Farewell Cyrus Gandhy; Keep The Pedal To The Metal, My Santa

Images: Karl Bhote, Ajeet B., Bob Rupani, Arvind Swadi, Jagdish Thackersey

On the evening of 20th January 2022, the motoring community in India lost Cyrus Gandhy, a true gentleman and diehard auto enthusiast, as well as a former rallyist and vintage/classic car restorer.

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Cyrus and the Mid-Town team posing with the Pierce-Arrow

I had the good fortune of meeting Cyrus sometime in the early 1980s, at the famous Mid-Town Motors, Mumbai and we hit it off immediately. Over the years we not only modified several cars together, but we also became great friends. There were also the fun MASA (Maharashtra Automotive Sports Association) rallies in which Cyrus always particpated in the Group II category, in an extensively modified white Premier Padmini with fender flares, spoilers and alloy wheels.

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Cyrus manoeuvring Abbas Jasdanwala's Humber

His Premier looked good and also had a very pleasing exhaust note, something Cyrus took pride in. But if I am not mistaken, Cyrus had quite a few DNFs due to the cars’ reliability issues. Despite this, it did not deter Cyrus in any way. He never quit and would enthusiastically line up for the starters flag at the next event. This displayed his positive attitude, which was apparent in everything else he did too.

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Cyrus at the wheel of the Lanchester

Cyrus also meticulously restored and maintained Abbas Jasdanwala’s (Owner of Mid-Town Motors) exceptional collection of cars, and he ended up going to Pebble Beach with a 1921 Lanchester 40HP in 2019 too. His fine work was appreciated on the international stage, with even Jay Leno coming to have a look at the Lancehester done by Cyrus.

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Cyrus' Citroen Traction Avant

In recent years, Mid-Town—under the supervision of Cyrus—had also taken to restoring cars for customers and he always did an honest job. Yes, Cyrus was easily one of the straightest and finest guys in the restoration business, and with him you were assured of never being taken for a ride.

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Cyrus Gandhy with Jay Leno at Pebble Beach

In fact, Cyrus was one of the nicest and most honest persons you could ever meet, and sadly they don’t make his model anymore. If we were to talk in classic car terminology about Cyrus, then his chassis number would read ‘Wonderful Human Being’ and his engine number would say ‘Easily the Best’.

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Cyrus posing with the award-winning Pierce-Arrow of Abbas Jasdanwalla

I was always inspired by Cyrus’s lively spirit and genuineness, and I cherish the lovely times I had with him; be it discussing the ratio of thinner to be mixed in paint, the drying time between coats, the number of coats, the finish and bodyline, and what not.

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Cyrus proudly posing with the car he restored and took to Pebble Beach: the Lanchester 40HP

Cyrus was also a great host, and I had the privilege and pleasure of attending some really happening parties on the terrace of his apartment at Bandra. The air would reverberate with Cyrus’s hearty laughter that emanated from deep inside his big belly and the food was as good and varied as the conversations. And along with an uninterrupted flow of drinks, one had a selection of magnificent music with the likes of Pink Floyd, The Doors, The Eagles, The Police, Eric Clapton, etc, to keep your motor running.

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Again with the Humber

Cyrus my Santa, my man with the big beard and belly, my pal with the best laugh ever, and my buddy who I enjoyed drinking and smoking with, I am going to miss you partner.

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Cyrus with the great Stirling Moss

Cyrus I am sure you will remember the fun evening at the Willingdon Club; how when your driver could not turn up to drive us back, you decided to take the wheel, and—though we both were fully sober—we got stopped by the cops for drinking and driving. The cops insisted on taking you to the police station and I insisted on coming along. At the station we both offered our licenses for registering the offence and the officer in charge turned around and ordered coconut water for us. He said he was very impressed with our friendship and loyalty, and it was in complete contrast with the celebrity couple who had been brought there just before us. The young girl had been driving, but the police were not keen to book her as it would mean many hassles for her. Instead, they suggested the boy take the blame and say he had been drinking and driving. The boy refused, and we both gave him a mouthful before returning to your car.

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From left to right: Suren Shah, Cyrus, Arvind Swadi, Bob Rupani, Rakhim Velkar and Vasant Rele

While losing a dear friend like you is something I will never get over, what I am happy about is that you went on your own steam. On 20th afternoon, less than a fortnight after your diagnosis, I learnt that you were being discharged from hospital to go home as a terminal cancer patient. I was dreading the visit to see you stuck to a bed, with nursing care and so on.

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The Corevtte Sting Ray that Cyrus worked on

You being the stalwart that you are, Cyrus, you decided that this suffering and being dependent on others is not for you. Soon after being discharged, you left this world under your own power. Hats off my friend. The heavenly garages will now host a real rock star. Keep rocking, my Santa.

A few other friends wrote in too:

Although Cyrus and I worked for ‘rival’ garages in Mumbai (and I don't think our bosses were friendly with each other either), we all got on famously with the guys at Mid-Town Motors. There were times when they helped us out with some jobs that we couldn't do and vice versa. This friendship has lasted for more than 35 years. Cy was a genuinely warm person who would go out of his way to help others, without exception. He will be sorely missed by all whose lives he had touched. Rest in peace, my friend. – Arvind Swadi

I first met Cyrus in the late 1980s. We used to work in neighbouring garages—Cyrus in Mid-Town and me at Apex. We got to know each other better and spent more quality time in the ‘Rallying World’: intense rallying during the day and equally intense partying at night!

After I moved to Pune, where I met up with his cousin Jehangir (Bawa), who had also shifted from Bombay, my friendship with Cyrus grew rapidly as he visited Bawa often and we met up every time.

Cyrus is just one of those unforgettable human beings…larger than life in every way! Once you met him, you could never forget him. We spent time together in Alibagh, in Pune, in Bombay and at Woodlands in Matheran—a favourite for us all.
My present garage is close to Abbas Jasdanwala’s house in Koregaon Park, Pune, where his fabulous collection is parked…all looked after by Cyrus, Abbas’ blue-eyed boy. My favourite is the Corvette Sting Ray.

One day, not so long ago, Cyrus called me with much excitement in his voice: there was a plan to go to Pebble Beach. Abbas, of course, was there with him all the way and beyond.

I went to Bombay to see the famous car that was being prepared and was totally dumbfounded by the sheer size and beauty of the Lanchester. Pebble Beach was a dream come true for both Cyrus and Abbas. Even over there, at Pebble Beach, Cyrus was unmistakable, he just stood out—far above everyone else!
Cyrus was the original ‘Car Maestro’—a natural driver, mechanic, restorer, displaying pure, unadulterated passion.

And there were so many different sides to this man: he was brilliant at them all, as a son to Rati and Russi, a father to Rohan, Rishad and Rayaan, a brother to Sherna, Bawa, Darius and Sonia, a father-in-law to Penny, an uncle to Kayaan and a fantastic loving friend to my wife and me. – Suprito Das

Bob Rupani

Bob Rupani is a pioneering Indian auto journalist and was executive editor of Car & Bike International, Auto Motor & Sport (India), Top Gear and Auto India. He is now consulting editor of Overdrive.


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