Diljeet Titus, a corporate lawyer and founder member of the Heritage Motoring Club of India, set up a private car museum, Pro Bono Publico (For the Good of the Public), two years ago. Located at his Jaunpur farm, about 8km from Chhatarpur, Delhi, the museum showcases 24 cars, manufactured between 1925 and 1969.
His memory of driving around with his grandparents in their Chevrolet and Austin fuelled his passion for vintage cars. An advocate, 40-year-old Titus started collecting cars in 1997 when he bought his first Austin A40, Devon.
"After the Austin, I bought a couple of Dodges and started restoring them," Titus says.
Today, he owns a 1927 Minerva AL, a rare Belgian car and one of the nine that exist in the world. He bought it from Raja Mohammad Amir Ahmad Khan of Mahmudabad in Uttar Pradesh.
Titus's collection includes a 1938 Dodge Seven Passenger Limousine, a 1959 Cadillac Sedan de Ville, a car with the tallest tailfins in the world, a shining red 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air and a 1952 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, Cadillac's golden anniversary model. These were owned by Tikka Saheb of Tehri Garhwal. In fact, most of his cars were bought from erstwhile royalty.
"After completing my LLB in Jabalpur, I worked with Singhania and Company in Delhi from 1989 to 1997. Seven of us in the company quit our jobs and started our own firm," he says. The firm was acknowledged as "one of the best examples of fine breed of transaction-focused law firms" in Asia Pacific Legal 500's seventh edition, 2002-2003.
Work apart, Titus takes time off for his passion. High on his agenda is expanding his car collection. He hopes to dispose off his common cars for a few rare ones.
Delhi-born Tarun Thakral, general manager, Le Meridien Hotel, is another avid car collector.
Forty-year-old Thakral has been collecting antique cars since 1995. He became aware of the heritage cars and its history when he went to Paris for his MBA from the International Hospitality Management Institute. On his return he started exploring villages and small towns in India looking for antiques. The first vehicle he bought was a 1940 Morris about which he read in a local newspaper in Rajasthan. "The person who wanted to sell the car was a descendant of the Nawab of Hyderabad. I bought it for Rs20,000 (Dh1,690) in 1995," he says.
Later, one day he chanced upon an old ramshackle 1930 Chevrolet in a dumpyard in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. "I enquired about it from the owner and he gave it away for literally peanuts, considering its value today," Thakral reveals. That was the beginning of a fancy for antique cars for the hotelier.
Today he has a mini fortune of 16 vintage and classic cars. These include a 1932 Chevrolet Phaeton, a 1938 Ford V8, a 1946 Buick Super 8, a 1946 Nash 600 Slip Stream Sedan, a 1947 Chevrolet Fleetmaster Woodie, a 1949 Pontiac Silver Streak, a 1954 Desoto, a 1955 Oldsmobile Super 88, a 1956 Plymouth Belvedere and a 1965 Mercedes 230 S.
He is fond of his Ford V8 convertible, which he bought for Rs45,000 (Dh3,802) in 1998. It is now worth Rs700,000 (Dh59,150). "The Ford company manufactured only 600 pieces of this particular model with an eight cylinder engine," he says.
Thakral buys cars in worn-down condition in the range of Rs20,000 (Dh1,690) to Rs50,000 (Dh4,225) and restores them.
He shops abroad for original parts of these vintage cars. "The US has a huge market for vintage and classic cars and there are companies still manufacturing the original parts of such cars," he adds.