Cars are eternally appealing and our erstwhile royals have always had a thing for cars of all types. Indian Maharajas have typically lived life king size and their extensive garages make for some scintillating automobile history to say the least. Here’s looking at the fabulous car collection of the ruling Holkars from Indore, one of India’s most revered and well known royal families. Cars have always been fancied by these royal families owing to their direct association with glamour and status. There was always a running contest among various royal families with regard to amassing better car collections. The Holkar ruling family, based in Indore possessed one of the best car collections ever witnessed in the country. This family was one of the earliest to actually embrace the novelty called cars at a time when they were still nonexistent on Indian roads. Alongside, one of India’s first women drivers was none other than Maharani Chandravatibai Holkar, wife of the Maharaja Tukojirao Holkar!
Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Holkar, the son and heir of Maharaja Tukojirao, was the one who actually built up this fabulous fleet of cars, being a passionate collector and connoisseur himself. The Maharaja had huge income from the productive and fertile Indore backing up his love for cars and he indulged himself with elan. He ordered cars without looking at the costs. He had an in-depth understanding of how cars work, car design and the fabrication of the body. The Holkar cars were customized with regard to door handles and other fittings. The Maharaja’s car collection attained fame in the United States of America and Europe too. Yeshwant Rao’s cars all came in art deco styles and his fleet included some magnificent Rolls Royces, Bentleys and Alpha Romeos. The Holkar family had huge residences on the French Riviera, Beverly Hills and Paris and these cars would be shipped across when the Maharaja and Maharani socialized with the who’s who of European society. Some of the best cars owned by the Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Holkar include an aerofoil Bentley coupe, the exclusive two seater Duesenberg and the 4.5 liter Lagonda.
These cars were finished in black and orange, the trademark Holkar colors and other special cars included a blue Bugatti, a seven seater Pierce Arrow type 41B dating back to 1931, three Alfa Romeos, a Delahaye and a Hispano Suiza J12. The Maharaja also brought down his rare and exclusive cream Figoni to India during winter and the car would be sent back to the United States of America during summer in order to prevent wear and tear due to the hot and humid weather. The Maharaja also ordered for a Bentley R type continental sports car with a two door design and the Holkar customization features intact. This was used only in the United States of America.
For a man having so many cars at his disposal, which was the apple of his eye? The Maharaja’s personal favorite was his 4.5 liter Bentley dating back to the year 1936 which was the last Gurney Nutting vehicle he purchased. This car possessed bright and bold colors and dials in orange and had trademark Holkar finishing as well. There were a total of six Bentleys owned by the Maharaja and approximately close to 60 cars in his garage.
The Holkar car collection deserves special mention based on styling and customization aspects. Almost all the cars owned by Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Holkar had black finishing for the coachwork. Alongside, there was an exclusive Sun Glow orange shade that ran aggressively and attractively right from the hood ornament to the door tops and finished at the rear area. The interiors were mostly in leather and had the same color and shade finishing. Why was this color chosen? This was mainly because saffron was the primary color for the Marathas which was represented through the Sun Glow shade. Every front fender of the Holkar family cars used to be fitted with a couple of running lights each. This was another unique feature of these cars and served another purpose too.
If there were red lights on, it indicated to subjects that the Maharaja himself was driving while blue meant the presence of the Maharani at the wheel. This was done mainly when the Maharaja realized that after dark, people saluted royal family cars even when they remained empty. The flag of the Maharaja was flown on the windscreen and not on the radiator as convention dictated. Alongside, there were HSC number plates on all these cars which translated into Holkar State Car. The Maharaja of Indore loved driving at supremely high speeds both abroad and in his home state. He often did record times between Indore and Ratlam, covering a total distance of about 90 miles in only an hour. All inhabitants of villages stayed off the roads until the Maharaja had passed by. Alongside, there were game preserves where the Maharaja drove his sports cars as well. He is also known to have gifted his shikari or hunter, a Bentley which was then parked under a tree in the man’s village! There are many such interesting anecdotes and nuggets of information about the man and his cars.
One car deserves special mention above all else, the Maharajah Duesenberg as it was known, was a one of its kind vehicle commissioned by Yeshwant Rao Holkar. This was the most expensive and well known car in the collection of the royal family and also had the distinction of being the last and biggest Duesenberg ever created. Duesenberg was a famed US based company for luxury automobiles that existed between 1913 and 1937. Their cars were luxurious roadsters and were extremely fashionable as well. Indian royal princes started falling in love with this car company instead of their Rolls Royce vehicles. The Maharaja ordered this car at the age of 28, on one of his trips across Europe and the United States of America and the car was finally kept at the Manik Bagh royal palace.