One of the very early Rolls-Royces with polished aluminum bodywork, this 1923 Twenty ordered by Nawab Moin-ud-Dowla is in the UK currently, with enthusiast Benjamin Grew (photo courtesy Benjamin Grew)
One of the early trends was for polished aluminum coachwork. Nawab Moin-ud-Dowla of Hyderabad was probably one of the first to have ordered a Rolls-Royce Twenty in 1923, with a very special body, a barrel-sided tourer by coachbuilder Barker & Co., of London, with polished aluminum coachwork. This was the first of four Rolls-Royces ordered by the Nawab. In 1924 the Nawab ordered another Rolls-Royce Twenty, again with polished aluminium bodywork, but this time he had the coachwork done by Hooper. Through the 1920s several Rolls-Royces and other cars were ordered with this finish. Other than looking like they were finished in silver, which gave the car a certain wealth and flamboyance, the reflective aluminum must have been quite effective in keeping away heat, making these cars cooler than cars painted in a darker shade.
This Phantom I limousine was the car used by the Maharani of Cooch Behar, Indira Raje; before restoration, the windows had a tint (Tom Wood Copyright RM Auctions)
With rather conservative social mores prevailing in India in the early part of the century, ladies of royal descent had to travel in ‘purdah’, or under ‘cover’, so that they wouldn’t be seen by other men. So many of the Rolls-Royces ordered for the maharani, the wives and daughters and dowager mothers of the Indian princes, featured tinted or darkened windows, other than curtains that gave them total privacy, with limousine or sedanca de ville body styles the prevailing choices, which allowed for the rear section of the coachwork to be completely secluded from prying eyes.
The most distinctive and special were the Rolls-Royces ordered as hunting cars by the Indian princes. Most often than not they were open tourers with special mountings for gun racks and powerful search lamps, though many of the cars used for ceremonial purposes and/or for travel did feature spot lamps for easier driving in the dark. So, when many of the recent owners, of the bigger Rolls-Royce tourers with Indian provenance featuring lamps and gun racks, have been claiming that their cars were hunting cars, it is not necessarily true. To be able to access the typically dense tropical forests of India smaller, lighter cars made much more practical sense, not big and heavy Rolls-Royces. Yet, a few of the princes did order very specific hunting Rolls-Royces.