Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The status of Rajpipla among Indian princely states

The Princely State of Rajpipla

Rajpipla was a prominent princely state prior to the independence of India, and merger of princely states with the Union of India.

Of a total of 536 ruling princely states in undivided India, there were 120 salute states with uneven numbered gun-salutes ranging from 9 to 21, and 416 non-salute states.

Rajpipla was a 13-gun salute state. There were only 57 princely states with gun-salute of 13-guns and above.

Rajpipla State had an area of about 4,000 square kilometres. Only 46 princely states in India had an area of 4,000 square kilometres or more.

Rajpipla was among the top four princely states in the Bombay Presidency, the others being Kolhapur, Idar and Khairpur (now in Sindh, Pakistan), out of a total of 152 salute and non-salute states.

Rajpipla was the largest and only first-class princely state in the Rewakantha Agency, comprising 61 states.

Rajpipla was the second-largest after Baroda among Gujarat states (excluding Kathiawad).

Based on the above facts, Rajpipla ranked among the top 10 percent of the ruling princely states in undivided India.

The Gohil Rajput Clan

The ancient Gohil Rajput clan, to which the Rajpipla royal family belongs, is one of the oldest and most respected in India. It traces its origin to the 6th century AD and beyond, and it ruled over north Gujarat, Mewar, Marwar, and Gohilwar in present-day south Saurashtra, before holding sway over Rajpipla for 600 years from the mid-14th century till merger in 1948. The Sisodias emananted from the Gohils, and in turn the Bhonsles and Ranas of Nepal sprung from the Sisodias. Only five original Gohil Rajput royal families remain, those of the erstwhile princely states of Bhavnagar, Rajpipla, Palitana, Lathi and Vala (Vallibhipur), all in present-day Gujarat.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The last Rolls-Royce bought by Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla, the fabulous Phantom III 1937

The twelfth and last Rolls-Royce bought by Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla was a fabulous Phantom III 1937. The 3BU 198 Phantom III chassis came off test on 25th February 1937, fitted with engine no. X18E, and with steering first at the high C rake but changed during construction to the middle E rake. It went to Windovers Limited on 1st March 1937, where they built a sedanca de ville, to design no. 4986 and body number 6456. The car had false landau irons, and two spare wheels, one to each side. Unusually for a car for use in the UK, it was fitted with Marchal headlamps. A radio and ‘Philco Rola’ loud speakers were installed in keeping with advancement in technology. It was painted Embassy Black, completed on 29th April 1937 and delivered to the Maharaja at his Old Windsor estate on 3rd May with UK registration DXP 989. It looks remarkably similar to his Phantom II 1934 181 RY but, of course, with different engines and other features.

The Maharaja used the car in the UK. The Second World War came two years later. The romantic era of the 1920s and 1930s was over. Things were never the same again after the war. Rajpipla State was merged with the Union of India in April 1948. Maharaja Vijaysinhji passed away at Old Windsor in 1951.

In 1956 the car passed on to John Blackwood of the large British engineering company Blackwood Hodge; in 1961 it went to C. Campleman, still with its original hydraulic tappets, and in 1962 was acquired by A.J.H. King in Kent with under 60,000 miles on the meter. The car then passed into the hands of a member of the Swedish royal family and apparently still retains one of the royal family's car badges, as well as a window sticker. It then came into the ownership of a celebrated collector and enthusiast, Hans Thulin. In the late 1980s it went to Germany where the collector carried out a great deal of detailed restoration work to the highest standards.

This splendid automobile is now believed to be in remarkable condition, with excellent chromed brightwork including an original 'spirit of ecstasy' mascot. The luxurious interior has also been expertly restored in light brown leather with superb highly-polished wood cappings, including a cocktail cabinet fitted to the central division. It was last auctioned at Coys, London in December 2013.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Turn in the wheel of fortune of the Rolls-Royce 20/25 hp GBK 42

An interesting story began to unfold when in November 1935 Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla ordered a Rolls-Royce 20/25 hp chassis no. GBK 42, bearing engine no. J 28 R, from the Rolls-Royce works. It was sent to Windovers to be fitted with sedanca de ville coachwork to design no. 6341 by Vanden Plas. The Windovers order noted the bodywork to have seating for 6/7 persons, facilitated by sideway type occasional seats, a one-piece opening windscreen, and the luggage accommodation merged into the coachwork. The interiors were asked to be trimmed with rope pulls, Pullman arm-rests to front and rear compartments, pockets to the front doors, and front sun visor. Fittings were to be untarnishable, the glass being Triplex all over. It was also requested that private locks be fitted to the nearside door handles, and traffic indicators be set into the centre pillars.

