We take a look at the rare 1911 Rolls Royce, on permanent display at the Chowmahalla PalaceRaseel Ahluwalia firstname.lastname@example.org
The story of the Titanic continues to captivate our imagination even today, 100 years after the disaster. In April 1912, RMS Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. But the largest “unsinkable” ship afloat at that time, sank four days into the voyage, when it was about to reach Newfoundland.
Closer home, here in Hyderabad, we have our own romantic, 100-year old story. And this story, unlike the Titanic, has a happy ending. Princess Ezra Jah, has made both Hyderabad and the Chowmahalla Palace proud, by putting on permanent display a rare 1911 Rolls Royce.
This car was acquired by the sixth Nizam, Mir Mahboob Ali Khan, custom-built for Indian royalty, as was common then. It was a specially prepared ‘throne car’, built on a 1911 Silver Ghost chassis by the renowned coach-builders, Barker and Company of London. They built a state body on a London-Edinburgh chassis for the Nizam who was subsequently to own some of the most exotic cars of the world. It was also the first State car to be ordered for purely ceremonial purposes in India.
The rear portion of the car was elevated to provide a raised seat for the Nizam and the seat had collapsible arm rests. There were additional collapsible seats, at least two of them for the security staff. The domed roof, surmounted by a silver cap was finished with a silver beading and bordered with a massive fleur-de-lis pattern fender.
After India gained independence in 1947, the princely states acceded to the Indian Union and the car was simply stored away – till it was decided to restore and showcase it – more than six decades later. The idea of sending it to England was considered but abandoned. The restoration was entrusted to automotive historian and expert, Manvender Singh, son of Raja Barwani, himself a former royal, who worked on it in his workshop in Indore.
The car is now re-sprayed in its original canary yellow, with special gold mountings. The old gold silk brocade laces and curtains and the special upholstery came from France. The original roof dome in silver finish can be seen again now. Even the lamps, working off a CAV dynamo set, were silver plated. The driver’s cabin is separated by a glass panel. The Nizam’s ‘dastar’ can be seen on the bonnet and the royal insignia on the doors.
It took Manvender Singh six months to complete the task and the car was then entered in the ‘Cartier Travel with Style De Elegance’ show in New Delhi. It won both the ‘Best in Class’ and ‘best in Show’ awards there.
This amazing car has now completed 100 years of its existence. The Rolls has not even clocked 400 miles. It is still with the same family. It was dedicated to the Chowmahalla Palace and will be on permanent display there. One can see the Palace is the perfect setting for this car as it was recently awarded the UNESCO Heritage award.
Princess Jah told the gathering it was a very expensive restoration but she hopes to restore two more Napiers and exhibit them in the Palace.
Already there is a Buick roadster, a Steyr and a Fiat Ballila making the Chowmahalla an attractive tourist destination. Specially in this, the hundredth year of this very rare Rolls Royce with a great provenance. The halcyon days of the Palace are back again.
The writer is a former Deputy Registrar at HCU