should be more realistic fitness tests for these cars,” he says.

Here’s wishing he adds yet another Concourse trophy to his much filled up trophy stand.

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