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Bentley to BMW: Luxury cars driven by India’s legendary businessmen

Besides profitable ventures and iconic innovations – India’s most notable business tycoons have left behind a legacy of the most unique vintage rides. Here’s looking at the luxury cars that were parked in the garages of JRD Tata, Ratan Tata, and Mukesh Ambani.

What do the father of Indian aviation and the founder of the country’s top Fortune 500 company have in common? A fleet of luxury cars that drove them around. Although paparazzi were not quite as privy to private lives as they are today, the media managed to capture instances of the country’s richest people and business stalwarts truly embracing their inner petrolhead. From one-of-a-kind foreign imports that zipped through the streets of 1960s Bombay to old-school limousines that boasted of extravagant features like a fax machine and a television – these wheels are as rare and coveted as they come. Here’s looking at a few that truly captured the hearts of aficionados.

Luxury cars owned by India’s most legendary businessmen

JRD Tata

Leading the lineup is an Indian who’s hailed as an icon of business in the country – Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata (JRD Tata). The longest-serving chairman of the notable Tata group had an affinity for all things auto, especially fast cars. As per a report by the The Economic Times, he made several attempts – via the company – to bring iconic foreign brands to India and had a particular desire to own a Bugatti. This was fulfilled in the 1920s when he was gifted a blue beauty by his father.

Back then, he’d often zip through Bombay in his new wheels, covering as much as 200 kilometres in just a few hours. However, the police weren’t too thrilled, accusing him of rash driving often enough to prompt him to sell it. This, however, didn’t deter his passion – which later translated to the purchase of the stunning white Mercedes-Benz 190D in 1962. Imported from Germany – this in-line four-cylinder number was one of the most luxurious rides of the time – with features like adjustable seats, bi-focal outside rearview mirrors, and cruise control. Tatas later loaned four Mercedes to political representatives – including commerce secretary KB Lal – to test out.

Ratan Tata

Following in Tata’s footsteps is his grandson – who’s also built quite the stellar reputation for himself – Ratan Tata. The successful businessman and philanthropist has inherited a passion for the fast life – with his garage full of unique, rare wheels standing testimony to this fact. This includes the Mercedes-Benz SL 500 with a left-hand drive model, Land Rover Freelander with a four-cylinder diesel engine, Maserati Quattroporte with a twin-turbo V6 petrol engine, and a Jaguar F-Type S in a convertible model.

He also owns a Cadillac XLR, Chevrolet C4 Corvette, Tata Nexon, and Chrysler Sebring. Reportedly, he holds his Ferrari California – a red, two-door convertible with a 4.3 litre V8 engine – in high regard. This sentiment is shared by many car aficionados. That aside, his 1978 Buick Skylark – then a rare sight on Indian roads – with its 50 litre V8 petrol engine is quite iconic, having featured in numerous movies and shows like The Goodbye Girl, My Cousin Vinny, and King Kung Fu. As per a report by India Times, it was later put up for sale at INR 14 lakh. It’s important to note that Tata was the reason behind the group acquiring Jaguar and launching India’s most affordable car TATA Nano.

Dhirubhai Ambani

A garage boasting of the most swanky rides is a part of the legacy of legendary businessman Dhirubhai Ambani – who founded Reliance Industries. This included a Cadillac Fleetwood, which was manufactured between 1976 and 1996. However, he in particular was quite fond of his BMW E38 750i XL L7. Manufactured by the luxury brand in 1997, it boasts of features like electrically adjustable rear seats, fold-down rear trays, a fridge, a television screen, a fax machine, and privacy window – only accessible to a limited set of people in South East Asia, Europe, and Middle East. Spacious and unique – it was powered by a 5.4 litre V12 petrol engine. The limousine continues to be in possession of the Ambani family. Reportedly, the sedan was able to hit 100 kmph in just 7 seconds.

Which of these luxury cars would you want parked in your own garage someday?

Feature and hero image: Courtesy Ratan Tata 

Bentley to BMW: Luxury cars driven by India’s legendary businessmen

Eshita is a food, alcohol, travel, and entertainment writer who spends her days thinking of the next big trend to write about. She’s a communication graduate with bylines in Conde Nast Traveller India, GQ India, Deccan Herald, and Girls Buzz. When not at work, you’re likely to find her hunting for a good read or charting out the perfect itinerary for a solo trip across Asia.


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