Rolls-Royce Twenty: Celebrating The 100th Anniversary Of The Twenty, With GLK21

Images: Makarand Baokar

Maharajkumar Bhupal Singh of Udaipur, who in 1921 took over some powers of the Udaipur princely state, had a passion for Rolls-Royces. He ordered three of Rolls-Royce’s latest models, the mid-sized Twenty, soon after he came into power.

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This is how a Rolls-Royce from the 1920s should look like: GLK21 has perfect proportions for the period

A cash cow for Rolls-Royce during the 1920s, selling as many as 2,885 units by the time production ended in 1929, the Rolls-Royce Twenty was the first of the prestige carmaker's many entry-level models since.

The first of the Udaipur Twentys was a Barker-bodied barrel-sided tourer that he acquired in 1922 (chassis # 42G0). The second, in 1923, was a most unusual one—another Barker-bodied tourer (on chassis # 64H9) but with a special hand control system to be driven by a person of handicap, the car was ordered so that the Maharajkumar could drive it.

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From whatever angle you look at the car, the Barker body is just right

Afflicted by polio at the early age of 16, Bhupal Singh was nevertheless an expert hunter, going out on hunts strapped onto his horse. Even if he was chauffeured around most of the time, Bhupal Singh also wanted to be able to drive at least one of his Rolls-Royces, so # 64H9 came specially equipped for use by the prince himself.

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Extremely well equipped, this Rolls-Royce Twenty features the optional luggage box at the rear

In that same year, the Maharaja of Bharatpur, Sawai Kishen Singh, gifted Maharana Fateh Singh a brand-new Rolls-Royce Twenty (chassis # 66H3), again another Barker-bodied tourer. And then in 1927, the Maharajkumar ordered a new Phantom, chassis # 100EF, with very elegant Hooper tourer coachwork, which was registered Udaipur 3.

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Shriji with his son Lakshyaraj Singh, younger daughter Padmaja Kumari and GLK21 at Cartier concours

After the death of Bhupal Singh’s father Maharana Fateh Singh in 1930, the former became the Maharana officially and remained the ‘ruler’ of Udaipur until the state merged with India upon the country’s independence.

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With instrumentation spread across, the Twenty's dashboard wasn't a paragon of ergonomics

Since he officially became the Maharana, Bhupal Singh bought at least three more Rolls-Royces, two of which were 20/25HP models: a tourer with a Hooper body in 1930, and another one three years later, bodied by Thrupp & Maberly as a limousine.

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Wearing all its regalia, Udaipur 2 looks extremely elegant

On the 13th of July 1936, Maharana Bhupal Singh (r. 1930-1955 CE) acquired a second-hand Rolls-Royce Twenty, which used to belong to the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Umaid Singh. Chassis # GLK21, registered Udaipur 2. It is quite possible that this car was acquired to provide a substitute engine for chassis # 42G0, which had had some mechanical issues.

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The famous sign of the Udaipur family symbolizing surya

The Jodhpur Rolls-Royce Twenty—chassis #GLK21—dates back to 1924 and features a very elegant tourer body by Barker. This car, along with the two that Bhupal Singh had bought as the Maharana, chassis # GNS11 and # GKC10, are still with the family, almost a century later.

Chassis # 42G0, with the engine from GLK21, was picked up by Rolls-Royce authority John Fasal in 1967 and the car remains with him in the UK.

GLK21, with the engine from the 42G0, remained in original condition until the late 1990s, but it was showing its age and the car was not running all that well anymore. So, when Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar decided to make a museum out of the cars that he had, one of the first decisions was to restore GLK21.

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Check out the hand-painted coat of arms of the erstwhile princely family of Udaipur

For help, his team of mechanics and tinsmith led by the Curator Anu Vikram Singh turned to the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club (RREC) and they recommended that they get specialist help. So, they approached Hoffman’s of Henley-on-Thames, in the UK, for advice.

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A close-up view shows the ignition and throttle control on the steering wheel of the Twenty

Other than providing parts and brightworks, Hoffman’s also lent the services of Rolls-Royce expert Graham Ashley Carter who came across to Udaipur several times to supervise and advise on the restoration of the car.

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Note the coachbuilder Barker's details on the door sill plates

Some of the bits and pieces like the radiator, for instance, went to the UK to be repaired. After four painstaking years the car was ready in 2008, in time for the Cartier concours, where the car won ‘Best of Class’ in the Classic category.

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Delightful details included reading lights on the backrest of the front pair of seats

At the 2012 edition of the Pebble Beach concours d’elegance, GLK21 starred in the Maharaja Class, winning the Lucius Beebe trophy. Since then, it has been the cynosure of all eyes that get to visit and see the cars in Shriji’s Vintage and Classic Car Collection museum at Udaipur.

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Gautam Sen

Serial concours judge, author, founder-editor of several Indian auto mags, as well as co-conspirator with design greats Marcello Gandini, Tom Tjaarda, and Gérard Godfroy on a few vehicle projects


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