| NEW DELHI, July 26
NEW DELHI, July 26 (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-barrelled 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 specialised
customised 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
The car's 8.0-litre, 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 favoured 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
"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.
Indiscriminate hunting, however, decimated India's Bengal
tiger population from an estimated 40,000 a century ago to about
1,700 today. Tigers are now a protected keystone species
throughout Asia from Indonesia's Sumatra to Indochina and India.
Indian maharajas were known for their high living and
extravagant spending on all manner of trappings including ornate
palaces, vintage cars and Louis Vuitton bags.
The nawab, or ruler, of southern Hyderabad state used the
famed Koh-i-Noor diamond, once the largest known gemstone in the
world, as a paperweight, while the nawab of tiny western
Junagadh state was renowned for spending lavishly on his dog's
"They wanted to live in ostentatious style. Being a princely
lot they had their own grand style and it was even copied by the
British," said Nevile.
(Additional reporting by C.J. Kuncheria; Editing by Robert