In an ongoing Salon Retromobile exhibition in Paris, two of the 15 Rolls Royce Cars once belonged to the erstwhile Kashmir autocrat Hari Singh. A Kashmir Life report
Historians have termed Kashmir autocrat Maharaja Hari Singh a Rolls-Royce aficionado who would have not less than two dozen Rolls-Royce’s in his garages. He purchased a 40-50 hp Rolls Royce in 1926 for his coronation and then he never stopped till he fled Srinagar in a caravan of the imported cars in 1947.
Some of his cars are still making news as they participate in the vintage car exhibitions across the world. Two Rolls-Royce’s which have been repaired and refurbished by the new owner (read the actual manufactures) have participated in two exhibitions in 2012 and 2014, the latter in Germany.
The oldest of his cars being displayed is a 1928 RR Phantom I – 17 EX. Motor histories suggest that Rolls-Royce had commissioned three experimental cars and 17EX was the last and most definitive version of the ‘sports Phantoms’. After extensive testing and development, Hari Singh bought the car and shipped it home.
Motor historians says that Rolls-Royce was against selling any of their experimental models but the company could not afford displeasing Hari Singh (in 1930) because he had “purchased more than 25 cars from Rolls-Royce in a short span of time.”
Chassis 17EX Chassis one of four experimental Phantom Is built by Rolls-Royce in the 1920s. The others were 10EX, 15EX and 16EX. All four were clothed by different coach-builders so each was distinctly different. 17EX was delivered to Jarvis of Wimbledon where it was fitted with the very elegant ‘Torpedo’ body it still sports. The Rolls-Royce test-team racked up over 4500 miles before selling the car in the fall of 1928.
A few years later the car was acquired by P Mitter of Calcutta, used it extensively and sold off. The car was rediscovered by a prominent Rolls-Royce authority, Protap Roy, in the 1960s. In 1976, it passed into the hands of two Italian enthusiasts. It was acquired by Italian collector Dr Veniero Molari, then was sold to Spyker owner Victor Muller, who then sold it in auction, from where Austrian enthusiast Alexander Schaufler bought it.
By 2004, it was restored in Italy, which conveniently coincided with the Rolls-Royce 100th anniversary celebrations. The Dutch collector brought the car back to Italy for the 2006 Concorso Villa d’Este. It was awarded the Trofeo Rolls-Royce for the ‘Most Elegant Rolls-Royce’. In 2009 the owner decided to part with his prized possession and offered it in the RM Auctions Automobiles of London sale. It changed hands for £429.000.
With Schaufler since 2009 the car has done over 24000 km as he has been participating in various rallies and tours, other than starring at the 2012 edition of Pebble Beach. Now it is displayed in Germany.
Hari Singh’s second car that is still in news is a 930 Mercedes-Benz SS. It is also at display in Germany. Based on a shortened and lowered Type 630 chassis, this was the Super Sports supercar of that era. Hari Singh had purchased it in Berlin in in 1930 Paris salon. The four seat was left hand drive and was sent back to company that converted it to right-hand drive by changing the engine and the steering gear. It had a massive 7.1-litre engine, the famous M 06 unit designed by none else than Dr Ferdinand Porsche and also used in the fearsome SSK sports racers.
The powerful Singh’s retained the car till 1972 and then it spirited out of India. It went through a host of collectors until it was bought by Daimler-Benz itself. The company repurchased its product in Germany from a seller who had purchased it in Australia. Handed to Mercedes-Benz Classic for a thorough ground-up restoration, this car finally saw the light of day in its near original form at Pebble 2012.