The just-opened Heritage Transport Museum near Gurgaon—on the ‘evolution of wheels’—is a work of evolution in itself. For, it took an auto enthusiast over 20 meticulous years to collect, restore and maintain artefacts that many would dismiss as mere pieces of junk.
Even the concept of a museum took over three years to take shape, owing to issues ranging from funds to people’s mindsets. “Initially, people doubted my intentions, as nobody in India ‘makes’ museums. It was also difficult for me to get donations,” says Tarun Thakral, the brain behind the project and founder and management trustee of Heritage Transportation Trust. As most of the cars were bought from auctions, Thakral also had to “compete” with scrap dealers to own some of the items. “The total cost came to around R14 crore, out of which R6 crore was contributed by the Union ministry of culture,” explains Thakral.
But today, the result is out there for everyone to see, and enjoy. From a seven-seater, 90-litre 1934 Buick previously owned by the Maharaja of Ayodhya, to a Dilip-Chhabria (DC)-modified 1985 “convertible” Gypsy used by Shah Rukh Khan to woo Madhuri Dixit in Dil To Pagal Hai, the museum takes visitors on a roller-coaster ride—right from the advent of the wheel in India to the means of transportation we avail ourselves of today.
Spread across an area of over 90,000 sq ft on Bilaspur Taoro Road (a 75-minute drive from Delhi), the museum has something for everyone—over 75 vintage and classic cars parked alongside a recreated Indian street scene from the 1920s; a restored railway saloon from the 1930s; pre-mechanised transportation modes like palanquins, bullock carts, horse carriages and camel carts; a restored 1940s’ Piper J3 Cub aircraft suspended in mid-air; obsolete three-wheelers like phat-phats and jugaads; and a vintage petrol pump; apart from conference rooms and an art gallery.
The Maharaja of Ayodhya’s car is one of Thakral’s prized possessions, which he bought for about R2 lakh from an auction. His other favourites include a 1938 Ford Convertible, a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible and a 1932 Chevrolet Phaeton, which, incidentally, was also his first collectible.
The experience begins with an exhibit that showcases the evolution of the wheel. Placed alongside the exhibit is a bird with wheels in place of wings—dating back to 3,500 BC from the Indus Valley Civilisation—the oldest artefact of the museum. “The reason why we placed this object is to