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Rolls Royce – The Indian Maharajas Motor Car

The Indian Maharajas who were introduced to the Rolls-Royce brand by the British had taken an instant liking to it and money was never a concern to them. By the late 1920s, hundreds of Rolls Royce cars were owned by Maharajas across India and when these Maharajas realized that every other Maharajas were buying Rolls Royce, they began to order customized cars to differentiate themselves & outdo each other through extravagant customizations. By the 1940s, there were more than a thousand Rolls Royce cars in India.

Rolls Royce extravaganza by Indian Maharajas
Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala

When the Maharaja of Patiala (Bhupinder Singh) visited a Rolls-Royce showroom & inquired the price of a high end model, the salesman mocked at him and said he would not be able to afford it. The infuriated Maharaja bought all the cars from the showroom, cut open their roofs and began to use them as garbage trucks!! As soon as the the car company received news of their brand being humiliated this way, the salesman was sacked & the company apologized Singh, requesting him to return those garbage cars so that they could in turn gift him with much better & expensive cars at no extra cost.

Page 160 from the book “Luxury Marketing”
From 2nd chapter of the book “Captain Amarinder Singh: The People’s Maharaja: An Authorized Biography”

The Maharaja of Mysore, being the 2nd richest man in the world never hesitated even a bit and regularly purchased them in multiples of 7 (i.e buying 7 at a time or 14 at a time and even 28 at a time). It was popularly referred to as “Doing a Mysore”. Maharaja of Nabha had customized his car to look like a swan and every evening, he would drive it slowly on the streets amidst eager crowds who would be mesmerized by the car which looked like a swan taking to water.

Swan shaped Rolls Royce owned by Maharaja of Nabha.

In some of the cars, exterior accessories were attached to turn them into terrain vehicles which could be used for hunting expeditions. H.H. Aga Khan II had installed extra footboards so that servants could stand on them holding “farlight screen mounted tiger shooting lamp” which would dazzle the Tiger’s eyes and thereby making it an easy victim. Maharaja of Kotah had attached Elephant rifle and hand-cranked machine gun for hunting purposes.

Cars for Tiger hunting.
Elephant rifle and hand-cranked machine gun for hunting purposes. Now in a museum.

After the independence of India, most of the Maharajas who were pushed into obscurity found it difficult to maintain their fleet of cars, sold them to vintage enthusiasts & museums across the world.

Story by
Guru Prasad

Guruprasad (or “GP” in short) is a Chief Engineer & Technology Mentor by profession and spends a...

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