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Right after delivery, he immediately pushed it to 220 km/h and promptly registered himself in his first race. The Indian Mercedes-Benz dealer warned him that the warranty would be voided by such behavior and that Hima had better be careful with the car to maintain its resale value. This is one of the anecdotes that the prince shares for our benefit during an eleven-course feast in the dining room of the palace, but Hima also explains to us how hard importing cars was in the past and what significance it had for the family as a result. “We have never seen cars as investments. We always just wanted to drive – and fast at that.” His mother, the Maharani, who has taken a seat opposite him and is quite clearly a car lover too, nods in agreement. Maharaja Jyotindra Sinhji and his brothers dominated motorsport in their home country for two decades. The SL — the only one in the whole of India, incidentally — “never came second”. To mark his father’s 75th birthday, Hima is now having the car restored so that the SL will look as though it had just been delivered. He sat in a kart for the first time at the age of four. Then at 18, he began to restore and collect cars. “I am aware that my everyday cars clearly exceed the imagination of many citizens here,” says Hima. However, he does not mean to show off, but rather to demonstrate why hard work pays off. Even, of course, if as a prince he had a small advantage in that regard. For Hima, “everyday” means driving an AMG: either the CLS 63 AMG or his C 63 AMG, the SLS AMG or the currently somewhat banged up E 63 AMG – his next restoration project. And soon the Mercedes-AMG GT, which sits at the very top of his wish list. Hima is without a doubt the most obsessive AMG collector and expert in India. He has taken trips to Affalterbach, has already visited Mercedes-Benz in Sindelfingen, and loves the AMG Driving Academy and AMG Private Lounge events, which enable him to test the latest models and their upper limits all over the world. “Our family has owned ten of the most important Mercedes ever produced,” says Hima. “The handling, the comfort, and the elegance of these cars were unmatched, but I longed for power. When AMG came onto the scene, it was a dream for me. Owning such cars requires passion and patience.” Hima bought tires in Europe that required six months before they could pass through customs. Bureaucracy and corruption are widespread in India, and all told the duties payable make the ownership and maintenance of cars more expensive than in Europe. Hima loves his country, but when he drives through Gondal in an AMG, he sometimes has to shake his head. At the gas station, for example, because the gasoline in the area is often adulterated. But the prince has cultivated a good nose for it, and by now he can smell bad gasoline immediately. And then there are still those unpredictable roads. “Suddenly someone carrying chickens on his head goes to cross the highway on foot or a herd of buffalo comes at you out of nowhere,” Hima says, laughing. A short drive into town can thus become a real challenge. Also, because the people are often so enthralled by Hima’s AMG, they literally A short drive into town can become a real challenge – the people are often so enthralled by Hima’s AMG, they literally besiege it. “For that reason we always need guards with us in the vehicle to keep an eye on the cars. After all, the people here still get completely out of control when they see an AMG.” R 46


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