1933 Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP Phantom II Faux ContinentalSOLD

RM Auctions - Automobiles of London - October 31, 2007

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Estimate: 200,000£-300,000£
Estimate: €290,000 - €436,000
Estimate: $400,000 - $600,000

AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of £424.650

From the Collection of Mr. Bernie Ecclestone

40/50 hp, 7,668cc, overhead valve six-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, solid axle, semi-elliptic springs, and four-wheel servo-assisted drum brakes.
Wheelbase: 144in. (3,657.6mm).

As long ago as 1906, the Rolls-Royce motor car was being advertised as ‘the six cylinder Rolls-Royce, not one of the best, but the best car in the world’. Those prophetic words ‘the best car in the world’ remain linked to Rolls-Royce to this day.

Of all the Rolls-Royces ever made by engineering genius Henry Royce none can be more deserving of that title than his masterpiece, the Phantom II Continental.

By 1925 the Silver Ghost chassis, designed in 1906, had almost reached the limits of its development, but a new chassis had not been built so the car was upgraded by the installation of a new engine and christened the New Phantom. The six-cylinder overhead valve engine was similar in many ways to Rolls-Royce’s other current model, the Twenty, but was of 7,668cc. This was over twice the capacity of the little Twenty at 3,127cc.

The Phantom had been prepared in great secrecy, as would be its namesake more than 70 years later. During its development the car was codenamed EAC, which stood for Eastern Armoured Car. Ernest Hives, who was in charge of development, even left pieces of armour plating around the factory to lend credence to this cover-up story.

The Twenty and the New Phantom were replaced in 1929, the Twenty being developed into the 25/30, and the Phantom, retrospectively called the Phantom I after the launch of the Phantom II. Royce’s new chassis, the Phantom II, still rated 40/50 horsepower, as had the Silver Ghost and the Phantom I. The new car, though, was lower and the springing half elliptic all round.

The car, although to Royce’s design and specification, was mainly the work of his West Wittering design team. It would be Royce’s last car; he died in 1933 at the age of 70. Royce was influenced by the lines of the current Riley Nine, and the manner in which the rear passengers’ feet were tucked comfortably under the front seats in ‘wells’, enabling ‘close-coupled’ coachwork to be fitted. Royce even decided to build a special car for his own use

Superb coachwork with modern styling was now available and Royce decided on a lightweight sporting body, which Ivan Evernden designed and Barkers built. This car became the forerunner of the legendary Phantom II Continental. Based on the short 144 inch chassis, the Phantom II Continental had stiffer five leaf springs and a 12/41 axle in place of the standard 11/41 unit. It had a lower floor, a low rake steering column, and Hartford remote-control shock absorbers that were later replaced by Rolls-Royce remotely controlled hydraulic dampers. 1,680 Phantom IIs were manufactured between 1929 and 1935. Of these no more than 280 were Phantom II Continentals.

Phantom II Continental, chassis number 170 MY, was sold on 4 March 1933 by Jack Barclay and delivered to Sir Hugo Cunliffe-Owen in the third week of April. This was unusual as Gurney Nutting generally used H. R. Owen as their sales outlet. The ‘Owen Sedanca Coupé’ had been designed and registered by Captain Owen himself and he considered the Gurney Nutting Fixed Head Coupé of 170 MY to be a copy of his design, and the breathtaking lines a threat to his sales. There was not a case to be answered and, although words were exchanged between the two coachbuilders, an infringement suit did not materialize.

Sir Hugo Cunliffe-Owen became a director of the British-American Tobacco Company on its formation in 1902, later becoming vice-chairman, and chairman from 1923 until his retirement in 1945. For the last two years of his life he was president of the company.

Cunliffe-Owen worked for the Ministry of Information during World War I, and for this he was created a baronet in the 1920 New Year’s honours. He was a racehorse owner and breeder, winning most of the classics, including the Derby, 1000 Guineas, and the Oaks.

170 MY was sold to a Dr W. Moir Shepherd in 1936 but only months later the car was bought by Jack Dunfee, the famous racing driver and one of the original Bentley Boys. Dunfee finished second at Le Mans in 1929 with Glen Kidston and won the six- hour race at Brooklands with Woolf Barnato. In 1931 he won the Brooklands 500 mile race with Cyril Paul. The south-east corner of Grosvenor Square where four of the Bentley Boys lived, including Dunfee, was often lined with exotic motor cars and the dawn to dusk parties thrown at their adjoining homes were the talk of London.

Another racing driver who swore by the Phantom II Continental was Captain Sir Malcolm Campbell. Campbell wrote a brochure for Rolls-Royce praising the Phantom II and Phantom II Continental. He described the Continental, of which he owned two, with these words: ‘A better car does not exist the world over.’

A well-documented chain of ownership has seen 170 MY owned by some of the most discerning owners in the world. The car spent some years as part of the Blackhawk Collection before being purchased by a well-known English collector, then later joining the Ecclestone Collection.

It is some years now since 170 MY was the subject of a major restoration but the car is described as being maintained in good order and appears to be highly original. It is finished in black with beige interior. The engine (no. CJ 35) is original and the car’s chassis card shows that it was built ‘mainly for fast touring’ with a note that the ‘engine to be specially tuned for speed’. The vendor advises that in addition to proper maintenance, a new aluminium cylinder head has been fitted at great expense.

170 MY is featured in various publications including Automobile Quarterly, volume 15, number 1, and The Phantom II Continental by Raymond Gentile. The author of this definitive book describes 170 MY and its fabulous ‘faux cabriolet’ (fixed head coupé) coachwork: ‘It is the most spectacular motor car…striking and breathtakingly beautiful…’.

Any Phantom II is rare, but for years the most coveted have been the legendary Continentals. Among these, there are but a handful that rise above the rest by virtue of the beauty of their coachwork, their condition, and their provenance. 170 MY is without question among this group, representing the very best of a select breed.

Reference Number 11537

as of 7/22/2007

Car 1933 Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP Phantom II Faux Continental
VIN 170 MY 
Exterior / Interior Color      Black /      Cream 
Configuration Right Hand Drive (RHD) 
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