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Gems from the jungle.

A doctor’s family from Bangalore shares a common passion: classic Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

Text and photos: Helge Bendl

Cardiac surgeon and car enthusiast.

It is no secret that a passion can be very infectious. But it is rather more unusual for a family father to ignite a very masculine passion, namely one for classic automobiles, in his wife and daughter. Dr Ravi Prakash worked as a heart surgeon in Bangalore, southern India, then managed clinics and is now the proprietor of a company for safety technology. “I am a Mercedes-lover through and through,” he confesses. “The glamour and image of the brand have made me a great fan.” He also loves vehicles of all kinds that have left their mark on his homeland of India. And he likes to surround himself with them: over the decades he has collected around 400 two-wheelers, coaches and cars, among them around two dozen Mercedes-Benz models.

Juwelen Indiens - Cardiac surgeon and car enthusiast.
Juwelen Indiens - His daughter Rupali Prakash is 27 years old, and has turned her familiarity with classic automobiles into a profession.

Classics are cool and trendy.

His daughter Rupali Prakash is 27 years old, and has turned her familiarity with classic automobiles into a profession. She designs accessories such as cups, laptop bags, T-shirts or cushions with classic car motifs. She took the inspiration for her products from a replica of the Benz Patent Motor Car in her father’s collection. She markets them under the Classic Chase brand, and also sees them as a mission: “If young people regard classic automobiles as cool and trendy, future generations will also love and seek to preserve this cultural heritage.”

Sunday motorists.

Sundays are the days when the roads of Bangalore, a major metropolis and India’s third-largest city, are least busy. This is when the Prakash family fetches its Mercedes-Benz gems from the garages and dons traditional robes in fitting style: the open-top Model 320 tourer was once the means of transport preferred by the Maharaja of Darbhanga and his entourage. Since the younger daughter Shefali moved to London, the members of the Prakash family are usually on the road as a threesome.

Juwelen Indiens - Sundays are the days when the roads of Bangalore, a major metropolis and India's third-largest city, are least busy.

'A bit like a film star.'

Wife and mother Sabena Prakash not only enjoys Mercedes-Benz classics from the front passenger seat. She and her two daughters have also taken part in classic car rallies as a ladies team. “Our saloon, a Nürburg model, is tough and heavy, and steering it requires strength,” she says. But that is not the reason why she prefers to drive the more compact Model 170 V open-top tourer: “It’s so nice to feel the wind in your hair, a bit like being a famous film star.”

'A bit like a film star.'

Wife and mother Sabena Prakash not only enjoys Mercedes-Benz classics from the front passenger seat. She and her two daughters have also taken part in classic car rallies as a ladies team. “Our saloon, a Nürburg model, is tough and heavy, and steering it requires strength,” she says. But that is not the reason why she prefers to drive the more compact Model 170 V open-top tourer: “It’s so nice to feel the wind in your hair, a bit like being a famous film star.”

Hunting car of a Maharaja.

The Nürburg model was ordered by the Maharaja of Rajkot in 1929, for hunting excursions. He appreciated the reassuring safety and comfort of the German brand’s products, and preferred them over the English brands that were so widespread in India. “As a passenger in the rear you really feel blissfully comfortable,” Sabena Prakash confirms. And her husband Ravi adds: “When such an old car runs as smoothly as it did on first registration after being restored, I’m as happy as a sandboy.” Behind the Nürburg is a model 290 Landaulet whose restoration is almost complete.

Juwelen Indiens -The Nürburg model was ordered by the Maharaja of Rajkot in 1929
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A 'Ponton' Mercedes, a rarity in India.

The most recent Mercedes-Benz models owned by Ravi Prakash are from the 1950s. The six-cylinder model 219 (left) and the four-cylinder model 190 never reached India in large numbers. Both of these meticulously restored saloons would also cut a good figure in European collections. Ravi Prakash has no intention of parting with any of the cars in his collection, however: As the Indian representative of world classics organisation FIVA, he plans to build a museum and give the public access to his vehicles as a part of India’s cultural history.

A 'Ponton' Mercedes, a rarity in India.

The most recent Mercedes-Benz models owned by Ravi Prakash are from the 1950s. The six-cylinder model 219 (left) and the four-cylinder model 190 never reached India in large numbers. Both of these meticulously restored saloons would also cut a good figure in European collections. Ravi Prakash has no intention of parting with any of the cars in his collection, however: As the Indian representative of world classics organisation FIVA, he plans to build a museum and give the public access to his vehicles as a part of India’s cultural history.

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