Left hand drive, one of just 16 Murphy bodied Phantom I's
1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Sports Phaeton
Coachwork by Walter M Murphy Co. Pasadena
Chassis no. S 287 FP
Engine no. 22877
Rolls-Royce of America Incorporated, a subsidiary set up in December 1919 when the parent company purchased the American Wire Wheel Company's plant in Springfield, Massachusetts, followed the British company's suit of transition to the New Phantom in 1926. By the second half of 1929 production had risen to 12 cars per week. This would prove to be the high point of Rolls-Royce of America's fortunes, the October '29 Wall Street Crash and the introduction of the Phantom II - re-tooling for which the US company could not afford - signaling the beginning of its decline. Unlike its British-built counterpart, the American product could be ordered with 'factory' bodywork, usually by Brewster, the latter company having been taken over by Rolls-Royce in December 1925.
In this period American coachbuilding and design was well on its way to the zenith of the 1930s Classic era and there were alternatives for Rolls' clientele. Styles and design preferences naturally varied depending on where a buyer was located, owing to climate and fashion of different parts of the country. Not surprisingly a small number of West Coast based Rolls buyers turned to the esteemed local coachbuilder Walter M. Murphy Co. of Pasedena, to body their cars.
The company founded by Walter Murphy, a nephew of one of Henry Ford's original backers, was originally the Californian dealership for the mighty Simplex automobile, later adding Lincoln and Duesenberg to its list of agencies. Its debut in the coachbuilding business was almost accidental, for when Henry Leland introduced the first Lincoln models, the staid styling of the factory bodywork was just too conservative for fashionable West Cost purchasers. The Murphy Company transformed these ugly ducklings into custom-built swans by lowering the lines of the tops and repainting the cars in bright colors. Realizing the potential in the custom coachwork business, Murphy took over the equipment and many of the staff members of the illustrious New Jersey-based Healey company, and moved the whole lot West to create its own bodybuilding shop.
The Murphy Company's hallmarks were 'dash and innovation.' And its bodies reflected the sunny nature of its Pasadena home, with ample glass and an emphasis on convertible coachwork. The company was an integral part of the Duesenberg Model J scene right from the start, with a Murphy-bodied chassis one of the exhibits at that epoch-making New York Salon in December 1928. By they didn't solely body Duesenbergs, Murphy custom coachwork also graced on Hudson chassis as well as Bentley, Bugatti, Packard and a select number of Rolls-Royce.
In all, the factory records denote just 16 Phantom I cars to have received Murphy bodies, of which only two were Sport Phaetons, a body style which was much championed on the Duesenberg chassis, and as evidenced here was supremely elegant.
The Rolls-Royce Owner's Club archives retain the original order for this car and this lists 287 FP as having been sold new by W.C. Darling to Albert Wallerstein of Gaylord Apartments, 3335 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles. Mr. Wallerstein was one of only 16 Rolls-Royce owners to order coachwork by Walter M. Murphy of Pasadena and the body style he chose was a popular design of the day, the Sport Phaeton. It was a body style more often than not seen on Duesenbergs or Lincolns of the day, and comparison with records suggest that this may be the only one ever fitted to Rolls-Royce. The car was delivered new on September 4, 1929.
It must not have been to Wallerstein's taste, because only a few months had passed before it changed hands and became the property of Howard.W. McCargar. Based in Riverside, California, McCargar kept the car until October 1954. The car passed to another Riverside resident, K.G. Stalder in 1956 and in January 1959 made its first journey from the West Coast when sold to Marvin W. Bridges of Omaha, NE. It remained with him until November 1984 when it was sold to Jack L. Keown.
Jack Keown advertised his car in The Flying Lady in 1988, after which it vanishes from RROC records. The car resurfaced in 2002, when it was sold at Christie's in Paris, as part of the Hans Luscher Collection. A virtually unknown group of cars, hidden in from the public eye in Europe until its sale, the car had shared garage space with a Murphy bodied Mercedes-Benz 630K and is thought to have been there since its offering in the US in the late 1980s. At this point the car returned across the Atlantic to Canada, where it has remained to this day.
On inspection today, the car ties in perfectly to its original order, with matched chassis to engine and its original coachwork also. It is equipped with correct period accessories of twin side mounts, spring-loaded chrome bumpers, C.M. Hall headlamps, and wears secondary cowl mounted rear screen. It has clearly been repainted, re-upholstered and its brightwork re-chromed, but this must have been sometime ago and this shows a general aging through use.
With all the hallmark signs of Murphy design from simplistic continued belt line from radiator to tail and steeply raked single piece windshield this is a really classic and extremely elegant Rolls-Royce.
Largely unseen in Rolls-Royce club circles for 3 decades, this as one of the rarest of its breed will no doubt be welcomed back and could have enormous potential for concours events at club and national level.
- The title for this lot is in transit.