The first Rolls-Royce that the Maharana ordered was a 40–50 HP, a Silver Ghost (as it was officially called later), in 1914. Chassis no. 64AB was on test on 27 January, 1914, and it was dispatched to coachbuilders Hooper & Co. on 18 May, 1914. Hooper, who were undoubtedly one of the most prestigious of the British coachbuilders, bodied the car as an open tourer, as can be seen from the photograph. What the black and white photograph doesn’t tell you is that the car was painted a dark olive green, with matching green leather upholstery inside. In time, the car left the royal garage and this Silver Ghost was taken out of India around 1969. The car is now in the UK.
It’s also quite possible that this was the only Rolls-Royce ordered by Maharana Fateh Singh, as the five subsequent Rolls-Royces ordered by the Udaipur royal family were all by his son, Maharaj Kumar Bhupal Singh. Among five, four were Twentys, of which the first was a Barker-bodied barrel-sided tourer. Ordered in 1922 which was originally an Indian Trails/ demo car, chassis no. 42 GO was on test on 11 November, 1922, with the delivery of the chassis following less than a month later, on 14 December the same year. Shipped out on 9 March, 1923, on the Kaiser-e-Hind, the car arrived in India on 4 April, 1923. The car then cost Rs 15,551!
Apparently, the Maharaj Kumar’s favourite Rolls-Royce, RR 42 GO was used throughout his reign, and was a daily driver—he liked been driven around Udaipur every evening in this car. At some point—around the late 1930s—this car received the engine of the Rolls-Royce Twenty that Bhupal Singh acquired subsequently, chassis no. GLK 21, the car that’s the subject of this book. With the death of Maharana Bhupal Singh in 1955, and upon the ascension of Maharana Bhagwat Singh, RR 42 GO was gifted to the Nathdwara temple on 15 September, 1955, as per the custom followed by the Udaipur royal family. Subsequently, RR 42 GO was picked up by Rolls-Royce authority John Fasal in 1967 and the car is still with him in the UK.
The second Rolls-Royce Twenty that Maharaj Kumar Bhupal Singh ordered in 1923, chassis no. 64H9, was a most unusual one. Another Barker-bodied tourer, this car had special hand control system for handicap use and the car was ordered so that the Maharaj Kumar could use it. Diagnosed with tuberculosis of the spine at the young age of 16, the Maharaj Kumar survived the dreaded disease but lost use of both of his legs. Paralyzed from the waist down, Maharaj Kumar Bhupal Singh was nevertheless an expert hunter, going out on hunts strapped on to his horse. And though most of the time he was chauffeured around, the Maharaj Kumar also wanted to be able to drive at least one of his Rolls-Royces, so no. 64H9 came specially equipped for use of the prince himself.
The modifications included a starter push-button on the instrument board that was connected to the standard foot-operated starter rod, the accelerator could be worked from the steering wheel, the gearshift wire cable mechanism depressed the clutch pedal to enable the gears to be changed, the front of the Boa bulb horn to the right of the steering column could be used as headlamp dipper control lever too and to the left of the dipper was an additional brake lever that operated the foot brakes for the rear wheels. All these additions made 64H9 quite an expensive car—it cost as much as Rs 34,380 then, more than twice of what was paid for RR 42 GO!
Despite all such accoutrements 64H9 was used rather sparingly as evidenced by the mileage on the car till January 1973—the Rolls-Royce had covered just 4,488 miles (7,223 km). Of course, part of the reason could be that, like 42 GO, 64H9 was also gifted to a temple—that of Kankroli, on the same date as the former, 15 September, 1955—and these temples had no use for the cars. At some point, the temple sold the car and 64H9 was for several years a part of the late Shashi Kanoria’s collection in Calcutta. The car is now with Bhubaneswar -based collector Dharmaditya Patnaik, who bought the car from Kanoria. The car, incidentally, won the category for exotic, essentially re-bodied or special cars, in the 2008 edition of the Cartier Concours d’Elegance event in Mumbai.
Either in late 1924 or in early 1925, the Maharaj Kumar of Udaipur acquired another Rolls-Royce Twenty. Chassis no. GAK43 seemed to have been ordered new by the Maharaja Scindia of Gwalior (he had also ordered GAK25, according to Rolls-Royce expert André Blaize), but it is possible that he cancelled the order and the car was instead picked up by the Maharaj Kumar. Not much is known about this car, it was except that it went to Jawada Ali Shah in Gorakhpur.
