Body no. 7176
Acutely aware of the booming market in North America and the United States in particular in 1919 Rolls-Royce identified Springfield, Massachusetts as the site for its first assembly plant outside the UK.
The choice of Springfield made eminent good sense at the time, when New England, and the Connecticut River valley in particular, was the center of high quality manufacturing in North America. Not only were there many nearby vendors of high quality components and services but the area around Springfield had a reservoir of skilled, meticulous craftsmen trained in the armories and machine tool factories that lined the river from Vermont to Long Island Sound.
The first Springfield chassis Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost was delivered in 1921. Gradually specific adaptations to American conditions, preferences and suppliers worked their way into the Springfield Rolls-Royces including the somewhat revolutionary decision to offer lefthand drive in 1925. A 3-speed gearbox became standard around the same time, as did dual battery ignition.
As significant as these changes were, however, none of them were as basic as the realization that Americans bought even their luxury automobiles differently from their British and Continental counterparts. Americans expected to visit a showroom, pick out a car there complete with coachwork and take it home.
Rolls-Royce responded by establishing a shadow firm which bought coachwork from established coachbuilders in bulk under the name "Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Work" and supplied the catalog bodies which made up the bulk of Rolls-Royce sales in America. The recognition today, over three-quarters of a century later, of catalog names such as Pall Mall, Piccadilly, Newmarket and Ascot are ample evidence of the success of Rolls-Royce's strategy. It also endorses the refined design and quality of construction and finishing which distinguished these and other cataloged Rolls-Royce coachwork in North America.
The success of Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Work was such that in 1923 Rolls-Royce established its own coachworks in Springfield. In 1926 it took control of Brewster in Long Island City, New York and began to use the Brewster name instead of Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Work
In 1927 Springfield changed over to the New Phantom, which interrupted production but improved the quality and performance of the product. At the same time Rolls-Royce introduced a series of new and up-to-date designs by Brewster which have become some of the most attractive and eagerly sought examples of classic Rolls-Royce coachwork. Designed with input from sales manager J.S. Inskip, the elegant, flowing, classic lines of the Ascot sport phaeton, the jaunty York roadster and Regent convertible coupe with their side entrance rumble seat doors and the luxurious closed Avon sedan established a precedent for quality, comfort and luxury which persists to this day in Rolls-Royce's reputation.
At some later date Rolls-Royces went through a period when they acquired a fuddy-duddy image, but this was anything but the marque's style in the late Twenties. A November 1929 ad in Vogue
magazine made it clear that performance was an essential characteristic.
"Somewhere between you and the graceful little figure-head that rides that radiator, you know a powerful motor is purring. You know it by the ease with which you glide up hills, and by the swallow-flight of the scenery."
Fashionable, reliable and powerful, a Rolls-Royce had instant cachet wherever it appeared, strengthening the image of its owners and freeing them from worry about mundane matters of performance, comfort and reliability so they could concentrate on their business and social activities. Lightweight, sporting, open coachwork like the Ascot sport phaeton made the most of the Phantom I's 7,668cc engine which some outside reports describe as having 113 brake horsepower.
The Phantom, S368LR, was originally delivered with the Ascot coachwork it wares today to a Mr. Armor. The close coupled ascot coachwork is fitted to the longest 146.5" chassis offered, besting even the Custom Series Pakard's 145" wheelbase.
The continuous lines of the Ascot, flowing straight back from the radiator's shoulders to and around the rear of the tonneau, emphasize the length and elegance of the Phantom chassis and leave no doubt why the Brewster Ascot is regarded as one of the most attractive and desirable body styles ever to grace any classic chassis, let alone the Springfield Rolls-Royce Phantom. The use of conventional door design and more spacious rear top design make Ascots more comfortable and quite a bit easier to enter and exit than the similar Derby Tourer. The Ascot along with its curved door variant the Derby and roadster version the York are today the most sought after of all Rolls-Royce Phantom Is. The fact that only 21 Phantoms had Ascot Phaeton coachwork originally, has kept the demand extremely high.
S368LR has been a well known car for years. In the ownership of Steven Antine of Massachusetts for nearly three decades and famously bearing the registration RROC. The car has been recipient of extensive work over the last decade, most importantly a full engine job preformed by Ed Lake of Ludlow, MA. Mr. Lake was a true Springfield Rolls expert and one of the first marque specialists of the collector era. It was thought he had his early training while working at the Rolls factory in Springfield. Engine has been used for less than 3000 miles since the rebuild. A great deal of cosmetic work has been done in this period as well leaving the car in very fine condition.
The cars fresh and handsome paintwork highlights the great lines of the Ascot coachwork. The models trademark reveal panel is left in bright polished aluminum. The body further benefits by being fitted on the late style Phantom I chassis. The late cars feature full splash aprons, long pointed fenders and Large bullet lamps that give the car a more modern '30s look that suits the coachwork perfectly. Unusually this Ascot is in a sport phaeton (dual cowl) configuration that further enhances its good looks and sporting character.
It is getting increasingly difficult to find good open Phantoms still bearing their original coachwork. Many body switches were done in period and many more in the early days of the collector hobby. So to find an example of perhaps the most desirable phaeton coachwork still fitted to its original chassis is quite remarkable.
This high quality example of a very sought after Rolls-Royce is a great candidate for RROC and CCCA touring or as entry into show competition. What ever the use this Rolls will always reflect the highest taste of its new owner.