Photos: India’s legacy of loving luxury cars

Gautam Sen’s new book, The Automobile: An Indian Love Affair, traces the history of automobiles in India over 130 years.

Updated on Jun 27, 2021 02:59 PM IST 9 Photos

Gautam Sen’s book The Automobile: An Indian Love Affair (Penguin), tracks how cars shaped a young India’s rapidly evolving social structures. Cars replaced ornate carriages, and sparked a race between royals over who could procure the most over-the-top automobile.(Penguin India)

A clear early winner was the Swan Car, originally designed for a British engineer stationed in Calcutta, Robert Mathewson. It was a 1910 Brooke with the front made to resemble a giant bird hissing steam from its nostrils.(Penguin India/ Louwman Museum)

This 1939 Delahaye 135 was designed by Figoni et Falaschi. They came to the public’s attention when this model was introduced at the 1936 Paris Salon. The car’s low-slung rigid chassis and independent front suspension, made possible by a system of transverse leaf spring and radius rods was marvelled at. It’s now in the long-term ownership of Dalip Singh, from Jodhpur.(Penguin India/ Makarand Baokar)


This Citroën Traction Avant, from a fleet produced from 1934 to 1957, was used by Calcutta resident Minnie Pan. She also raced it during the weekends when racing was a regular scene in the City of Joy.(Penguin India/ Makarand Baokar)

This 1949 Delahaye 175 Coupé, another exquisite design by Figoni et Falaschi has been owned by the Maharaja of Mysore and later by Elton John. It is now in the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.(Penguin India/ Gautam Sen Archives)