After a series of Rolls-Royce Twentys, the Maharaj Kumar ordered a new Phantom, chassis no. 100EF, in 1927, which set the family back a hefty Rs 45,933, the most that the Udaipur royal family had paid for a Rolls-Royce till then. But it was worth it—with a very elegant Hooper tourer coachwork, the Phantom was registered ‘Udaipur 3’ and then for the next 23 years served as an important ceremonial car for the most special of state guests, including the likes of the Lady and Lord Linlithgow, the Viceroy of India from 1936 to 1943.
On 14 January, 1950, 100EF was gifted to a certain Gopalji Mohta. A photo from 1961 shows the Karjali family in the Phantom I and it is possible that at that point of time the car was with the family that was in the service of Maharana Bhupal Singh. The car is now in the UK and is currently owned by Dr Christopher van Essen.
Maharaj Kumar ordered another Rolls-Royce Twenty Chassis no. GWL-2 with a Tourer body by Barker very little is know about this car.
On the death of Maharana Fateh Singh in 1930, Maharaj Kumar Bhupal Singh became the Maharana and remained the ‘ruler’ of Udaipur till the state merged with India upon the country’s independence. Since he became the Maharana, Bhupal Singh bought at least five more Rolls-Royces.
The first one ordered, in 1930, was a 20/25 HP tourer with a Hooper body. On test on 6 October, 1930, the car was delivered to Hooper on 4 November, 1930. A long type chassis with a louvered bonnet, chassis no. GNS11 arrived in Udaipur in 1931 and it received the registration plate ‘Udaipur 4’. The car cost the royal family Rs 32,103 and was one of the official cars for receiving important state guests.
Around September 1931 or soon thereafter, the Maharana bought a second-hand Rolls-Royce Twenty, chassis no. 66H3. Bought new by the Maharaja of Bharatpur, Sawai Kishen Singh, in 1923, the car was put up for sale through Rolls-Royce’s Bombay dealership in September 1931. Also a Barker-bodied tourer, the car featured a polished aluminium body, with the wings and wheels painted a bright red, the upholstery being in grey. The selling price of the car was Rs 5,950, though with delivery in Udaipur, the car may have cost the State Garage Rs 6,280.
The palace records also indicate that the 1923 Twenty (no. 66H3) was then taken away (or was it sold?) to Jodhpur by a certain Ambalalji Sab Dhekadia in 1956. The car is now with Delhi-based collector Sudhir Choudrie, who had picked it up from Calcutta-based Rolls-Royce fan Golam Momen in the early 1990s and the car after a very thorough restoration by eminent restorer Julian Williamson is another Rolls-Royce wowing enthusiasts in Delhi.
Two years later the Maharana ordered another Rolls-Royce 20/25. This time he got coachbuilders Thrupp & Maberly to make a limousine body. Also a long chassis car, the car was on test on 1 May, 1934, and was delivered to Thrupp & Maberly on the 18th of the same month. Painted a deep green with matching green leather interior, with the fenders in black, chassis no. GKC10 arrived in 1934 and received the registration number ‘Udaipur 5’. Bought at a price of Rs 36,737, this car was designated for the use of Chhota Rajmata Sahiba Gulab Kunwar of Udaipur, the wife of Maharana Bhupal Singh. The car was also used to receive and ferry around the lady dignitaries visiting Udaipur.
On 13 July, 1936, a gentleman by the name of Mohan Lal Sanghi, who was a dealer in high-end cars, offered a Rolls-Royce Twenty to Maharana Bhupal Singh. The car was not new—it had belonged to the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Umaid Singh. According to the records of the Udaipur palace, the car was bought by the Maharana (for Rs 5,721 then) and since then this car, chassis no. GLK 21, registered Udaipur 2, has belonged to the Udaipur royal family. The Jodhpur Rolls-Royce Twenty dated back to 1924 and had a tourer body by Barker, and it was the 1,043rd Twenty produced by Rolls-Royce. And this car, along with the two that Maharana Bhupal Singh bought—chassis no. GNS11 and no. GKC10—are still with the family, more than seven decades later.
