Lagondas Of The Maharajas: The 3½ Litre, 3 Litre & Others – Part 3

Images: James Baxendale, Calcutta Motor Sport Club (CMSC)

In the third part of the series on the 'Indian' Lagondas, James writes about a 3 ½ Litre, a 3 Litre, a 2 Litre along with a couple others from the pre-War era - Ed

3½ Litre

1.      Z11164

One of the Lagondas in India with the more interesting history is this 1934 or 1935 3½ Litre. It was owned in the 1940s and 1950s by Syed Askari Hadi Ali Augastien Imam (or Tootoo Imam, as he was more commonly known). Tootoo Imam was a well-known motor racer (and later big game hunter), coming third in the Calcutta Grand Prix at the Alipore circuit in the Lagonda in 1952 and winning it, again in the Lagonda, two years later in 1954.

The Lagonda 3 1/2 Litre, with chassis # Z11164, at the 1952 Calcutta Grand Prix

Tootoo Imam described the car as follows in Club Mag 12:

My car is a 1935 3½-litre and was originally fitted with a four door pillarless saloon body. I acquired the car in 1945 and after a few months use, during which I had absolutely no trouble and found the car mechanically perfect. I removed the saloon body and fitted a home-made drophead coupe one. Later, around 1950, this body too was scrapped, and a very light timber framed and aluminium skinned Le Mans type 4-seater body was fitted. This, also, was a home-built job.

Calcutta Grand Prix 1954

The car has now done well over 250,000 miles without a rebore …

Following Tootoo Imam’s ownership (when it had registration number BRM 2112), it was sold in 1962 to C Powrie (formerly member P7), who was living at Digboi in Upper Assam with his wife Sally, where he worked for the Assam Oil Company. It then passed through a number of owners and radical rebuilds (with very different bodies). It had an Assam registration number, ASW 516, and now holds a Mumbai registration number MMF 4208. In the early 1980s, it was bought by the controversial Indian businessman, Vijay Mallya (formerly member M24), who was chairman of United Spirits, the largest spirits company in India, and founder of Kingfisher Airlines. Mallya was the former co-owner of the Force India Formula One team. Most of Mallya’s huge car collection was sold off in 2016.

The car is currently owned by Marespand Dadachanji, who is in the process of restoring it. When he bought the car, it was little more than a chassis.

3 Litre

1.      Chassis Z10161

This 1932 3 Litre Selector Special Saloon was allegedly delivered to the last Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Sir Hari Singh, who had the car specially equipped for night-time hunting expeditions with full-length sunroof and pillar-mounted spotlights. The Maharaja had a large collection of cars, notably two dozen Rolls-Royces, but was forced to flee his summer capital, Srinagar, after independence in 1947, living the rest of his life in Bombay. Some of his cars, however, remained in Pakistan, such as his 1924 Vauxhall 30/98, which spent a number of years in Peshawar and Lahore, before being shipped to the United States.

When bought by Marespand Dadachanji

The Lagonda was subsequently owned by Khan Bahadur Taj Muhammad Khan OBE MLC of Badrashi Village, Nowshera, a well-known contractor in the Punjab during the British Raj. The car’s last owner in Pakistan was a Mr A Ahmed of Lahore. The car had Lahore registration number LEG 2770 (and previously Punjab registration number PJL 833). When it left Pakistan, it was painted in a lurid maroon and bright blue. The inscription on the bonnet ('Leslie 1910'), visible in the photograph, remains a mystery.

The car was shipped to England in 1969 with only 15,000 miles on the clock. “An English garage owner was contacted by an Indian, apparently a man of some prominence, and invited to buy the car, which was by now approaching Liverpool docks on the ship. A deal agreed, the ship then failed to dock at Liverpool, due to a strike, and the garage owner found himself collecting the car from Rotterdam, with much documentary hassle” (Club Mag 142).

Chassis # Z11164 after Nigel Hall restored the car

When Nigel Hall acquired the car, it was fairly complete, minus the magneto and pillar-mounted spotlights (offered back to Nigel later, but at an unaffordable price). The car has been carefully restored by Nigel. It now carries UK registration number USU 920.

