Yohan Poonawalla’s Maharaja Rolls-Royce Wins A Special Award In Italy

Images: Yohan Poonawalla Collection & Ida-Mari Svevad

One of the star cars from the Yohan Poonawalla Collection won an award at the recently concluded Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2023, a premier concours held annually on the shores of the stunningly scenic Lake Como in Italy. The 1949 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith Drophead Foursome Coupe bodied by James Young, formerly owned by the Maharajas of Mysore and Bharatpur, won the ‘Trofeo BMW Group Classic’, the award ‘For the most sensitive restoration by the jury’. With this result Yohan Poonawalla should be rightfully proud to have won a special prize at a prestigious event.

The Mysore Rolls-Royce at Villa d'Este in harmony with the backdrop

Following close scrutiny, the international jury decided that the Rolls-Royce’s restoration was most impressive and was selected from amongst a field of extraordinary cars assembled from around the world, which included the likes of a Ferrari 250 GTO, a Ford GT40, a Delahaye, a Chrysler Imperial, an Alfa Romeo, a Maserati and other venerable marques. The quality of its restoration, the documentation of its history and the presentation of the car was lauded by the judges and visitors.

The top concours condition of the car today is the result of a meticulous and comprehensive frame-off, nut-and-bolt restoration which was executed with the aid of original build sheets and factory records to return the car to its former glory. The historic automobile was the cynosure of all eyes, thanks largely to its bold colour scheme, attractive livery and its regal splendour. It attracted large crowds at the concours, where it joined the line-up of other Maharaja cars in ‘Class C’ titled: ‘Incredible India - The dazzling motoring indulgences of the mighty Maharajas’.

The Poonawalla Silver Wraith wends its way to Villa Erba

Renowned industrialist and owner of the car Yohan Poonawalla said “It gives me great joy to see Indian workmanship recognised on international platforms. Today’s result is due to my team’s untiring efforts and dedication. As one of the custodians of the rich automotive heritage of India, I feel honoured to showcase these automotive gems around the world, resultantly promoting India globally.”

Built by the stylish coachbuilder James Young, in 1949, Chassis WCB40 was delivered new to His Highness, the Maharaja of Mysore, who was considered the second richest man in the world, after the Nizam of Hyderabad. The Drophead Foursome Coupe was finished in carnation red and upholstered in red and grey leather.

On the red carpet at Villa Erba with Simon Kidston announcing

This uniquely bespoke Silver Wraith, like most cars of the potentate, came with a whole host of extras and regalia. The long list of features includes folding tables in polished veneered wood, ashtrays and cigar lighters in the arm rests, illuminated rear number plate, solid silver crests to doors, solid silver illuminated double-headed eagle plaques to the front & rear, and flag staffs to the front wings.

Regal and resplendent at Villa d'Este

The list of bespoke features continues, back of the front seats were to take out solid silver sandwich boxes, hair brush, scent bottle, comb, clothes brush and a soap box—all in solid silver, a sliding cabinet was fitted at the back of the rear seat squab to take solid silver thermos jugs, China cups and saucers, China plates, solid silver water flasks for cold water & coffee, umbrellas and a picnic box in locker at the top of the boot.

WCB40 on the grounds of Villa Erba, ready for an appearance at the red carpet parade

Topping it all was a secret locker, hidden behind the rear seat in which the Maharani could hide her priceless jewellery. After the ownership of the Maharaja of Mysore, WCB40 ended up with the Maharaja of Bharatpur. During Bharatpur’s ownership it was used for HRH, the Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip and by Her Majesty, the Queen Elizabeth II during their India visit. It was also used for the Prince of Wales visit. Introduced in 1946, the Silver Wraith was the first post-war model produced by Rolls-Royce.

Yohan Poonawalla's Mysore Silver Wraith WCB40 at Villa d'Este, seen with the award and citations

Like its predecessors, it was sold as a rolling chassis, offering its buyers the option to clothe it with a coachbuilder of their choice during the coach-built era. In what was a rare occurrence, no less than four of the most reputed coachbuilders were engaged to complete WCB40, a quintessential Maharaja car which resides today in the famed ‘Yohan Poonawalla Collection’.

To receive the stamp of approval and thumbs-up from the jury at Villa d’Este concours is an important endorsement for any car. The Mysore Silver Wraith was resurrected with the unwavering passion and dedication of its owner. Striking in colour, uniquely bespoke in character, and with a dual royal provenance and pedigree, WCB40 is a striking automobile. It is emblematic of the affluence of the once powerful and incredibly wealthy Maharajas and is today considered one of the world’s most unique and bespoke Silver Wraith extant.

WCB40 resting under the leafy shade, on the shores of Lake Como

Mohammed Luqman Ali Khan

Mohammed Luqman Ali Khan is a UAE-based author, curator & motoring historian. A member of the Society of Automotive Historians(USA) & Guild of Motoring Writers(UK) he wrote 'Automobiles of the Nizams'


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