In 1939 Maharana Bhupal Singh ordered another Rolls-Royce on Wraith type Chassis 25/30 HP Chassis no. WEC-80 with a Sedance de Ville body by Hopper this car was supplied to Udaipur State via Allied Motors Ltd. In January 1940 but returned to UK within the decade.
When Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar decided to make a museum out of the cars that he had, one of the first decision was to restore RR GLK 21. For help, his team of mechanics and tinsmith led by Anu Vikram Singh turned to the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club (RREC) and they recommended that they get specialist help. So they approached Hoffman’s of Henley-on-Thames, in the UK, for advice.
Other than locating an engine for the car (the engine of RR GLK 21 had been used to power Maharana Bhupal Singh’s favourite Rolls-Royce, 42 GO, as the latter’s engine had given some problems) and providing parts and brightworks, Hoffman’s also lent the services of Rolls-Royce expert Graham Ashley-Carter who came to Udaipur several times to supervise and advise on the restoration of the car. Some of the bits and pieces like the radiator, for instance, went to the UK to be repaired. So other than the fact that that RR GLK 21 is a car that is still owned by the same royal family for over seven decades, the car has been refurbished by Rolls-Royce experts in the small town of Udaipur. And that took around seven to eight painstaking years, before the car was ready in 2008, in time for the Cartier Travel With Style Concours d’Elegance event, where the car won ‘Best of Class’ in the Classic category.
Udaipur 4 and Udaipur 5 had different destinies. During late 1960s the Maharana then, Bhagwat Singh, decided to change the use of chassis no. GNS11. The body was taken off and instead the garage at the palace converted the Rolls-Royce into a light truck type design with two additional rows of bench seats aft of the driver-passenger cabin. Made into a ‘safari’ vehicle with a removable canvas top, the Rolls-Royce was used to ferry important guests to the forests and the reserve parks near Udaipur.
Udaipur 5, chassis no. GKC10, also had the mechanics at the palace garage giving it an interesting makeover—converting it into a Jeep-style design to carry the Mewar cricket team. Maharana Bhagwat Singh, a great cricket enthusiast, believed that his cricket team deserved, at the least, a Rolls-Royce to get them to the cricket grounds. The result is one of the most unusual body styles ever on a Rolls-Royce. Sure, the conversion may have most purists frowning, but the shape is distinctive, to say the least.
The fourth Rolls-Royce in the Udaipur palace museum is a 1934 Phantom II that used to belong to Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Vijaysinhji Chhatrasinhji Sahib, the Maharaja of Rajpipla (a 13-gun salute state situated in present-day Gujarat). Some time in the early 1960s the car, in all probability, was gifted to the Rajmata (Queen Mother) of the princely state of Kolhapur, Raj Dadi Saheba Indumati Devi, and Maharaj Kumar Arvind Singh Mewar bought it from her in 1971 for Rs. 34,000 and the Rolls-Royce was driven from Kolhapur to Mumbai by Maharaj Kumar Arvind Singh Mewar accompanied by Mr. Arvind Apte.
With very elegant Sedanca de Ville coachwork by Windovers, chassis no. 181RY is a famous car, having starred in the 1983 James Bond movie ‘Octopussy’, where the car and Udaipur (specifically the fascinating Lake Palace) figure prominently. The car again starred in the ITV television serial ‘Jewel in the Crown’.
Though several of the Rolls-Royces that the Udaipur royal family acquired were given away, the ones that have remained are acknowledged as very important part of the family’s fabulous heritage. And given Shriji’s sense of history and his passion for automobiles, the Udaipur Rolls-Royces are sure to become some of the ultimate manifestations of this automotive marque’s royal lineage.
This long and ever continuing association between Rolls-Royce and the House of Mewar remains one of the great automotive stories of the century. No single family in the world has such a legacy to boast of over such a long period of time, not only in terms of the association but in terms of the commitment and passion. Several generations of the Maharanas from Maharana Fateh Singh in 1914 through Maharana Bhupal Singh to Maharana Bhagwat Singh and to Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar, even the younger generation including his son Lakshyaraj Singh and the granddaughters too, all have been closely associated with these Rolls-Royces. This unbroken continuity is something that very few families can ever imagine boasting of despite the legions of wealthy enthusiasts the world over, and surely, this association will continue well into the future.