“Ban” Banerjee with chassis # OH 9730

2 Litres

1.      Chassis OH 9730

This 1930 2 Litre Tourer was likely registered in September 1930. It was brought to Burnpur in West Bengal in 1940 by a Peter Grey, who was working there at the Indian Iron and Steel Co (Club Mag 64). It was acquired in 1944 by the indefatigable H 'Ban' Banerjee of West Bengal (formerly member B65. He was a member of the Club from 1960 to 1984). The car originally had West Bengal registration number WGJ 954, but now holds Mumbai registration number MMF 1926.

Another pic of “Ban” Banerjee with chassis # OH 9730 and all the trophies the car won

'Ban' first wrote to the Club in 1967: “I am sending you two recent pictures of my Lagonda after complete renovation of the bodywork. My attempt was to bring it back to a 4-seater body (Tourer) maintaining the original style of open tourer Waymen [sic] fabric body from the 2-seater which was altered by my predecessor in 1942After using it for 17 years daily and time to time long motoring I have done minimum mileage of over 300,000 miles” (Club Mag 59).

Chassis # OH 9730 at Auto World, near Ahmedabad

It was a difficult time in India, with exchange controls in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 'Ban' was initially forced to resign from the Club, due an inability to source sterling (another member kindly came to his rescue, paying the subscription on his behalf) and then his plan – a long time in the making – to drive his 2 Litre to England was thwarted, the editor of the Lagonda Club magazine writing in the summer of 1975: “We were very sorry to hear that our stalwart member in India, H. “Ban” Banerji will not be able to realise his life’s ambition to drive his 2-litre overland to England this summer. The restrictions imposed by the Indian government on his taking the car out of the country were proving difficult to overcome, but the final blow came when the five special tyres and tubes Ban had ordered from Dunlop failed to turn up having been lost or stolen en route from the UK. At the moment Ban is very disconsolate about the whole affair …” (Club Mag 88).

The unknown Lagonda with timing cover S7908/4/692 when found in 1978

'Ban' sold that car a couple of years later to Pranlal Bhogilal. It has been part of the Bhogilal Collection ever since, in the Auto World Museum in Ahmedabad.

1.      Unknown (timing cover S7908/4/692)

This car was found in a very derelict state in Thane, to the north east of Mumbai, in 1978. It was acquired by Sharad Sanghi and was beautifully restored by Manvendra Singh, the Raja of Barwani, an eminent restorer of vintage cars in India and the author of The Automobiles of the Maharajas. It may originally have been a 16/80, the radiator belonging to this model. The number on the timing case, S7908/4/692, is from a 2 Litre Speed Model, which, by comparing to two other timing cases beginning S7908, can be dated fairly precisely to 1928.

The car is now in the Sanghi collection.

The same 'unknown' Lagonda In its restored state

1.      Chassis OH 10057

It is perhaps fitting, given that a number of Lagondas have been exported from India, that the trade is now going in the opposite direction. The import of pre-1950 cars to India has been permitted since 2013. This 1932 2 Litre Supercharged Lagonda (now unblown), with registration number GY 9288, was for many years in the hands of Paddy Sharp (formerly member S8), who completely restored the car in 1994. It was bought a few years ago by Yashvardhan Ruia, a young car collector and son of Hemant Ruia, who has been collecting cars since several decades. It now has Mumbai registration number MH 01 DX 1932.

Chassis # OH 10057, which now belongs to the Ruia collection


1.      Chassis 1215

This 1913 11.1 was sold by Lagonda distributors, Tollemache & Griffin Ltd of 195 Hammersmith Road, London. Tollemache & Griffin had only been formed in 1913 and had the worldwide selling rights to Lagonda cars. The car has engine number 4133. It is part of a collection in Delhi owned by Sudhir Choudhrie, who restored the car.

Chassis # 1215, a very early Lagonda from 1913, belongs to the highly selective collection of Sudhir Choudhrie, in Delhi; the car has been beautifully restored by Julia Williamson

For the fourth part of this series on the 'Indian' Lagondas please tune in tomorrow - Ed

James Baxendale

A director of the Lagonda Club, James Baxendale OBE owns a 1930 Lagonda 2 Litre, which belonged to his great uncle. His daily driver is a 1963 Porsche 356B.


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