The last of 12 Rolls-Royce cars that Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla bought was the Phantom III 1937, chassis no. 3BU198, engine no. X18E with Windovers sedanca de ville coachwork, design no. 4986, body no. 6456. It was specified with a radio and ‘Philco Rola’ loud speakers, and Marchal headlamps. It bore UK registration no. DXP989.
Some of the most spectacular Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars were those built in the inter-war period for Indian Maharajas. The majority date back to the era of the Silver Ghost and the Phantom I and II models. Only a very few Phantom IIIs, built between 1936 and 1939, were bought by the Maharajas, and the Rajpipla 3BU198 is one of the most handsome of them all.
Rolls-Royce expert Steve Stuckey wrote in June 2008, “This is the last of the Phantom IIIs with Indian connections. The chassis came off test on 25 February 1937, fitted with engine X18E, and with steering first at the high C rake but changed during construction to the middle E rake. The chassis went to coachbuilder Windovers Ltd. on 1 March 1937, where they built a sedanca de ville to design 4986 and body number 6456. The car had false landau irons, and two spare wheels, one to each side. Unusual for a car for use in the UK, it was fitted with Marchal lamps. The car had been ordered from Windovers on 18 October 1935, just after the Phantom III had been announced. It was completed on 29 April 1937 and delivered to its new owner Maharana Shri Sir Vijaysinhji Chhatrasinhji, Maharaja of Rajpipla (30 January 1890 – 29 April 1951) on 3 May, with UK registration DXP989.The Maharaja had his often-used English address at The Manor, Old Windsor in Berkshire, which is where the PIII was delivered and kept. He had succeeded as Maharaja on 26 September 1915, and had quite a few Rolls-Royce cars, most with coachwork by Windovers. In 1956 the car was owned by John Blackwood of the large British engineering company Blackwood Hodge; in 1961 it was owned by a C. Campleman, and in 1962 by an A.J.H. King in Kent. In 1961 it was for sale for 600 pounds, still with its original hydraulic tappets, and in July 1962 a London dealer had it for sale at 750 pounds, with under 60,000 miles on the clock.”
The magnificent Rolls passed into the hands of a member of the Swedish royal family. It then came into the ownership of a celebrated collector and enthusiast, Hans Thulin. In 1988 the car went to Germany, where it spent twenty-five years. This collector bestowed remarkable amount of effort on the car and spent nearly a hundred thousand euros, carrying out a great deal of detailed restoration work to the highest standards. The car went back to the United Kingdom in 2013 where it was sold for £103,720.
The beautifully well-proportioned sedanca de ville remains in remarkable condition. The engine is virtually silent when idling, as it should be. Finished in gleaming Embassy Black, it has excellent chromed brightwork including an original ‘spirit of ecstasy’ mascot. The luxurious interior has also been expertly restored in light brown leather with superb highly-polished wood cappings, including a cocktail cabinet fitted to the central division. The car has a substantial history file, which includes German road registration papers and an original factory handbook.
Nearly every Rolls Royce produced before 1955 was a six cylinder, and their V12, only found in the Phantom III was admirable. Less than 750 Phantom IIIs in all were produced, so they are rare today.
For the record, Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla owned three Silver Ghosts phaetons, #16CA by Barker, #32UG by Hooper and #130EU by Maythorn; 20HP #40GI Windowers landaulette; two Phantom Is #55EF Elkington cabriolet de ville and #27WR Windowers coupe de ville; three Phantom IIs #154XJ Windowers limousine, #181RY Windowers sedanca de ville and Windowers #171TA saloon with division; and two 20/25HPs #GMD73 Windowers tourer and #GBK42 Windowers sedanca de ville. Finally came the Phantom III #3BU198 Windowers sedanca de ville.