1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Sports Saloon Coachwork by Barker & Co Registration no. LJ 9333 Chassis no. 54PY Engine no. MA85
The Phantom II Continental was the last Rolls-Royce to be designed under the personal supervision of Henry Royce, before his death in 1933. As its name suggest, this new Rolls-Royce was intended for fast continental touring; indeed, in the 1930s there were few roads in Britain where its outstanding performance could safely be exploited to the full. The Phantom II had been introduced in 1929 as a successor to the New Phantom (retrospectively Phantom I) with deliveries commencing in September of that year. Unlike its predecessor, which inherited its underpinnings from the preceding 40/50hp model, the Silver Ghost, the Phantom II employed an entirely new chassis laid out along the lines of that of the smaller 20hp Rolls-Royce. Built in two wheelbase lengths - 144" and 150" - this new low-slung frame, with its radiator set well back, enabled coachbuilders to body the car in the modern idiom, creating sleeker designs than the upright ones of the past. The engine too had come in for extensive revision. The PI's cylinder dimensions and basic layout - two blocks of three cylinders, with an aluminium cylinder head common to both blocks - were retained, but the combustion chambers had been redesigned and the 'head was now of the cross-flow type, with inlet and exhaust manifolds on opposite sides. The magneto/coil dual ignition system remained the same as on the PI. The result of these engine changes was greatly enhanced performance, particularly of the Continental model, and the ability to accommodate weightier coachwork. Designed around the short (144") Phantom II chassis and introduced in 1930, the Continental version was conceived as 'an enthusiastic owner driver's car', featuring revised rear suspension, a higher axle ratio and lowered steering column. By the end of production the magnificent Phantom II Continental was good for 95mph. 'Powerful, docile, delightfully easy to control and a thoroughbred, it behaves in a manner which is difficult to convey without seeming to over-praise,' declared The Motor after testing a PII Continental in March 1934. Highly favoured by prominent coachbuilders, the Phantom II chassis provided the platform for some of the truly outstanding designs of its day, getting off to a flying start when a pre-production model ('26EX') designed by Ivan Evernden and made by Barker & Co (Henry Royce's favourite coachbuilder) won the Grand Prix d'Honneur at the Biarritz Concours d'Elegance in September 1930. Produced for a relatively short period, during which time only 281 examples were completed, the Phantom II Continental typically sold for around £2,500 (more in some cases), a quite staggering amount to ask for a motor car and equivalent to the cost of no fewer than six or seven average-priced houses in the UK at that time! The Continental's - necessarily wealthy - owners included such famous names as the racing drivers Sir Malcolm Campbell and Woolf Barnato, Prince Ali Khan, Princess Alexis Midvani, the Prince of Nepal, Lord Londesborough, the Earl of Warwick, the Earl of Roseberry, Lord Doverdale, Lionel de Rothschild, Anthony de Rothschild, the Maharaja of Bahawalpur, the Maharaja of Jodhpur, N S Gulbenkian and Noel Coward. Off-test in November 1933, '54PY' comes with copy chassis cards recording that it was sold new via Edwards & Co of Bournemouth, Hampshire to Lt Commander L E Rebbeck, RN, who at that time was serving on the Royal Yacht 'Victoria and Albert'. The work of coachbuilders Barker & Co, the four-light touring saloon body is distinguished by a shapely boot containing a sliding tool tray (retaining a full set of correct tools) and concealed luggage rack. '54PY' was delivered to the Royal Yacht in Portsmouth in February 1934 and over the next 18 months was periodically updated by Rolls-Royce. The chassis cards list various subsequent owners up to 1954 including two other military men: Squadron Leader Winfield Smith (1948) and Major F C F Parker (1954), thus bestowing on the Phantom the unusual distinction of having been owned by members of all three Armed Services. We are advised that '54PY' has covered only 51,000 miles to date, this exceptionally low mileage being explained by its having been laid up for a total of nearly 50 years (including wartime), which accounts for minimal wear to all controls and the beautifully accurate steering. In 2005 the coachwork was repainted by Fiennes Restorations and in 2010 the engine rebuilt with new pistons and liners by marque specialist and regular Peking-Paris entrant, Glen Grindrod (bills on file). Matching chassis, engine and body numbers testify to a complete and very original car, which is pictured in Raymond Gentile's book, 'Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental' (page 204). Finished in green/black with green leather interior, this most handsome Phantom II Continental is offered with old-style logbook, MoT/tax to February 2012, Swansea V5 registration document and FIVA identity card.