Lifestyle Viral and Trending 05 Jun 2016 Urban Legend: The go ...

Urban Legend: The good doctor has ’em all!

Published Jun 5, 2016, 4:02 am IST
Updated Jun 5, 2016, 4:02 am IST
Dr. Raviprakash and his wife Sabeena.  	(Photo —R Samuel)
 Dr. Raviprakash and his wife Sabeena. (Photo —R Samuel)

Soon, Bengaluru will be home to an unusual museum - an automobile history museum, thanks to one man's passion for vintage cars. Dr. Ravi Prakash, who gave up his surgeon's practice to become a collector and whose 225 vintage beauties will form fully a fourth of the museum's 900 exhibits, owns cars that once belonged to maharajas, presidents, superstar actors and the like.

It's not often that you get to see the Mercedes that Presidents  K.R. Narayanan and Venkataraman rode in,  the Rolls Royce that Tamil superstar and politician M.G. Ramachandran drove in or a host of cars that the Indian maharajas of old got rid off as their glory faded –  that, too, all under one roof.

But visit cardiothoracic surgeon-turned-vintage car collector Dr. Ravi Prakash, who has a keen eye for the rare and beautiful, and you might just see them all lined up, in his fleet of 225 vintage beauties, everything from sports cars to sedans  and ultra-luxury wagons.

Among his collection is a car that belonged to Motilal Nehru, the richer-than-kings father of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru; another that one of Karnataka’s greatest writers, Kuvempu, drove in; a Delage once owned by Maharaja Holkar, and almost 70 to 80 cars sold by the maharajas of Udaipur, Kutch, Cooch Behar, Darbhanga and Gondal, the royals of Travancore and many others. The oldest is a 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen, arguably the first vehicle powered by a gas engine.

A well-known figure in the world of vintage vehicles, Dr Prakash is perhaps the only Indian to own such a wide range of not just cars, but also some 60-odd vintage motorcycles, 40 carriages, including palanquins, horse and bullock carts and even 50 bicycles.

“Once a car finds its way to my stable, it’s not going anywhere. It becomes a part of our family,” beams the doctor, who gave up his medical profession after his passion for vintage cars and racing took over.

It all started in 1979 when he saw a car that took his fancy immediately in the streets of Chennai during the Sholavaram races. “I asked my friend about it and he said it was a   Sunbeam – 1937 Talbot 2-litre and was being sold by its owner General Mahadevan,” recalls the doctor. The story of how he came to own it is endearing as the General, who died some time later, willed it to him instead of selling it to him.  

"I visited General Mahadevan and learnt that the cost of the car was Rs. 40,000. It was one of  two cars shipped to India from England. One was meant for Lord Mountbatten. I told General Mahadevan I couldn't afford it, but he sort of liked me. We had a few beers, a nice chat about cars and parted for the day. Later in the evening when I had called him on the phone, I learnt from his wife that he had fallen down the stairs and hurt his leg. I felt guilty, because I thought it was the result of all that beer, and drove to the Command Hospital to pay him a visit. Later, I heard he was discharged and fine, but in November that year, he  passed away. Although I couldn’t go to his funeral, I went to his 11th day rites. Then, in 1980, his wife called me and said, “the General has left something for you”.I remembered the Sunbeam, and I headed to his house, Rs. 40,000 in hand. But Mrs. Mahadevan refused to take the money. She said the General had willed the Sunbeam to me!” he smiled.

In return, the doctor gifted the General’s wife a television set so she could watch the upcoming Asiad. As the years rolled by, the Sunbeam got many companions and fuelled their owner's passion for racing, too.

“I have around 75 victories to my credit and over 105 placings in rallies and races,” boasts the 56-year-old doctor, a man full of surprises who gave up on the medical practice years ago, then dabbled in hospital management and even a business building armour for military vehicles.

Ask him about his favourite car and he says he cannot pick among his babies.  “All the cars in my collection are my favourites. There is nothing I love more than the other. There is a lot of emotion and meaning attached to each possession I have here," he says. But he does miss owning a Mercedes 540-K, Mercedes Gullwing, and an Italian Bugatti, he admits. Quite something for a man who perhaps owns the largest vintage car collection in India!

Driving either a Mercedes E-350 or his Audi Q7 from his home to his Kala Farmhouse, the doctor is now chasing his next dream: opening a grand auto museum in Rajarajeshwari Nagar, which he believes will not only be one of its kind but also among the  top 10 auto museums in the world. “I am hoping to have a tie-up with  Unesco for the museum,” he says.

The grand vintage and classic car museum is all set to come up on a 16-acre property in Kengeri this year. Spread over nine lakh square feet, it will be home to over 900 antiques, including cars, bikes, carriages, and even steam trucks that were used in the coal mines of Calcutta in 1915-16.

While a part of the proceeds from the museum will go towards the maintenance of the cars and the museum, a larger part of the revenue will go towards the medical expenses of road accident victims, Dr. Prakash says.

His family, fortunately, back his interests, he adds. “My wife Sabeena has been immensely supportive. She doesn't mind even if I take some money from her bank account without her knowledge to buy a car,” says the doctor with a twinkle in his eye. She puts his cars over buying jewellery for herself, he says. That’s the real vintage!

Location: India, Karnataka, Bengaluru


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