Entrepreneur and philanthropist Sudhir Choudhrie is widely appreciated for his business acumen, generous charity work, and his status as one of the world’s longest-living heart transplant survivors. But here’s a fun — and lesser-known — fact about Choudhrie: His vintage car collection is one of the largest in the world.
Choudhrie noted in the Huffington Post, “I collect vintage cars — defined as any car built before December 1939 — and I have been lucky enough to acquire a substantial collection since buying my first one in 1980.” While the physical acquisitions started then, he explained, “My love affair with vintage cars goes all the way back to my childhood. I fell in love with them when I was 6 or 7 years old, growing up in India, [where I] began collecting Dinky toys and Matchbox cars.”
As the years passed, he continued, “When I was at college, I went to vintage car rallies and, in later years, my wife, Anita, took part in races and won plenty of them — so it really has been a lifelong love affair.”
Many wealthy people have expensive hobbies. But for Sudhir Choudhrie, his collection is about so much more than showing off his ability to amass possessions. Instead, he reflected, “The special appeal of vintage cars … [is] the simplicity of the engineering, combined with the quality.” Furthermore, his collection isn’t just for show. Choudhrie loves the challenge of restoring additions to his vintage car collection, a delicate process that can take as long as a decade. And, with at least 37 cars in his collection as of 2017, that’s a major time investment.
Still, the collector is thrilled to put in the time and effort, as he explained, “We are planning to build a car museum, which will sit alongside an art gallery exhibiting our collection of Indian art, a hotel, and a convention center. It will be a place to mix business and pleasure. Vintage cars have given me so much pleasure over the years and I plan to put my collection in a trust so they can be enjoyed by generations to come. For me, the prewar period was the real heyday of the motorcar and this is a way to ensure it is never forgotten.”
Of course, this vision is still a few years away. But, for those who want a peek at Choudhrie’s autos right now? Here’s a rundown of some of the jewels in his collection.
Inside Sudhir Choudhrie’s International Vintage Car Collection
Admiring Choudhrie’s vintage vehicles feels a little like taking a tour around the globe. Among his 37 cars are magnificent models from some of the world’s finest manufacturers of motor vehicles.
Sudhir Choudhrie began his automotive world tour in Germany. He said, “My first vintage car was a 1938 convertible Mercedes” 320 Cabriolet D that he purchased for 50,000 rupees (approximately $600, worth around $11,000 today) back in 1980. He notes that the four-door Mercedes-Benz was “in a terrible condition, with cats living in it,” only to discover much later that the car was custom-built and thus worth a far greater sum.
Not wanting his ’38 Benz to stand alone, Choudhrie also counts a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 170V Sedan W among his collection, a car whose four-cylinder engine and powerful four-speed transmission made it notable for the era.
Moving across the pond, Sudhir Choudhrie has several American cars in his collection, including both 1900- and 1902-era Cadillacs. Interestingly, he acquired the U.S.-made cars in Europe from a British estate manager who lived in southern India, proving that his passion for vintage cars — much like his business and philanthropic endeavors — spans borders.
Getting back to the European roots of his collection, Sudhir Choudhrie added a vivid yellow Fiat 514 to his garage, notable for its 1930 vintage, remarkable curves, and striking black top.
Finally, France is one of the best-represented countries in Choudhrie’s vintage car collection. One of his most impressive examples of French ingenuity is a Marc Birkigt-designed 1927 Hispano-Suiza H6B, crafted with a straight-six engine inspired by the aviation industry.
He also owns a 1903 Cottereau Voiturine originally owned by the Maharaja of Patiala, and one of the first cars ever imported to India. Alongside this vintage vehicle sits a 1914 Darracq Type V with an inline four-cylinder side-valve engine and a four-speed transmission. Rounding out the French portion of Sudhir Choudhrie’s collection is a 1920s-era Bugatti, bought from a family who imported the vehicle into India as a gift for their son. Unfortunately, related Choudhrie, “He became blind and was never able to drive it.”
The result? Choudhrie said, “The car was kept in a garage but the roof fell in and the car was badly smashed. It has taken more than 10 years to restore and there’s still another year of work to be done.” Undeterred by the length of the process or by the fact that “it took three years just to get permission to send the engine to the U.K. to get it rebuilt,” Choudhrie vows to complete the project by installing that engine.
After all, as Sudhir’s wife Anita explained, her husband’s willingness to go above and beyond when restoring his vintage collection is because, “For him, it’s a real labor of love.” Viewed in this light, putting in those extra miles is only natural.