Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rolls-Royce cars of the Rajpipla royal family of India

(Governor of Bombay Presidency Sir Frederick Sykes and Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla in Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost 1921 (chassis 32 UG) RAJPIPLA No. 1, at Rajpipla in December 1929. They are followed by two other Rajpipla cars, Rolls-Royce 1922 20 hp (chassis 40 GI) RAJPIPLA No. 25, and Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost 1913 (chassis 16 CA) RAJPIPLA No. 3).

The Rajpipla royal family owned a fleet of cars of all top makes in the first half of the 20th century. Maharana Sir Chhatrasinhji of Rajpipla was a pioneer, being the first to import an Armstrong-Siddeley into India. Among his several cars were a Wolseley, and Clement Bayard, the factory of which was taken over during the First World War to manufacture military vehicles and later purchased by Citroen.

His son Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla, apart from being a lover of horses and a famous racehorse owner, was a car enthusiast who owned all the top brands like Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Daimler, Riley, Jaguar, Ford and Buick among others, bought eleven Rolls-Royce cars which were driven in Rajpipla, Bombay and the UK, where he had an estate at Old Windsor.

The Maharaja’s collection of Rolls-Royce cars comprised :

1.    Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost 1913, 40/50 hp (chassis no. 16 CA). Barker torpedo phaeton tourer coachwork, as depicted on page 37 of the Barker sales catalogue. Purchased second-hand from an owner in Calcutta. British registration R-1956.

2.    Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost 1921, 40/50 hp (chassis no. 32 UG), Hooper tourer coachwork (design no. 5498). Registered in Rajpipla State as Rajpipla No. 1.

3.    Rolls-Royce 20 hp model 1922, (chassis no. 40 G1 engine. no. 101) with Windovers three-quarter landaulette coachwork fitted and finished in claret with black wings. Registration Rajpipla No.25. The first production 20 hp of 1922.

4.    Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost 1924, (chassis no. 103 EU, engine no. U 195), Maythorn tourer coachwork. On test 15.12.1924, sold when new to J.A.Venn in Cambridge, then to the Maharaja of Rajpipla in February 1933.

(Rajpipla Rolls-Royce Phantom I 1927, chassis no. 55 EF at Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji’s estate ‘The Manor’ on the banks of the River Thames in Old Windsor, England).

 5.    Rolls-Royce Phantom I 1927, (chassis no. 55 EF) Elkington Carriage Co. cabriolet de ville coachwork, registration number YF-8389. It was painted royal blue and black, and trimmed in gold figured damask, the steering wheel being ordered in ivory white, quite a common feature with cars supplied to the Indian market. Delivered to the Maharaja at the Savoy Hotel in London. The car was sold in May 1929 via Messrs. Windovers.

(Rolls-Royce Phantom I 1929 (chassis no. 27 WR) of Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla discovered in a garage in the UK. It was shipped from India in the 1950s, and was dry stored there since 1975. The top of the Windovers Brougham body was cut and converted into a tourer, the PI engine was replaced by a 4 litre Rolls-Royce engine. Sold on e-bay in 2012).

6.    Rolls-Royce Phantom I January 1929, (chassis no. 27 WR) Windovers Brougham limousine coachwork (design no. 5583).

7.    Rolls-Royce Phantom II 1930, (chassis no. 154 XJ) Windovers enclosed limousine coachwork (commission no. J7940, design no. 5690).

(Indra Vikram Singh at Udaipur on 25th January 2014 with Rolls-Royce Phantom II 1934, chassis no. 181 RY, earlier owned by his grandfather Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla).

8.    Rolls-Royce Phantom II 1934, (chassis no. 181 RY, engine no. TT 65), Windovers Sedanca de ville (design no. 6168). It is mentioned in the book "The History of Windovers" (though the caption says chassis no. 181R4). Now in the Mewar royal cars collection. 

9.    Rolls-Royce 20/25 hp 1934, (chassis no. GMD 73) Windovers tourer coachwork (design no. 61920). This car was specified to have louvres to the bonnet and continuing to the dash (bulkhead) sloping at 11 degrees. Car last known to be in Ludhiana, Punjab.

(Rolls-Royce Phantom II 1935, chassis no. 171 TA, earlier owned by Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla at his estate ‘The Manor’ in Old Windsor, England).

10.  Rolls-Royce Phantom II 1935, (chassis no. 171 TA) Windovers saloon with division coachwork (design no. 6277). This car soon passed to the Rt. Hon. Lady Scarsdale in November 1935. 

(Rolls-Royce 20-25 hp 1936, chassis no. GBK 42, ordered by the Maharaja of Rajpipla, but sold without taking delivery).

11.  Rolls-Royce 20/25 1936, (chassis no. GBK 42). Engine No. J 28 R. Windovers Sedanca de Ville coachwork (design no. 6341). Registration No. CFX 325. Cream and brown with black leather and fawn cloth interior. Ordered but cancelled in May 1936 because just as this car was ready, the magnificent Rolls-Royce Phantom III was launched. So the Maharaja asked for the 20-25 hp to be sold, and instead ordered the Phantom III 1937 3BU 198. The 20-25 hp was bought by Mr. R.J. Mackenzie in Elgin, Scotland. This car still survives having been restored by the Holton family in Northamptonshire.

(Rolls-Royce Phantom III 1937, chassis no. 3BU 198, of Maharaja Shri Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla).

12.  Rolls-Royce Phantom III 1937, (chassis no. 3BU 198). Windovers Sedanca de Ville coachwork (body no. 56), specified with a radio and ‘Philco Rola’ loud speakers and Marchal headlamps.

I may place on record that a lot of this information is courtesy Mr. John Fasal, who has been researching Rolls-Royce cars for many decades. His book on Rolls-Royce cars of the Indian princes is due to be published shortly. There is also a chapter by him on the Rajpipla Rolls-Royce cars in the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts' Club UK Yearbook 2014.

Many of the Rajpipla Rolls-Royce cars are still in existence around the world.

(Indra Vikram Singh, erstwhile Prince of Rajpipla and grandson of Maharaja Vijaysinhji, can be contacted on email teddy.rajpipla@gmail.com).

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