By Silvio Calabi
In 1919 in India, where peasants and oxcarts vastly outnumbered princes and motorcars, this bespoke Rolls-Royce must have appeared like the chariot of a god. Its owner was no less magnificent: His Highness the Maharaja Sir Bhupindra Singh, ruler of the state of Patiala. Singh owned some 150 motor vehicles, including 44 Rolls-Royces. This was his 16th Rolls, a Silver Ghost built as a sporting car (note the folding top, the “off-road” wheels and fenders, the door-less body and the gun brackets, all of polished aluminum).
The first so-called Silver Ghost was Chassis No. 60551, built in 1907 as a semi-touring car. It was finished in shiny aluminum paint, had silver-plated hardware and reportedly ran with dignified “ghost-like” quietness. This Ghost, Chassis No. 32PP, was ordered in December 1915, but construction was delayed until after the Great War (thus the “PP,” for postponed).
Alas, after an accident in 1932 that killed a daughter of Bhupindra Singh, the car wound up at an ice factory in Amritsar—re-bodied as a utility vehicle. In 1969 the sad remains of the car were repatriated to the UK by a Rolls-Royce collector. The presentowner acquired No. 32PP in 2001 and completed the restoration just last year. He is John M. Fasal of J.M.F. Motors, in Hertfordshire. Fasal is the authority on vintage Rolls-Royces, with the complete records of every Rolls that went to India from 1905 until independence, in 1947.
Last September the Patiala Ghost won Best of Show at Hampton Court Palace. Today it is on display at the Royal Automobile Club on Pall Mall. The magnificent Ghost is a relic of that glamorous, heedless Age of Empire.