Continuing legacy: A Silver Ghost outside Rolls-Royce’s Indian depot. Photographs by Rolls-Royce

In 1902, Lord and Lady Llangattock, parents of co-founder Charles Stuart Rolls, visited Delhi before the Coronation Durbar in 1903. “They must have told their son Charles," says a page from Rolls-Royce history, “of the burgeoning interest in motoring amongst the fabulously wealthy Indian potentates."

In 1906, less than five years after the first automobiles were shipped into the country, a catalogue called the The Motor Car in India was published in Mumbai. The book mentioned 70 international car brands and their agents in India, including the first mention of a Rolls-Royce model, the 30hp, 4-cylinder available from “C.S. Rolls Co., 14 Conduit Street, London".

The Phantom.

For the next three decades, the depot oversaw a booming market that lapped up cars. According to one estimate, by 1945, Rolls-Royce sold some 800 cars, more than a few finished in gold and other fine materials. Company records cite a fascinating list of accessories designed for the Indian market: purdah glass in formal limousines, sirens, thermos flasks, Stephen Grebel hunting lamps, gun racks, ivory steering wheels and control knob, and even a special servant’s seat.

With the onset of World War II, car shipments ceased and the depots were closed. Today, Rolls-Royce is once again selling its fine automobiles to the country’s well-heeled, re-establishing a rich, historic and sometimes flamboyant relationship.

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