While India’s old-car market has been under an export ban since the 1970s and prohibitive duties still inhibit imports, auction house Osian’s has been quietly exploring this potentially lucrative market segment for the past five years. The company, which has traditionally catered to the fine art and artifacts spaces, stated in a recent press release that it hopes for a freer and more open market for classic vehicles in India, which would allow this significant and populous nation the opportunity to participate in the surging interest and sales potential of the classic-car market.
Entitled “Vintage & Classic Automobiles,” this auction was held on Wednesday, February 27 2019 at the elegant Le Meridien, Windsor Place, Janpath, New Delhi. For its first foray into collector-vehicle auctions in the Indian market, Osian’s delivered a commendable sale total of 45,036,000 Indian Rupees, converted to 632,796 in U.S. Dollar terms (including Buyer’s Premium). Of the 38 lots offered, 14 were sold, for a 37 percent sell-through rate. While those numbers do appear modest, they should sufficiently encourage Osian’s to continue developing its presence and expertise in classic car auctions. In my opinion, I feel that if Osian’s continues with this brave strategy, it will be rewarded with long-term success.
While many of the automobiles offered were small derivations of small European production saloons (sedans), offered marques also included examples from Rolls-Royce, Daimler, Jaguar, Bentley, and Cadillac. The top seller was a 1933 Rolls-Royce 20/25 Windover saloon with excellent documented history, including early ownership by Capt. William Henry Smith Grant, of the Glenlivet whiskey-distilling family, which garnered USD $269,777. The catalog’s cover car, a preservation-class 1934 Cadillac 7-Passenger Imperial Limousine, originally used by the Governor of the Central Provinces, Sir Balwant Sharma, which attracted USD $114,655. Sadly, the vast majority of cars offered and sold were non-exportable.
Osian’s online auction catalog for the sale was quite well produced, with many images of each vehicle offered and well-researched, well-written, and useful descriptions – something I particularly appreciate. A similar auction is slated for April 2019, and I hope my readers will have a look at the emerging classic-car auction scene in India and the hope for more relaxed rules and governmental regulations around exports and imports there.