1927 Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP Phantom I Torpedo PhaetonSOLD
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Estimate: $180,000-$240,000 US

AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of $154,000

Specifications:
120bhp, 7,668cc overhead valve inline six-cylinder engine with three-speed manual transmission, leaf spring solid axle front suspension, longitudinal leaf spring live axle rear suspension and servo-assisted two-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 143.5"

A direct descendent of the Silver Ghost, the Rolls-Royce Phantom I was launched in May 1925. Deaf to his engineers ’ pleas, Sir Henry Royce felt that the Silver Ghost chassis was adequately robust and was not persuaded that the company needed a new chassis. Instead, further improvements were made – in essence, a process of careful technical advancement – which reflected Royce ’ s belief in evolution rather than a revolution when it came to improvements.

For the most part, the Phantom I chassis was identical to that of the Silver Ghost. It did offer customers two different wheelbase lengths from which to choose: 143.5 inches or the longer 150.5 inches. The Phantom I gearbox was also the same as before, except that the old cone clutch was replaced with a new, single dry plate clutch – more conducive to quieter and smoother operation.

It didn ’ t take long before the new Phantom was subjected to speed tests at Brooklands; the results were not in keeping with the reputation of Rolls-Royce ’ s superior performance. When carrying average open tourer coachwork, timekeepers confirmed that the new model was not capable of a top speed as good as the 1911 London to Edinburgh version of the Silver Ghost.

Rolls-Royce officials worked to remedy the situation almost immediately. The idea was to offer a mildly tuned alternative to the standard engine although several argued that a higher top speed might be better gained from a reduction of weight.

The result was that a Phantom chassis was fitted with a lightened Barker tourer body in the hopes that this would achieve the desired result. Unfortunately, even with the lightweight coachwork, the Phantom still did not measure up. Under strict order from Rolls-Royce designer, Ivan Evernden, another tourer body was constructed following his design specifications. Evernden did not compromise on quality, but neither did he hesitate to design a very lightened body. On yet another test at Brooklands, Rolls-Royce achieved success, with the Evernden lightweight achieving more than 89mph. The light tourer Barker coachwork fitted to the example offered here is certainly an example of this philosophy.

Called “ the New Phantom, ” the Phantom I endured until 1931. Although the chassis was largely based on the tried and true Ghost mechanicals, the new overhead valve engine, front wheel brakes and numerous suspension and gearbox improvements broke new ground, serving to modernize the chassis, while retaining the quality and durability for which it was so well known.

The example offered here is fitted with striking Torpedo Phaeton coachwork by Barker. Its light weight, combined with short wheelbase gives it exceptional performance, certainly when compared with other Phantom Is of the period. More important, however, are the lines of the body – low and sleek, close coupled, and accented by lovely flying wings. Most observers regard this as one of the best four place sport touring bodies of the time, and certainly among Barker ’ s finest.

Chassis no. 21UF was first retained by Rolls-Royce for use as a trials car on the French Riviera, where it remained from late 1927 until February 29th, when it was sold for the first time to E. A. Wadsworth in London. Oddly, the car was sold again just two months later to Arthur Tooth and Sons in London.

Four years later, 21UF was resold to Dudley Watts, another Londoner. The last sale recorded in the factory records was in 1935 to Ronald Horton. It seems likely that Horton owned the car during the war years, but in 1945 it was exported to America by a returning serviceman. He would become 21UF ’ s longest term owner, keeping the car for 44 years before selling it to another veteran, a fighter pilot named “ Ace ” Rosner of Washington, D.C., in August of 1989.

Dealer Mark Smith purchased the car the mid 1990s, selling it to the vendor shortly thereafter.

The vendor reports that the car was in excellent condition, never having required restoration. Originally finished in cream with polished alloy top surfaces and green leather, it was later painted grey, and then white. In 2004, the vendor undertook a restoration with the intention of preserving the originality of the car, or restoring it to original specifications where needed.

As a result, the paint was stripped, and the car refinished in its original colors, matching the cream to areas of remaining original paint. Similarly, the leather was custom dyed to match samples recovered from the bottoms of the cushions. At the same time, a new wiring harness was installed to ensure that everything works as intended. The complete fuel system was overhauled, including returning the car to original and reliable Autovac operation. Many other details were attended to, including restoration of all the linkages and even a proper restoration of the original governor system.

Most examples of the Phantom I are conservative in design and cumbersome in execution, a reflection of the priorities of Rolls-Royce ’ s clients ’ wishes. They were wealthy and more interested in comfort than a sporting ride.

21UF reflects a side of Rolls-Royce – and Barker – that is seldom seen. When requested, they could deliver brilliant coachwork and exceptional performance, while retaining the quality durability for which the marque was known. It is even more remarkable that such a sporting example should survive in such excellent condition, never having required a comprehensive restoration.

Reference Number 11252

as of 7/14/2007

Overview
Car 1927 Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP Phantom I Torpedo Phaeton
VIN 21UF 
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