Udaipur Palace Car Collection

The drive from Agra to Jaipur was easy and uneventful, taking 3½ hours to cover 180 miles. However I then spent another two hours driving around the city trying to find the Holiday Inn, receiving numerous conflicting directions from Jaipur’s traffic police. Then to cap it all a boy on an overloaded bicycle misjudged the amount of space he needed and ripped off my nearside mirror whilst I was stopped at some traffic lights. On the basis that the cost of a replacement would be more than six months wages for him I put it down to experience and added it to the list of parts required when I arrive in Perth. I hope the MG club there is well stocked with spares!!

Jaipur, also known as the Pink City, old pink not ‘Brighton’ type pink, is so called because of the colour of the local building material. Compared to other cities that I have visited in India it appears more compact, but not more overcrowded than usual, cleaner and, although they have many more tourist attractions than most, they are investing in restoring and improving the sites.

I stayed for two nights at the Rambagh Palace which until very recent times was the home to the Maharaja of Jaipur. Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan, home to the Rajputs that were a group of warrior clans who ruled this part of India for over a thousand years. The palace has been turned into a hotel to ensure it remains in excellent condition and the late Maharaja’s cars are available for guests to hire. A beautifully restored 1958 Dodge asked to have its photo taken with Bridget, a request that I duly fulfilled.

I have had a stinking cold for the past three days and now my legs are suffering from heat bumps caused by the temperature in the cars footwell.

I have been starting to give serious thought to the task of getting to Australia and currently the plan is to go down to Goa for a short piece of R&R and then over to Chennai in about three weeks. On that basis we should arrive in Perth in around 6/7 weeks time.

When I awoke the next day I went to get out of bed and collapsed on the floor in agony. I have no idea what is wrong but the top of my left thigh feels as if it has been hit with a baseball bat. I can only just walk and keep making involuntary gasps of pain. A real wimp. Anyway I managed to leverage myself into the car and left at 8:00 on Sunday 31st August for Udaipur. The journey was just under 300 miles and I only stopped the once for fuel.

Fact is stranger than fiction and is often the sum of a number of unlrelated and atypical events. I actually checked Udaipur hotels on the internet, an action which I almost never do, and selected one that sounded better than the others in the affordable range. Having been given varying instructions on how to find the hotel, by traffic police again, all different, I hired a motor rickshaw and followed him. I would not have found this place in a hundred years and the track up to it, together with the initial view from outside made me a little apprehensive.

However I felt I couldn’t get back into the Midget again so I booked a room for two nights. After resting in my room for half an hour I walked outside to explore, because although the track appeared dirty and dusty, I had spied polo ponies in paddocks, a stable block and a small aerodrome!! It transpires that this was the hunting lodge belonging to the Maharana of Udaipur and he has had it turned into a country hotel.

I was apprehended walking across the front courtyard and asked to go with the gentleman to reception. “Ah Mr Locock”, said the head receptionist, “it so happens that the Maharana has an MG Midget (an MG TF as it turned out) amongst his collection of 28 or so vintage vehicles and his chief mechanic has taken the liberty of looking yours over”. He continued, “He says that you have a carburettor problem and we would like to offer his services together with our garage to assist you by repairing it if we have the parts”

I was speechless, though only for a moment, and stood up rapidly from my seat, almost falling over and giving out a yelp.

So I was to meet the head mechanic the next morning and we would discuss an action plan. It may mean staying an extra couple of days, but that will give my leg a rest. I have also been invited to view the Maharana’s collection, and what a collection. It includes the 1934 Rolls Royce Phantom II used in the James Bond film ‘Goldfinger’, a 1938 Cadillac convertible used on a state visit by Her Majesty the Queen, a one off Rolls Royce Jeep and a 1946 MG TF.

Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar of Udaipur is an avid collector of cars and also a proud member of the MG Owners Club of the UK. His collection is held in the Vintage and Classic Car Collection that is in fact an annex of the Garden Hotel which he also owns.

Given the fantastic motors that his mechanics have in their charge I had every confidence and it wasn’t misplaced. By the time the chief mechanic stopped for lunch the transmission and gearbox oil had been checked and topped up, the rear brake shoes adjusted, the air filters removed and cleaned, and the twin carburettors stripped, cleaned and re-assembled. The timing was then checked and the car returned to me sounding almost perfect.

A truly great experience.

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