Cartier pays tribute to restored 1911 Rolls Royce

Cartier pays tribute to restored 1911 Rolls Royce

"The throne car, fitted with a royal seat, was ordered by the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1911," Rana Manavendra Singh, a car historian and restorer and curator of the Cartier Concours, told IANS.

"He purchased the chassis of the car from coach maker Barker in London and handed it over to the Rolls Royce company for mechanical fittings," he said.  The car was delivered only in 1912, by which time the Nizam had died.

"The Nizam died before the vehicle was delivered. His son became the owner of the car. In 1937, the owner decided to modify the car to give it a contemporary for an anniversary celebration," Singh said.

"The car was fitted with new fenders and painted a garish shade to reflect the style of the era," Singh said. The car, which made international headlines, found mention in the Time magazine in 1937.

Last year, Cartier decided to restore the car back to its original form in consultation with the current owner, former princess Ezra of Hyderabad.

"That is how the car came to me. I restored it in six months," Singh said of the car that won the award Saturday. The scratch-built electric car with an overall length of eight feet has an unusual tulip-bodied limousine coachwork. The vehicle is powered by a 24-volt electric motor with variable control. The car boasts of a chauffeur's partition with folding seats and a driver's door, windscreen, roof and a luggage rack which can be opened.

The Silver Ghost Dome Roof limousine belongs to the family of Rolls Royce's that were used extensively by the rulers of the erstwhile princely states.

"Rolls Royce is a part of India's automotive heritage. Between 1911 and 1947, the company sold nearly 900 cars, one-fourth of its production, in India," Singh said.

"It is also symbolic of the country's culture, heritage and history. I showcased at least five different models of vintage Rolls Royce's at the Cartier Concours," Singh said. The journey of the Rolls Royce in India is rooted in stories of royal whims and passions.

Thus, some of the other models displayed at the Concours included a Shikar car, a Campers' Car and a Maharani Purdah's car, Singh said.  A Maharani's Purdah Rolls Royce, owned by the former maharaja of Jodhpur, was used by his grandmother. The car, fitted with dark glasses and fine wire meshing, obstructed the view from outside but the former queen mother could see out without being identified.

A Shikar car owned by the former maharaja of Mayurbhanj was modified with giant headlights while a Campers' model owned by the erstwhile maharaja of Bharatpur had a bed and washroom for the former royal to rest overnight while out camping in the wilderness and remote villages.

"Internationally, vintage Rolls Royce's are found in two models, the standard and VIP versions. But in India, the cars were subjected to an amazing variety of modifications," the auto-historian said.

What next?

A saffron yellow Rolls Royce, known as the Star of India, will be displayed in the country later in the year. It is said that Queen Elizabeth and Mahatma Gandhi had been ferried in this car.

"The car, which was sold to a British collector, was returned to the family of the erstwhile maharaja of Rajkot after 40 years," Singh said.

"But the family is finding the prospect of bringing back the car to India from Britain difficult because of the high duties. The 'kesariya' colour of the vehicle is of religious significance to the family," he added.

The car was purchased in an auction for $861,800 (around Rs.38 million) in 2009 by the grandson of Mandhatasinhji Jadeja, the original owner of the Star of India and presented to his father as a gift on his 75th birthday.