This Rolls-Royce 20/25 hp 1936 was completed to its ordered specifications, but when the finished car was delivered to the Windovers showroom at Conduit Street, London in mid-May, the order was cancelled and the car reverted to stock. If I understand my grandfather’s mind well, this is what apparently happened. Maharaja Vijaysinhji had already ordered from Windovers on 18th October 1935 the fabulous V-12 Phantom III, just after Rolls-Royce had been announced its launch. My grandfather already had a 1934 20/25 hp tourer in India, hence decided not to take delivery of the GBK 42, and instead looked forward to the Phantom III.

The 20/25 hp, bearing registration no. CFX 325, was then bought by R.J Mackenzie of Elgin, Scotland, eleven days later. It was further restored by the Holton family in Northamptonshire. The car's history is charted through the Rolls-Royce records, becoming the property of Robert McGlone of Hendon in 1945, on to Herbert Baber of Bringsty, Worcestershire in 1958, changing hands just twice more before acquisition by a collector in 1980.

A ground-up restoration was undertaken and the car was repainted in cream and brown livery which complements its coach-lines wonderfully, and re-upholstered by Chisholm (Trimming) Limited, giving it a black leather and fawn cloth interior. In addition to the original detailed specifications, the well-appointed rear compartment then featured smokers'-companions, and sliding mirror panels in the quarter lights. The car by auctioned at Christie’s in the year 2000.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The chequered journey of Rolls-Royce Phantom II 1935 of Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla

A Rolls-Royce that Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla retained only for a short while was a Phantom II 1935, chassis no. 171 TA, Windovers saloon with division coachwork design no. 6277.

This car soon passed to Lady Scarsdale in November of that year, and then began a chequered record. The car was known to be with a Mr. Dovey in Uitenhage, South Africa, who brought it there from Nchanga (Chingola), Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. It was purchased by Michael Morelli in April 1975 in terrible condition. He decided to junk the body and obtain, or build, an open tourer replica with a side-mounted spare wheel, but then thankfully retained the saloon.

The present owner is Charles Goodman, auto restorer in South Africa, who bought the car in the year 2000. I am in touch with him. He likes the cream and maroon car very much and plans to restore it to mint condition soon.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Rolls-Royce Phantom II 1934 of Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla now in the Mewar royal cars collection

A Rajpipla Rolls-Royce that is still very much in evidence in India is the 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).

The 6th Earl of Portarlington, Lionel Arthur Henry Seymour Dawson-Damer (1883-1959) was a director of Windovers and originally used it as a demonstration car. Maharaja Vijaysinhji shipped this car to India. It was driven mainly between Rajpipla, Bombay, Poona and surrounding areas for two decades.

Thereafter it went to Kolhapur, and was with M. Apte in Bombay for some time.  It is now in the Mewar royal cars collection at Udaipur and was featured in the 13th James Bond movie ‘Octopussy’ in 1982. In the same year it featured in episode 4 of the television series ‘The Jewel in the Crown’ which was also largely filmed in Udaipur, showing the car registered ‘Mirat 1’.

I had the great pleasure of looking closely in early 2014 at this wonderful car, formerly owned by my grandfather. Mechanical restoration has been carried out in recent years. The interiors are to be refurbished soon to a standard befitting a Rolls-Royce. The exterior is in prime condition, still carrying the original coat of paint.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The ‘lost’ Rolls-Royce cars of Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla

Maharaja Vijaysinhji already owned three Rolls-Royce cars in India, two Silver Ghosts and a 20 hp (Baby Rolls) in India; and a Phantom I at his estate ‘The Manor’ in Old Windsor, UK.

The first Rolls-Royce Phantom II bought by the Maharaja was in 1930, bearing chassis no. 154 XJ. It carried Windovers enclosed limousine coachwork, commission no. J7940, design no. 5690.

It was recently discovered by the Rolls-Royce expert John Fasal that Maharaja Vijaysinhji also owned Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost 1924, chassis no. 103 EU, engine no. U 195, with Maythorn tourer coachwork. It originally belonged to J.A.Venn in Cambridge, from whom the Maharaja bought it in February 1933.

It was in 1934 that Maharaja Vijaysinhji won the coveted Epsom Derby, and that is what, I presume, led him to buy two Rolls-Royce cars that year. One of them was a Phantom II, chassis no. 181 RY, which is now in the Udaipur royal cars collection. The other one was a 20/25 hp, 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. It was last known to be in Ludhiana.

There is now neither a photograph nor any trace of the 154 XJ, 103 EU and the GMD 73. There are fleeting glimpses in a film of the black 154 XJ, but that is all. These three would then be the ‘lost’ Rolls-Royce cars of Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla. He bought several more later, which we shall speak about soon.