it comes to anything on wheels, Agent 007 and Dilip Chhabria seem to share
the same penchant for Aston Martins and customised cars. Rishad Saam Mehta
comes away shaken and stirred after meeting India’s leading automobile
Aston Martin DB7 oozes exotica! There are no two ways about it. The car
is a potent mixture of raw power, total indulgence and sexy curves. This
is a car that makes a statement. Old 007 also realised that the Aston Martin
went better with vodka martinis and he’s back to his original set
of wheels in the new flick ‘Die Another Day’.
Among the many celebs who aspire towards it is Posh Spice. But while she
dreams about owning one, I stand face to face with Mr Dilip Chhabria, who
actually does own a Aston Martin DB7 Vantage.
“Why this car?” I start off. He tells me that in his profession
it is important to make a statement with your set of wheels and doing that
with one of his own creations would be in bad taste, sort of like blowing
his own trumpet.
The Aston Martin screams exclusivity. It is also well proven, pedigreed
and, of course, comes with an awesome V12 engine.
“Being a car design guru, what is it about the DB that makes it endearing?”
He replies without a moment’s hesitation: “Ever since I saw
this car a couple of years ago, I wanted it. The subtle aggression, the
flowing lines, the British elegance and its history make this car a very
And what about our roads, the huge potholes, the massive speedbreakers?
Won’t the car scrape its underbelly there? Pat comes the reply: “That
I am willing to live with. As a matter of fact, the cars I customise for
my customers sometimes have lesser ground clearance and they don’t
face a problem. So why should I?”
uring the course of our conversation, Mr Chhabria tells me that of all the
cars he’s owned and driven (which include the S-class, a BMW 5-series
and an SLK), the one he enjoyed the most was... wait for it... the Tata
Sierra. Photographer Ashley almost chokes over his tea and my jaw drops.
Pleased with the effect he’d caused, Mr Chhabria explains with a twinkle
in his eye: “It gave me a certain amount of abundance. The car rode
and drove well. At that time I was at the beginning of my career and I couldn’t
afford anything beyond that. The car also was a good platform that lent
itself to a lot of experimentation in design customising. The basic proportions
were right and it had enough meat to play around with.” He fondly
remembers that wherever he went with his customised Sierra, he would be
stopped and asked about the design job done on the car. Mr Chhabria attributes
the growth of his business to the success of being able to build on the
And DC’s message to budding designers out there? There’s a glorious
future ahead. This stems from the fact that each person wants his or her
car to be unique. Manufacturers themselves have admitted that the future
lies in customising. Plus, with people’s spending power on lifestyle
products getting better by the day, the sky is the limit. But, it is not
a bed of roses. One should learn to take risks and have the courage and
confidence to believe in their vision.
I can’t resist one last question: “The massive power of the
V12 engine is wasted in a city like Mumbai. So what is it about owning a
“Son”, he replies, “It’s all about the brag factor.
No one ever uses the full potential of these cars — be it a Ferrari,
a Porsche, or a Jag. Even abroad, they have speed limits of 65mph (104kph),
which means a humble Toyota can do the same speeds as your exotic. These
cars are all about the pleasure that comes from the smugness of knowing
(and people knowing) that you have a V12 under your bonnet.”
“Exotic cars are all about irrationality. The more irrational they
are, the more attractive and desirable they become. You can’t drive
these cars to work everyday, but at the same time, the knowledge that you
have an irrational car sitting in your garage gives you a high that’s
difficult to match.” I nod in agreement over this rational statement
as we say our goodbyes and give the Vantage a long, lingering look before