When Maharajas Made Rolls Royce Cars India’s Favorite Garbage Truck

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A tradition of opulent garbage trucks commissioned by Indian Maharajas disgruntled with the luxury car moguls left a dark stain on Roll Royce’s reputation throughout the early 1900s. It seems Royce’s stereotypical British snootiness was not prepared for the mother-of-all tantrums from a few of India’s prominent Maharajas.

The story begins with the Maharajas’ infatuated honeymoon phase with Rolls Royce - there were an estimated 20,000 of the cars made before the start of World War I and about 20 percent of them made their way over to the Indian subcontinent. One estimate puts the number of Rolls Royce owned by just 230 Maharajas of India at 900, between 1908 to 1939.

Those numbers seem pretty dang good for Rolls Royce! But maybe it got to their head considering there is a history of Maharajas being insulted by the bourgeois behemoths of the car world, including the Maharaja of Alwar, the Patiala Prince Bhupinder Singh, and the Maharaja of Bharatpur. A word to the wise, don’t piss off a bunch of eccentric Royals with an exorbitant amount of time and money on their hands, ‘cause you’re not going to win.

The first Maharaja to enter this sassy saga was the Maharaja Of Alwar who stopped by the Mayfair car showroom in the 1920s without donning his royal garb. As a result of his ‘drab’ appearance, the Maharaja was taken for a time-wasting, lookie-loo and was asked to leave the showroom. In response to this cold shoulder the Maharaja stated his title and informed the manager of the showroom that he would purchase seven Rolls Royce, on the condition the ill-mannered salesman accompanied the vehicles to India.

His demands were met, however, it seems the Maharaja’s wounded pride was not so easily appeased, resulting in a decree to use seven Rolls Royce cars to collect municipal trash. It is rumoured that this action was so detrimental to the luxury brand’s sales numbers that they offered an additional seven cars to the Maharaja if he removed his vehicles from trash duty. This technique proved so effective it was adopted by other Maharajas as a way of dealing with being slighted by the English car dealers.

Bhupinder Singh showed his anger for the company’s refusal to accept his new order for cars by turning his old Rolls Royces into garbage trucks. Another Maharaja of Patiala is said to have shipped 50 Rolls Royce cars to India and had them collect garbage until representatives of the company came to Patiala to personally apologise for their behaviour in a Rolls Royce showroom. And the Maharaja of Bharatpur too threatened to convert his cars into garbage carriers unless the company promptly sent the mechanics to fix the faults in his cars.

Despite the pettiness of both Rolls Royce and the Maharajas, some of us wish we saw the day when Rolls Royces trolled the streets of India for garbage. What a sight!

Representational feature image via The Automotive India

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