In conversation with Yohan Poonawalla on his award-winning cars at Salon Privé, UK

Schenelle Dsouza 
One of India’s leading car collectors, industrialist Yohan Poonawalla recently showcased cars from his collection at the Salon Privé (Blenheim Palace, UK) and Concours Of Elegance (Hampton Court Palace, UK). At these prestigious events, two of his cars received major awards.
Yohan Poonawalla
Yohan Poonawalla
LuxeBook speaks to car enthusiast Poonawalla about the history of his champion cars, along with his fascination for collecting luxury automobiles.
1. How did you discover a passion for collecting cars and which was your first car?
I gravitated towards motor cars from an early age owing to the automobiles of my parents/family which I saw while growing up – leaving a lasting impression on my mind. It was a combination of my fascination for horses and horsepower which got me into collecting cars. My first car was a Gypsy which was gifted to me in 1989 when I turned 18.
2. What did you mean when you said that the 1979 Rolls Royce Phantom VI was the last of an era?
Rolls Royce Phantom VI from the Yohan Poonawalla Collection
The Phantom VI is known to be the last of the original Phantoms as it was produced by Rolls-Royce using traditional hand-built techniques, and was coach built on a separate chassis, production of the model ended in 1991. The subsequent model, the Phantom VII, was introduced in 2003 after Rolls-Royce was acquired by BMW.
3. What can you tell me about your two award-winning cars?
One is a Bentley Mark VI which was delivered new to the Maharaja of Mysore with several bespoke features such as flag posts, coat of arms and regalia such as shields of 24k gold & silver.
1949 Bentley Mark VI – Duke of Marlborough Award at Salon Privé
The other car is an exquisite Rolls-Royce Twenty tourer which started life as the company’s demonstrator or trials car and was subsequently owned by the Nawab of Sachin. Both of these royal cars represent the rich automotive heritage of India. Every car comes with a special story and these two are no exception, several interesting anecdotes are associated with them.
1927 Rolls-Royce Twenty HP by Barker – Most Exceptional Coachwork Award
4. Have you received any other awards for your cars/collections in the past? 
Several cars from my collection have won numerous awards at various shows. A few awards that stand out are the ‘Best in Class’ and ‘Best of Show’ awards won by “Mysore Bentley” at the 2020-21 Gun Salute International Vintage Car Rally & Concours Show in India. The same car won the prestigious ‘Duke of Marlborough Award’ at Salon Privé in the UK. The winning car is chosen and awarded personally by the host, His Grace the Duke, who owns the spectacular Blenheim Palace.
1949 Bentley Mark VI
The car also won a ‘People’s Choice award’ in a global online contest of the greatest cars in the world, at the ‘Concours Virtual’ event. The “Sachin Twenty” won the coveted ‘Most Exceptional Coachwork’ award at Salon Privé and Sir Malcolm Campbell 1933 Phantom II Continental also won the Most Exceptional Coach Work Award at the Salon Privé Concours 2020. While it feels good to see the cars win awards and universal recognition, it is more for the passion that fuels the collecting hobby; awards & trophies are just part of the journey.
5. Can you tell me about the Yohan Poonawalla Collection? 
The Yohan Poonawalla Collection is the result of many years of passionate collecting. It is the labour of love of my family, my wife Michelle and children Tania & Zayan. It has a mix of everything, representing all eras from early cars to modern cars, the collection has them all. Marques and makes on display from around the world exhibit the different stages of development in the world of automobiles, from the dawn of motoring to the present day. The collection is an ever-growing one, with cars added continually. All cars are treated equally and each vehicle is unique and each one has its own story to tell.
1975 Jaguar E-Type Roadster Series lll
However, there are some cars which are very popular and are known very well the world over, such as the Rolls-Royce Phantom II, Maharaja of Panchkotis 1937 Phantom III, which was owned by the speedster extraordinaire Sir Malcolm Campbell. The Maharaja Rolls-Royces and the Mysore Bentley are fondly called the ‘rhubard & car’ due to its colour scheme, the Queen’s Rolls-Royce Phantom VI, Sheikh’s Phantom V, a V12 E Type Jaguar and the Pope’s 1964 Lincoln Continental Convertible are well-known too.
1964 Lincoln Continental Convertible
6. How do you pick the cars you do to add to your collection? Do you look for anything special?
To me, there’s more to cars than just appearance. While the design and performance aspects play a major role, I have a particular interest in cars with bespoke features and pedigree. Who were their past owners and what events and actions a car was part of, are a multitude of factors that drive my decision. If there’s a story that can be told about an automobile then it definitely piques my interest.
7. Which of the cars in your collection were the hardest to acquire? 
When one is driven by passion and is always on the lookout for a car one wants, they are always available out there, as they say, one who seeks finds! It is true though, that at times it becomes difficult to find and acquire a specific car. The collector hobby is not a race to hoard the finest and most expensive cars, it is about enjoying the cars one owns and sharing and showcasing them to others. Rebuilding, restoring and reviving great cars, and being part of the heritage motoring movement gives just as much joy to the true enthusiast.
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