My Car Quest

June 3, 2020

“Me Too” Victory Over Bikram Choudhury Means Bonanza of Rolls Royces At Auction

by Wallace Wyss –

Let’s go back to the ‘60s. The Beatles were big. So was yoga and all things Indian once the Beatles began visiting India.

And, of course, there were Indians who liked everything British. One of them was a man named Bikram Choudhury, who came from the cruel streets of Calcutta, and eventually did a rags-to-riches number by starting a brand of yoga called “hot yoga” and built an empire over the next few decades that spanned the world, over 700 Bikram Yoga studios.

And to celebrate his success, each time he went to a new city to open a studio, he scoured the vicinity for collector cars, mostly Rolls Royces. And he got a lot of them. A whole lot of them

But then, around 2017, his 60 million British Pound empire began to unravel with the arrival of the Me Too generation. According to a writer named Caroline Graham writing in The Mail, Choudhury has been stripped of his worldwide empire by a Los Angeles court winning his car collection was, as it turns out, only a minor part of the victory.

Starting the whole ball rolling was a British woman, a former employee, who brought a £6.4 million sex harassment case against her boss. Naturally there was a lot of semi-nudity when the ladies would cope with his exercise routines in 105 degree F heat. The allegations were that Choudhury took advantage of that.

1978 Rolls-Royce Camargue Drophead Conversion

1978 Rolls-Royce Camargue Drophead Conversion

Several of his former students joined her in the suit which was victorious for the ladies. Now some of the cars corralled are being sold by the RM Sotheby’s Auction company in Palm Beach, Florida this month. This auction is on-line only beginning 20 March.**

Former Employee Now Owns The Company

Choudhury hired the best he could get and thought when he hired Oxford-educated lawyer Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, it was a good move but ironically she was the one who started the ball rolling and sued him, being awarded the 700 franchised Bikram Yoga studios worldwide. And oh, the cars, 43 cars in all, which includes 13 Rolls-Royces, eight Bentleys and three Ferraris.

But there’s a fly in the ointment. When Choudhury’s garage manager was summoned to the Los Angeles Superior Court to tell why all the cars were not there, and he was asked where they’ve gone to.

Bikram Choudhury Car Auction

Enough were found, though, to have them go through the auction as a group.

How did he make so much money? He was damn expensive. For a student to be trained as a Bikram Yoga teacher, would cost about £13,500. Then you could license yourself as a franchisee and use the famous name.

When she first sued and was awarded £5 million. According to The News, Choudhury immediately fled to his native India and the amount owed rose to £6.4 million because of interest.

The cars aren’t the only treasure, there’s also a diamond-encrusted watch worth £1 million. Autoweek listed the missing cars as “a dozen Rolls-Royces in all, as well as five Bentleys, a 1966 Jaguar M10 (sic), a 1971 Pontiac LeMans, a 1969 Intermeccancia Murano, a specially constructed Ford GT40 (NOTE ’05-’06 model) and a 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1.

The New York Post reported that “Los Angeles TV station ABC7 reported earlier this month that the yogi is now trapped in Mexico, where his passport was seized as he stiffed the Princess Mundo Imperial Hotel in Acapulco on a $180,000 bill.

Choudhury has paid part of the hotel bill but may still be without his passport, a source with knowledge of the situation told The Post.”

RM Sotheby’s says that among the listings are:

· A 1961 Rolls-Royce Phantom V Touring Limousine with coachwork by James Young

1961 Rolls-Royce Phantom V Touring Limousine with coachwork by James Young

· A 1963 Bentley S3 Drophead Conversion, a right-hand drive example converted earlier in its life to Drophead

1963 Bentley S3 Drophead Conversion

· A 1965 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III LWB, a special long-wheel-based example ordered without a division window and presented today in fully restored condition

1965 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III LWB

· A 1954 Bentley R-Type Saloon featuring stunning coachwork by Freestone & Webb two-tone color

1954 Bentley R-Type Saloon

· A 1969 Intermeccanica Murena 429 GT, the very first Murena produced of a mere 10 ever built, most of which found their way into celebrity ownership in period. It is powered by a 429 Ford V-8 engine backed by an automatic transmission.

Intermeccanica Murena

A Word of Caution

Although the auction company is using the phrase “restored” I personally toured part of his collection in the San Fernando Valley a few years ago and noticed quite a few of the Rolls and Bentleys were painted a certain shade of red that he likes, probably not a color offered by Rolls Royce. Not to mention bearing his initials on the doors. And, oddly there were also four Rolls Royce Camargues cut into convertibles. This was a model that Rolls never made as a convertible even though the design firm that did them, Pininfarina, had the skills to design a drophead coupe if need be. So it will be hard to establish a value on those when they are recovered.

Choudhury also showed me, during my tour, the four or five Silver Clouds that he had cut into drophead coupes. Before you get too excited about this rare model, he had his complaints about the height of the top as it sat when retracted and had re-engineered it so none of these cars will look exactly like the factory versions.

In other words, a lot of the cars were customized. But I think he had an eye for the unusual and collectors who participate in the auction may find models that they’ve been searching a lifetime for….

Read more from this special auction here.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is a barnfinder who has given up barn finding for painting oil portraits of cars. To inquire about a commission, write him at mendoat7@gmail.com

 
 
 
 
 

**RM auctions writes –

RM Auctions’ forthcoming Palm Beach auction, scheduled for 20–21 March at the Palm Beach International Raceway, has been canceled and transitioned into an Online Only offering via rmsothebys.com, where bidding will open on Friday, 20 March.

The decision to shift this live auction to the company’s online platform comes in light of the current guidance from public health officials regarding the global COVID-19 outbreak.

Rolls Royce

He used the cars to maximum advantage PR-wise this woman columnist proclaims on her blog. “My yoga guru Bikram Choudhury showed a few of his amazing collection of Rolls and Bentleys this year at Rodeo Concours – I can’t wait to go back to his class in the fall!”

All auction photos by Corey Escobar or Matt Malamut ©2020 Courtesy of RM Auctions.

Summary
“Me Too” Victory Over Bikram Choudhury Means Bonanza of Rolls Royces At Auction
Article Name
“Me Too” Victory Over Bikram Choudhury Means Bonanza of Rolls Royces At Auction
Description
Although the auction company is using the phrase “restored” I personally toured part of Bikram Choudhury's collection in the San Fernando Valley a few years ago and noticed quite a few of the Rolls and Bentleys were painted a certain shade of red that he likes.
Author

Comments

  1. These cars, Murena, look better to me when they show their original chrome bumpers, grill, and chrome/stainless window trim.

  2. I actually refrained from commenting on the interior in my first post because I didn’t want to sound snobbish. I find this interior somewhat amateurish in design and execution. The way the dash face is divided into 2 parts and all those screws bothers me. The red and white scheme is a bit much, too, but that’s just my opinion. I’ve see another Murena interior and it is more refined. Frank Reisener did a better job than what is presented here. I’m assuming that Choudhury commisioned the interior.
    And now we know why the car is painted in that particular red. There are much better looking examples of this car in more favorable colors.
    Having said all of that, I have been planning to bid on this car for the past month. But with the current trends and futiure forecasts in the classic car market, and the costs I would incur to bring this car up to my expectations, it will be a low offer.

  3. Here is a Murena interior photo that is from an unrestored car

  4. Mike Stellato says

    Good point……
    Where is the collector car market headed in these unchartered waters??

  5. Here is a recent commentary from the magazine Classic Cars

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