India’s auto design trailblazer Dilip Chhabria’s fall from grace

After rising like a colossus over the niche but glamorous and lucrative field of vehicles designing, Dilip Chhabria – as familiar to celebs as his famed logo ‘DC’ – has suddenly and unceremoniously tumbled from grace. Mumbai Police on Monday arrested Chhabria in connection with an alleged cheating and forgery case. They have also confiscated one of his luxury cars.

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Acknowledged as a pioneering trailblazer in automotive design, a concept that was practically alien to the Indian automobile industry, Chhabria, 66, stormed onto the scene in his 20s and over the years attained dizzying heights of fame and accolades.

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Armed with a degree from the renowned ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena in California and brief stints with General Motors, Chhabria felt constrained to express and implement his creative ideas, and quit to join his dad’s electronic manufacturing unit in Andheri east.

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The young man – who once said how since childhood, “he ate, drank and slept cars” – was revving to make an everlasting impression in his chosen field on a road less travelled but with a long journey ahead.

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However, on a strict one-month notice by his father, he plunged into work by designing a humble ‘car horn’ in the family workshop – which not only became a rage but ploughed in more money in a month than his dad managed in a year.

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Soon, he decided to try out his creative ideas to re-design his own vehicle – a Maruti Gypsy in 1992 – and his masterpiece creation ended up getting mobbed wherever he drove it.

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That was the head-on superhit beginning which put him on the fast lane of vehicle designing and his creativity oozed out to trickle and drip onto every aspect of a desirable designer automobile which has some 14,000 parts, as he said in a media interview few years ago.

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Soon, he started getting offers for various Indian and foreign automobile companies to design limited edition automobiles, both two and four wheelers, concept cars, custom cars, going onto buses and vanity vans and subsequently even redesigning aircraft interiors.

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In 1993, he founded the Dilip Chhabria Design Centre Pvt. Ltd (DCDCPL) offering designs and prototype services to the Indian automobile industry besides customized one-time solutions to individuals, car lovers and auto-buffs – a combination of B-to-B and B-to-C offerings.

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Within the next 20 years or so, with his army of over 400 designers, highly trained craftsmen and engineers, he went onto design more than 700 concepts and all of them ply on the roads as regular cars.

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Among his individual customers are some of the top names from the world of big biz, corporate honchos, film stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan, cricketers like Yuvraj Singh or Virat Kohli, besides celebs from different fields in India and abroad.

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The DCDCPL has worked with top auto-majors such as GM, BMW, Daimler, Ford, Toyota, Fiat, Renault, Tata Motors, Maruti Suzuki, Bajaj, Ashok Leyland, Mahindra and left them all pleased and wowed both with his stylish creations and innovative high quality products.

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“I want to leave my mark as a man, to create what no one can, to rise up and prove that you can achieve all your dreams if you want them badly enough,” the painter and sculptor Chhabria had exhorted, in an inspirational address to students at the DYPDC, a creative-cum-academic collaboration between the D.Y. Patil University and DC in Navi Mumbai.

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