1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III Sports Sedanca de Ville Coachwork by Gurney Nutting Registration no. ELL 584 Chassis no. 3CP62 Engine no. C68Z
Body no 1801
'The most captious critic is obliged to admit that a Phantom III provides all that can be wished for in a large luxury motor-car. The comfort, silence and road-holding with really impressive acceleration and maximum speed made a combination of virtues which few cars of the time could equal.' - Anthony Bird, 'Rolls-Royce Motor Cars', 1964.
Perhaps the most outstanding luxury car of the 1930s - certainly on this side of the Channel - was the Rolls-Royce Phantom III. Introduced in 1936, the 7,340cc V12-engined Phantom III succeeded the Phantom II, the six-cylinder engine of which was considered to be at the end of its development life. The choice of a V12 configuration was a logical one for Rolls-Royce, the company already having had considerable experience of manufacturing V12 aero engines such as that used in the record-breaking Supermarine S6B seaplane. No doubt another consideration was the need to match the multi-cylinder opposition, notably the V16 Cadillac and V12 Hispano-Suiza.
A state-of-the-art design employing advanced materials and techniques such as 'skeleton' cylinder blocks with wet liners and aluminium alloy cylinder heads, the PIII V12 produced 165bhp in its debut form. The maximum output was subsequently raised to 180 brake horsepower, which was sufficient to propel later examples to 100mph, earlier models being capable of around 90. Its engine configuration aside, the Phantom III represents an important milestone in the history of Rolls-Royce cars, being the first with independent front suspension. A total of 710 had been manufactured when WW2 halted production, of which around 300 exist worldwide today.
The Rolls-Royce Phantom III was, of course, an exclusively coachbuilt automobile. Most of the great British coachbuilding firms offered designs, many of them unique, on the Phantom III chassis. Some of the most widely admired were the work of J Gurney Nutting, a company associated with quality marques - Bentley in particular - from its earliest days and a supreme practitioner of the coachbuilding craft in the late 1930s. Founded in Croydon, Surrey in 1919, Gurney Nutting had bodied its first Bentley before moving to London's fashionable Chelsea district in 1924, and within a few years was established as the Cricklewood firm's foremost supplier of bodies after Vanden Plas.
Gurney Nutting's work had a sporting flavour from the outset and succeeded in attracting the attention of society's upper echelons; the Prince of Wales and Duke of York were clients, and the firm gained its Royal Warrant in the early 1930s. Daimler and Rolls-Royce had been added to the Gurney Nutting portfolio in the mid-1920s, and the fruitful association with the latter continued into the succeeding decade.
While most Phantom IIIs carried formal coachwork, '3CP62' is one of the very few bodied in streamlined 'Art Deco' style. A masterpiece of design and craftsmanship, the unique sports sedanca de ville body (number '1801') represents British coachbuilding at its zenith, incorporating a wealth of interesting features including a rear-compartment radio, rear electric blind, concealed interior lights, electric division, adjustable driver's seat back, supplementary (internal) windscreen wipers, and fitted tool trays beneath the front seats and in the boot. Other original specification details include Metallic Dust paintwork and the 'F'-type low-rake steering column. An exceptionally versatile design, it affords the owner the options of driving in enclosed luxury one day and in top-down, wind-in-the-hair style the next. The car is featured in Lawrence Dalton's Those Elegant Rolls-Royce.
Accompanying copy chassis cards reveal that the Phantom was ordered via H R Owen by Brendan Bracken MP, the flamboyant Irish politician and ally of Winston Churchill, who would go on to publish The Financial Times and The Economist. However, although the car was on test in May 1937, it was not completed and the guarantee issued until February 1938, by which time Bracken would appear either to have had a change of heart or simply lost patience, for the first owner listed is one C Treherne Thomas of 3 Seamore Place, London W1 (presumably a misspelling of Seymour Place). Chairman of Richard Thomas & Co Ltd of Ebbw Vale, a haberdashery firm, its owner was a dedicated Rolls-Royce aficionado who owned at various times two 20/25hp models, a Phantom II, an earlier Phantom III and a Bentley 3½-Litre, all but one of which had Gurney Nutting bodies. He did not keep '3CP62' for very long though, its next owner, from 30th July 1938, being recorded as one Walter MacFarlane of Saracen Foundry, Glasgow, which at that time was an internationally renowned manufacturer of ornamental ironworks.
As is so often the case, no records exist of the car's ownership or whereabouts during WW2. In December 1945 it was advertised for sale in The Times by Hoffmann's Garage of Halifax, and later carried the registration 'ROH 1', a number associated with the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. In the mid-1970s the Phantom was sold via the well-known London Rolls-Royce specialists Frank Dale & Stepsons to the Hayashi Collection in Japan. From there it passed to the Matsuda Collection before returning in 1995 to the UK where it was owned by well-known collector, Terry Cohn, who undertook a major but sympathetic restoration and reregistered the car with its original 1938 plate: 'ELL 584'.
In June 2001, '3CP62' was among the selection of Rolls-Royce motor cars offered for sale by Bonhams at the Rolls-Royce Enthusiast Club's Annual Rally at Towcester Racecourse following Terry Cohn's death (Lot 718). The Phantom was purchased at Towcester by Andy Macgill, who carried out further maintenance new radiator core, new dynamo, new engine mounts and overhauling the hydraulic jacking system before parting with it in 2005 (details on file).
We are advised by the vendor that the Phantom's overall condition suggests that it has been very well maintained and that the recorded mileage of 69,000 miles may well be genuine. The coachwork is described as in very fine order and the car is said to drive beautifully. Every instrument works, as do the door locks, electric blind and division. '3CP62' retains its original engine and body, comes with most of its original tools, and is offered with a substantial history file containing its Swansea V5C registration document and the aforementioned copy chassis cards and restoration invoices. The sensible provision of an overdrive unit is the only notified deviation from factory specification.
Please note the correct estimate for this lot is £200,000-300,000