It is easily overlooked that what is now vintage was once brand new and those who are now acknowledged as vintage have travelled miles of age and experience. In South Delhi’s Greater Kailash, the broad lanes parked with posh and modern wheels, take one into an office which is new but its walls echo the sagas of vintage beauties, collected and nurtured with love.
The office belongs to Titus & Company with reams of legal documents lying on the tables and clerks busy running from one desk to another to answer telephones. But one’s eyes are immediately drawn to the antiques kept covered on the floor.
The owner of the office is Diljeet Titus, a lawyer by profession and also an avid collector of heritage on wheels. “It is impossible to describe your love for something really special. The cars which are in my collection transport me back to an era which was unique for its design and showmanship.
Automobiles have been a fascination for almost everyone. My colleagues narrate how their young lads are able to recognise every car on the road. This fascination is natural. I think even I have it. From driving pedal cars to sitting on your father’s lap while he is taking his car for a spin, this love and fascination grew in me and it went on to become stronger and stronger,” said Titus, explaining his penchant for vintage cars. He added,”My mother Veena Titus says that as a boy of 5, I used to plant little toy cars in our garden in the hope that they would yield trees full of cars. Probably that dream never left me.
While during my initial years of collecting I bought almost every Vintage or Classic that came my way, I have been more focused over the past six years. Collector cars are like art and make a great investment. Over these six years, I have bought cars only if they were rare, custom built, had low mileage and documented provenance. This focus explains the large number of former Maharaja cars that I now own which include Rolls Royces, Packards, Stutz, Bugatti, Minerva, Pierce Arrow, Cadillac and Auburn.”
The first car that Titus, the proud owner of The Titus Museum in the Capital, bought was a 1947 Austin A40. He said his grandmother too had a 1947 Austin, which may have been the reason why he bought it. Titus said his grandfather owned a classic 51 Chevy. “My father who was a mechanical engineer by profession used to repair cars in his garage and I used to help him. With the passage of time, I got very involved in the mechanics of cars. So, I grew up in an environment at home where you could see tools everywhere and everyone busy with the cars in the garage. These are some of the many memories which I cherish a lot,” he added. Titus’s museum which he has built in his farmhouse in Mehrauli has more than 50 cars which are open for public viewing. His collection includes classics like Chevys, Austins, Rolls Royce, Buggatis, Belgian Minerva, Stutz and others.
The museum is free for all vintage enthusiasts. Titus is one of a rare breed of car collectors. He feels lack of passion and dedication is the key reason behind the paucity of collectors. “Ultimately if you have passion, you’ll not leave your car. Your passion is reflected in your efforts and the time you put in it. One has to do so much of research before restoring a car which is really time-consuming and at times excruciating.”
He went on to narrate an incident: “One of my friends wanted to get his Ford restored. He researched for more than a year. He searched for the original colours, original upholstery, original chrome and finally got it restored by Tutu Dhawan. This inspires other collectors. When someone puts in this kind of effort, then expectations from others obviously increase a little. And when I say efforts ~ it means no shortcuts.”
Titus will be presenting his collection at the Annual The Statesman Vintage and Classic Car Rally on 11 February. As the NGT has allowed vehicles older than 50 years for such rallies and shows, the rally will witness participation of vehicles of a bygone era.
“Vehicles which belong to the pre-1950 period cannot be exported or imported. This proves that the government understands their worth. So we are making it clear that these vehicles shall be used for the purposes of rallies and exhibitions and not otherwise. We also observe our social and corporate responsibilities and hence we’ll be making contributions to save our environment by planting trees, providing dustbins and other such materials that would help in maintaining the quality of the environment,” said Titus.