Originally owned by the Honorable Peter Beatty, son-in-law of Marshall Field
1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III Cabriolet
Coachwork by Park Ward
Chassis no. 3 DL 118
Engine no. Z28E
By the late 1930s, coachbuilding design had evolved considerably from the 'Roaring Twenties' days, and there were far fewer open sporting bodies built at all on Rolls-Royce automobiles. Gone were the days of lavish spartan 'Torpedos' that were built on the first two series of Phantom chassis. The fashion was slightly more austere and inclined toward two door 'Drophead Coupes' which offered fully open or fully enclosed road conditions, and were more orientated to the owner-driver market. At the top end, luxury cars were still fully coachbuilt operations though, and the buyer of a Rolls-Royce was certainly in a position to decide precisely how their car would look and for what purpose it would be built, and a few of those clientele commissioned full 'all weather' bodies on the V12 Phantom III chassis. The numbers built were certainly modest at the time, and survivors such as this are even fewer.
This particular Cabriolet was purchased new by The Honorable Peter Beatty, resident of Reigate Priory in South London. Peter, was son of Admiral Earl Beatty, a phenomenally successful Royal Navy officer, who became the youngest officer ever to hold the rank of Admiral at the age of 48. Admiral Beatty had married Ethel Tree, daughter of famed Chicago Department Store magnate Marshall Field in 1901. Their marriage had been rather controversial at the time, because Mrs. Field was already married to Arthur Tree, and initially neither the Admiral's father, nor Marshall Field approved. Admiral Beatty and his wife Ethel had purchased Reigate Priory in South London in 1921, and on his death in 1936, the Priory was inherited by Peter, the Phantom was registered new there in the Spring of 1937.
As new, the coachbuilder notes detail it to have been a "green slightly darker than the owner's present car", its fenders, 'Ace' wheel discs and chassis were black, and it had yellow fine lines to the wheel discs. The interior specification was carefully detailed with corresponding green leather, green cloth pockets and carpet, while the top and top boot were in fawn 'double duck' fabric. Additional details included in the order were a loose cushion for the driver's seat, 'foot hassocks', a leather rug rail behind the division, 8 Day Clock on the division, Motorola Radio Set and a 'Detachable GB plate'.
Rather interestingly, the car's next owner was Captain Michael Tree, the grandson of Ethel Field's former marriage. This ownership lasted no more than eight months at which point the car passed to Barlow Pye of Port Elizabeth in South Africa, the start of an eight year sojourn in that country. It was there that it was acquired by Clifford R. Nelson, the American Consulate General, based in Salisbury, Rhodesia in 1962. While in Mr. Nelson's hands it is thought that the Phantom was brought to the US for the first time.
Upon coming stateside, 3 DL 118 was acquired by Robert Wilke of Menlo Park, CA. Mr. Wilke reported the car to be in original condition in his 1974 application to the Phantom III Technical Societyan application that was sent direct to Robert Shaffner. Maintained by Mr. Wilke, at press time, it is unknown how long he maintained his ownership of the car but it did remain in Northern California until it joined Mr. Shaffner's esteemed collection.
On acquisition some initial cleaning, tidying and then dismantling work was undertaken, but the project was never more than tentatively started and today the car remains in a condition that is best described as appearing to be predominantly intact but desiring and worthy of sympathetic restoration. It is reported to run and drive, having last been started at the beginning of this year, it is understood to be in good mechanical condition.
To return this important car to its original livery and specification detail would unquestionably provide its new owner with a very striking and luxurious touring car for all seasons.
- Please note that this vehicle is titled as 1939