Gandhi, the Tiger of Mysore and 200 classic cars: the collections of Vijay Mallya

paulfrasercollectibles

2015-06-26 12:15:45

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Gandhi, the Tiger of Mysore and 200 classic cars: the collections of Vijay Mallya

Here, we look at the drinks magnate's great loves: sports, automobiles and his Indian heritage

Vijay Mallya is a powerful industrialist, sports enthusiast and avid collector.

The son of businessman Vittal Mallya, he was educated at La Martiniere for Boys School in Calcutta and took his degree at St Xavier's College, Calcutta.

Taking over the United Breweries Group from his father in 1984, he grew the company by nearly two thirds in turnover, spreading it across the globe. The company has extended into areas as diverse as life sciences, leisure and information technology.

Nevertheless, the company retains its identity as a drinks company, and bought the Scottish whisky giant Whyte and Mackay for 595m (approximately Rs 6000 crore) in 2007, chiming with increasing interest in whisky in India. Mallya's airline, Kingfisher, is named after his company's leading beer.

Mallya's immense wealth has allowed him to expand out into sports teams. He bought the Royal Challengers Bangalore cricket team in the Indian Premier League, part-owns Queens Park Rangers FC and co-owns F1 team Force India.

Cars are certainly very close to Mallya's heart, as he owns a very substantial classic car collection - in fact he owns over 200 cars worldwide. He has taken many on tour with him, for example to the USA, but some are so rare and valuable that the Indian government will not permit them to leave the country.

The collection is extensive and varied, dating back to nearly a century ago with the 1913 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. Other highlights include an Alfa Romeo-Bucci special, Porsche 550 Spyder, Jaguar E Type and Henry Segrave's Sunbeam.

The unique Alfa Romeo 2500S features a two-seater sports body, and was originally fitted to Clemar Bucci's 1944 Alfa Romeo 12C.

Porsche 550 Spyder Startup at the 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

In 1989 the Bucci Special was purchased by a UK enthusiast. Issued with FIA papers, it also underwent a mechanical restoration in the 1990s before being repainted. The car was purchased by Mallya in 1998.

The Jaguar E Type series 3 convertable was originally powered by a 3.8 litre straight six engine which was later upgraded to 4.2 litres. By 1999 the car had covered fewer than 28,000 miles and was still totally original and complete with all the tools and 8-track cassette deck.

It was National Class VII champion in 1981, 1982 and 1983 at the Jaguar Owner's Concourse de Elegance, averaging an extraordinary 99.93 out of 100 points.

Sunbeam World land speed record car was built for Henry Segrave World land Speed Record, held by Malcolm Campbell in Bluebird at 150.76mph. Nicknamed 'Tiger', the Sunbeam did successfully beat that tough target and a record speed of 152.336mph in 1926.

Malcolm Campbell bought the car himself six years later.

The 550 RS Spyder was Porsche's first genuine race car. Known as the Giant Killer it won its first race, remaining a major threat in every race it appeared in after.

But Mallya doesn't just collect cars; he also owns collectibles which mark his Indian heritage. Two of his acquisitions are very famous indeed:

Mallya purchased a rare sword belonging to 18th century Indian ruler Tipu Sultan, also known as the 'Tiger of Mysore' back in 2004. Tipu Sultan was the East India Company's most tenacious enemy. A fanatical and relentless warrior, he vowed not to mount his throne until he had vanquished the British and declared:

"I would rather live one day as a tiger than a lifetime as a sheep".

Claw of the Tiger... Tipu Sultan's Sword

Tipu is considered to be one of the most accomplished and daring rulers of pre-colonial India, devising campaigns which inflicted humiliating defeats on the British and reversing Western weapons and techniques against their inventors but his sword was taken back to Britain following his death in battle in 1799.

Mallya paid 175,000 ($262,500) for the sword.

More controversial was the buying of artifacts relating to India's revered Mahatma Gandhi, including his bowl, his cherished Zenith pocket watch and the iconic circular glasses in which he is usually pictured.

The sale finally went ahead with a total of 1,200,000 ($1,800,000) paid. Mallya was therefore able to bring the items back to India, where they were exhibited. He summed up his feeling for the memorabilia like this:

"I am a proud Indian. Gandhi is the father of our nation, the nation that has made me who I am today, so I felt a sense of responsibility. This will be my gift to the government of India."

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