Yeshwantrao had a deep understanding of the automobile. He knew exactly which car to buy, how the car’s lines should flow and how the body was to be fabricated. Unlike his dad he was a true patrol head who knew almost how to build a car by himself.
Every car that Yeshwantrao owned had the ‘Holkar Hallmark’ – an outstanding sense of design and proportion with individually designed interiors. Attention was paid to every single detail of the car and even the door handles were specially designed with Art Deco motifs. Correction, a true perfectionist patrol head!
His cars were all painted in sunglow and black and had black ebony dashboards with orange dials and white lettering. The cars were famed by their interiors that were just as impressive as the exteriors. There is no such exclusivity to be found on any other automobile of the Indian Royalty! Other than the futuristic Art Deco style, one of Yeshwantrao’s trademarks was his personal crest with the royal umbrella and his Art Deco style monogram with the initials ‘YH’ for Yeshwantrao Holkar. It featured on each car he owned on the front and on the rear doors.Another smart feature was the twin lights on the fenders. One was red when the Maharaja was inside the car and the other blue for the Maharani! If both colors showed, they were both present. He had resorted to this practice out of consideration for his subjects, who at night would offer their salutes towards the car on seeing the royal red number-plate, which sometimes happened even when the car was not carrying any passengers. His personal standard didn’t fly, as was common, on the radiator, but by the side of the windscreen. He was defiantly noticed on the roads with all those typical features!
As you can see from his sunglow and black painted cars, the Maharaja was gifted with an extraordinary sense of colour and a flamboyant but refined sense of dress. Older Indore citizens can still remember the spectacle they witnessed when the fancy dandy emerged from one of his unique cars, dressed in the most incredible colour combinations, such as a cream or pistachio green suit with a bright orange or pink tie.
Yeshwantrao owned several palaces in Indore and overseas in Europe and in Santa Anna in California. Many of his cars were garaged on these overseas estates. One of his palaces was the incredible Manik Bagh (Garden of Rubies) Palace in Indore, designed in Art Deco style by the German architect Eckart Muthesius (mentioned in an earlier article on CRANKHANDLEBLOG).We already knew that the fancy Maharaja was – next to collecting fine cars – interested in Art Deco, jewelry, modern architecture, etc. His interests were even grander than that, as he was also a gourmet who loved music, reading, swimming, playing tennis, golf and bridge and of course shikar, the sport of hunting. Everything in his lifestyle was mostly futuristic and certainly in an excessive way!
He probably owned the largest fleet of shikar transport! Not just some ordinary caravans, but a whole camp, designed by Muthesius, one of the masters of the Art Deco style! This 1936 shikar camp used to be parked in a the shape of a star and consisted of four caravan trucks around a luxurious and royal central tent. The vehicles were fitted out with pull-out side panels, lift-up roofs, fold-out floors on hydraulic supports and folding door connections, and provided enough space for a dining room, bath, bedroom and study. The rooms were furnished with stacking chairs, armchairs, dining table with chairs and bedroom furniture. I told you… everything was equipped in an excessive way and always of the best quality! This special camping transport is described by Reto Niggl in his book Eckart Muthesius – The Maharaja’s Palace in Indore.Indore State had a number of splendid game reserves to which the Maharaja regularly drove in his sports cars. An old friend of the Maharaja, Benjie Nedou, remembers “The Indore jungles were divine. You could drive out from Manik Bagh Palace in Indore and within half an hour motoring through beautiful, unspoilt country you would get into the Maharaja’s reserves. You could see sloth bear, pig, blue-bull, spotted deer, tiger and panther. Nobody shot females and nobody dared to shoot any animal that was under the protected specification of Maharaja Yeshwantrao. You didn’t go around like a butcher… After Partition this was like forbidden fruit and the animals were all slaughtered” : (The Maharaja was generous to a fault. Old employees recount a reliable story about the time Maharaja Yeshwantrao gifted a Bugatti to one of his shikaris (hunters), who had helped him to shoot a huge tiger. Sadly the car ended up lying in the shikari’s village under a tree and literally disintegrated over time.
Yeshwantrao’s Duesenberg was the last built in the J-chassis line – chassis number 2614 – a long wheelbase supercharged right-hand dive chassis, coachbuilt as a two-seater speedster by Gurney Nutting… who else? Today this beautiful car is part of the Lyons Collection in America. It was taken out of the country by the Bollywood actor Sheikh Mukhtar, who took it to Pakistan together with the ex-Maharaja of Orcha’s Pininfarina-bodied Cadillac V16. From there both cars were legally exported to America. The Maharaja’s Gurney Nutting bodied V12 Lagonda and Derby Bentley roadster both survive in India. His J12 Hispano-Suiza, eventually found its way to America after having lain derelict in a garden where it had completely deteriorated. Presumably a Mr. J.K. Davis from Bombay saved the car from further destruction. A major restoration was started by its first American owner, where after the unfinished project was acquired by the Blackhawk Collection. This car is now owned by a collector in the Czech Republic who is having the car fully restored to its former splendor. Let us hope that we will soon witness the resurrection of this exceptional car.After Yeshwantrao died in 1961 he was succeeded by his daughter, Maharani Ushadevi Holkar, the 15th Maharani of Indore, who still rules over Indore State today! She is married to the chairman of Empire Industries. Next, a very nice and cute POTW with a little prince on a white pony!
Written by Rosemarijn Atalante Veenenbos
Credits: The Automobiles of the Maharajas by Sharada Dwivedi and Manvendra Singh Barwani