India maharaja's tiger hunting Rolls may fetch $1 million

Tue Jul 26, 2011 11:28am EDT
 
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By James Pomfret

NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - Auction house Bonhams will put under the hammer a rare Rolls Royce Phantom modified for tiger hunting by an Indian maharaja during the days of the British Raj, featuring a mounted machine gun and a cannon, that may fetch up to $1 million.

The custom-made 1925 Rolls Royce was originally commissioned by Umed Singh II, the maharaja of Kotah in the 1920s at a time when tiger hunting was hugely popular in India.

The flaming red vehicle, with a convertible canvas roof and bespoke hunting features including a double-barreled shotgun, spotlights for night hunting and a mountable Lantaka cannon, is expected to fetch up to $1 million when it goes on the block in mid-August in Carmel, California.

"It was quite common, most of the maharajahs had specialized customized cars manufactured in the U.S. and they even had gilted frames and all sorts of things," said Pran Nevile, a writer and expert on India's colonial era known as the British Raj.

The car's 8.0-liter, 6-cylinder engine with a low gearing ratio allowed "it to creep powerfully through the roughshod jungles of Rajasthan," wrote Bonhams.

For centuries, big game hunting of tigers, leopards and Asiatic lions in India's forests was a favored pastime of India's rulers from the Mughal emperors to the British elite.

While much tiger hunting was carried out on elephant-back, some Indian maharajahs, or "great kings" of princely states across India including arid Rajasthan, took things to the extreme.

"It was more for a show but everything would be ready and then they would then go and take this Rolls Royce up to a point or the hills and from there shoot the tiger that was already captured by their servants," Nevile told Reuters.   Continued...

 
<p>A rare Rolls Royce Phantom modified for tiger hunting by an Indian maharaja during the days of the British Raj, featuring a mounted machine gun and a cannon, in an undated photo. REUTERS/Handout</p>