The ex-Maharajah of Mysore, Richard Solove and John M. O'Quinn 1911 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost Ceremonial Victoria Chassis no. 1683 Engine no. 91K (ex-chassis 1680)
One hundred years old this year, chassis 1683 is one of the most instantly recognisable of its breed. It has been owned by a roll call of those appreciative of the Silver Ghost starting from day one when it was ordered new for the Delhi Durbar.
The Delhi Durbar celebration of the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary in December 1911, was one of the most spectacular displays of Indian pageantry that the world had seen. And with the automobile now firmly part of the Indian Princes' culture, fleets of automobiles were purchased to provide transport for their honored guests and the rulers themselves. Eight of these were identical 40/50hp Rolls-Royce and each were to be Landaulettes built by the most noted British coachbuilders such as Barker, Hooper, H.J. Mulliner and Windovers. 1683 was the one exception, being an entirely closed car. In one of the more detailed orders that one will see for a 'Ghost, with many notes of liaison between the client and the company, the factory build sheets note that H.J. Mulliner were required to construct Pullman Limousine coachwork, finished in dark green with white coachlines. With nickel brightwork, it must have been a handsome conveyance, which was luxuriously appointed and came with many of the latest 'options' that the coachbuilder and manufacturer could offer. Topping it off, the Coat of Arms was to be 'emblazoned on the panels'. As denoted on the factory order, this was for the use of the Maharajah of Mysore, to whom it passed after the Delhi Durbar.
Rolls-Royce were virtually always in touch with the car, their records list parts supplied to their Indian agency for fitting to it. At some point early in its life, quite possibly in 1920 when a complete set of wire wheels were dispatched to India for 1683, the formal coachwork was replaced by the lightweight Ceremonial bodywork that it still retains to this day. It is understood that this was a particular favorite of the Maharajah, it allowed him to be survey his land and to be seen by his people on public occasions, behind the 'cape cart' Victoria hood was a ledge for his bearers to stand on and they were thoughtfully protected from the sun by a large umbrella. By the mid-1950s 1683 was still on the Maharajah's estate and was featured in company publication 'Rolls-Royce News' in February 1956. In an article titled 'These pictures take you to the East', the car is depicted and noted as 'Days were when this 1910 [sic] Rolls-Royce had pride of place among the Maharajah of Mysore's transport' 'The old car, still beautifully maintained, still starts on half a turn of the handle, and there is still a lot of affection for the Veteran among the Maharajah's transport staff'.
The car returned to the UK in the early 1960s, becoming the property of Victor Barclay, son of Jack Barclay founder of the famous sales agency for Rolls-Royce. Mr. Barclay would offer the car for sale at the first collector's car auction of motorcars held by Sotheby's in November 1965. The buyer on the day was James Leake the famed collector from Oklahoma, the sum paid being more than five figures, something of a record price for its day. A little over a decade later, Mr. Leake returned the car to the UK for the celebration of the Queen's Jubilee at Windsor in 1977.
'Jimmy' Leake would keep the car for more than 20 years passing it on to Tom Barrett of (Barrett-Jackson fame) in 1987, from Barrett it was sold to 'Ghost collector Raymond Lutgert, in 1993 before passing briefly to Silver Ghost aficionado Millard Newman of Tampa, Florida. Newman sold the car to another noted collector, Richard Solove, later that same year.
Mr Solove is arguably the most noted collector of the model to date, the Maharaja's car becoming the '11 in his quest for a 'full-set' of each year of Silver Ghost from 1907-1915. On achieving this goal in 2007, Mr. Solove nobly sold the collection publicly to benefit Cancer charities at which point the car joined the last of this impressive chain of Silver Ghost owners, the late John M. O'Quinn.
Over the course of the last Century, #1683 has been cherished and prized throughout its life. Among numerous pictorial references, it is featured in the Lawrence Dalton book 'Those Elegant Rolls Royce' and was immortalised in the Melbourne Brindle/Phil May book Twenty Silver Ghosts where it is illustrated with the Taj Mahal as its backdrop. Its mileage is thought to have been extremely modest in its Indian service, perhaps less than 10,000 and the succession of noted Silver Ghost collectors who have owned it have ensured that its condition has remained appropriately fine. There is no greater statement of this than the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Class win that it achieved at the 1995 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, following a refurbishment at the hands of noted specialist David Hemmings, although its condition has aged just a little since. Its engine, number 91K is actually the unit originally fitted to one of the Maharajah of Mysore's other Silver Ghosts and must have been exchanged at some point during its service.
Always a focal point of any event, the next owner will follow in some hallowed footsteps of not only Indian Royalty, but a handful of the best known collectors of pre-war Silver Ghosts.
Please note the car will be subject to import tax of 5% if remaining in the EU.