Friday, June 30, 2006


Charles Rolls and Henry Royce had a penchant for haunting names, and the first Rolls-Royce models, bearing the spiritual appellation "Silver Ghost," gave way in 1925 to a new model known as the Phantom. Essentially an improved version of the Silver Ghost, equipped with a more powerful six-cylinder engine, the Phantom became something of a transitional model, being built for only four years for Rolls-Royce, a relatively short model, considering that the Silver Ghost had been produced from 1907 to 1925.
The next evolution of the design came with the Phantom II, introduced in September 1929. A thoroughly modern car with improved suspension and chassis six-year production run as Rolls-Royce continued to keep pace with the ever-changing automotive industry of the 1930's.
One of the best engineered and most reliable cars of its time, the Phantom II is best remembered for the striking array of handcrafted coachwork that graced the 144-inch wheelbase and 150-inch long wheelbase chassis. A total of 1767 Phantom II's were produced through 1935, one of the most spectacular of which was regal long wheelbase town car bodied in the U.S. by New York City coachbuilder Brewster & Co. This was the second body on the 1930 Phantom II Chassis, which was purchased by star Constance Bennet in 1936.
The original sales card from J. S. Inskip, the New York sales office for Rolls-Royce, shows the car having been originally sold with a Trouville body in the 1931 and traded back in 1935, after which it was rebodied by Brewster for the 1936 New York Auto Show.
The Brewster is one of the most striking town cars of the 1930's, with a rankish V-windshield, luxerious interior appointments, and highly detailed, hand-painted cane along the body, which became a hallmark of the New York City coachbuilder. Bennett saw the car at the auto show, purchased it from Inskip for $17,000, and pretty hefty sum for a secondhand car,the intrepid actress earned back all the money she paid by renting the Phantom to the movie studios for $250 a day.
Because of its elegant, one-of-a-kind Art Deco styling, Bennett's car appeared in a number of MGM films, including the 1937 classic The King and the Chorus Girl. "For its acting services" wrote Bennett to later owner William Young in 1961, "it was a standing joke in Hollywood that the car received more salary than many players."
Bennett kept the car for more than a decade, until her husband lost it in a poker game in 1948. Young sold the Phantom to J. B. nethercutt in January 1985. Restored to its original glamour, it is one of the signature cars on exhibit at the renowned Nethercutt Collection.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


From around 1915 on, the sporty coachwork that had been appearing on models like Mercer and Strutz, Mercedes, Benz, Alfa Romeo, and Hispano-Suiza was encouraging designers the world over to take bold new steps in the styling of custom coachwork. For the traditionalists at Rolls-Royce in Derby, however these changes were almost unthinkable, improper, in fact, for the stateliest of motorcars. In 1920 that wasn't what American designers were thinking when R. W. Schuette, Esquire, the Rolls-Royce Representative in New York City, called on Rolls-Royce of America,Inc., in Springfield Massachusetts, with a customer order in hand for a Silver Ghost run-about. A Rolls-Royce roadster? The very idea intrigued Springfield staff because this body design had never been attempted on a chassis as large as the Silver Ghost's 144-inch wheelbase. It would either be a benchmark design for the American branchor a colossal gaff that would give th gentlemen at the club in England something to talk about.
The result was suprisingly handsome, allowing a customary-length Rolls-Royce hood; spacious and luxuriously appointed passenger compartment, albeit just for 2; and a folding companion, or trap seat in the well-proportioned rear deck. Not only was it attractive, the design was so well received that it ostensibly became the prototype for the famed Rolls-Royce Piccadilly Roadsters.
Becasue a runabout had never been made for a Silver Ghost, the body was built right on the chassis. The first boards were laid, the bolts put through, and the heads buried in the rest of the framing. The Springfield factory was still in reproduction in 1921, and this was one of the first cars to be completed.
A total of 79 runabouts , or Piccadilly Roadsters, were produced on the Silver Ghost chassis after 1921 and another 50 on the later Phantom I chassis, all were built in the United States. The 1921 Springfield runabout is the first and the rarest of the great Piccadilly Roadsters.