The ex-Maharaja Nawab Muhammad Hamidullah Khan
1936 ROLLS-ROYCE PHANTOM III SPORTS FOUR-SEATER
Coachwork by Thrupp & Maberly
Chassis no. 3BU86
Engine no. B38A
7,338cc OHV V12 Engine
Dual Stromberg Carburetors
180bhp at 3,000rpm
4-Speed Manual Transmission
Front Independent Suspension Live Rear Axle
4-Wheel Drum Brakes
*2012 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance second in class
*Fabulously sporting and unique Thrupp & Maberly custom coachwork
*Formerly owned by the ruler of Bhopal and the Maharaja of Patiala
*Comprehensive restoration finished in 2010
*Exhaustive documentation, and single ownership for fifty years
THE ROLLS-ROYCE PHANTOM III
"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 to have been built in the United Kingdom - was the Rolls-Royce Phantom III. Introduced in 1936, the 7,338cc 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 in 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 aluminum 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 727 had been manufactured when World War II halted production; about 300 are believed to exist worldwide today.
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
This exquisite Phantom III boasts the impeccable provenance of being a legitimate Maharaja Rolls-Royce during its early life in India before becoming the subject of an exacting award-winning restoration that took thirty-four years to properly complete.
Chassis 3BU86 was originally purchased on February 29, 1936, through Allied Motors of Bombay, India, by Hamidullah Khan, the Nawab of Bhopal. The descendent of Mughal warrior chieftains, the Nawab was a notable figure in Indian society, a future veteran of the Battle of El Alamein and a close friend of Pakistan's soon-to-be founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
The Phantom III was specified for Sports Four-Seater coachwork by Thrupp & Maberly, and the London firm delivered a fantastic variation on the open touring Phantom with complementary-colored pontoon fenders, a pop-out tool tray in the rumble-seat position, fold-down windscreen and a disappearing top. Completed in April 1937, the Rolls was shipped to the Nawab, who retained possession until January 1940, when the car was sold to the Maharaja of Patiala, Yadavindra Singh of Punjab. In addition to being the traditional leader of the Sikhs, Singh was a world-class cricketeer who later served in the British campaign in Burma during World War II.
In 1955, the Maharaja gifted the stately Rolls-Royce to his niece, Shrinder Pal Kaur, on the occasion of her wedding, and Ms. Kaur kept the Phantom until offering it for sale in 1963. The unusual car was then spotted by Kenneth and Keith Sherper, American twin brothers completing their first assignment with the Peace Corps. As keen auto enthusiasts, the Sherpers knew they had found something special in the Thrupp & Maberly-bodied Rolls, and following their purchase they recorded a detailed log of their drive from Delhi to Bombay.
Several months later the Sherpers shipped the car to London, where some minor fender damage during offloading prompted a bout of sympathetic bodywork and a new paint job. The brothers then imported the car to the United States, relocating to Falls Church, Virginia, as new members of the U.S. Foreign Service. In 1976, a full restoration was started, with John Dennison of Palisades Park, New Jersey, entrusted to rebuild the drivetrain. Much of the associated chassis work was supervised or conducted by Richard Frawley of Exton, Pennsylvania, and he eventually took over the restoration completely in 1984.
A year later Frawley enlisted bodyman Richard Mullin of Malvern, Pennsylvania, to restore the Thrupp & Maberly coachwork, and Mullin set about using an old-world handcrafted approach, rebuilding sections of the frame with new wood, and repainting the exterior in a carefully executed finish in Corsican Blue over subtly contrasting deep blue fenders. George Hankle of Morton, Pennsylvania reupholstered the interior in burgundy Connolly leather and complementary Wilton carpets.
Through their decades of ownership of 3BU86, the Sherpers maintained an impressive compendium of the factory build sheets, archival images, letters, invoices, and other various receipts and notes. They organized each piece of documentation in mylar sleeves in chronological order tabbed by year, occupying five large binders in addition to a separate photo album. Such meticulous record keeping of even the finest collector cars is virtually unknown.
As the correspondence confirms, by 1986 Mr. Frawley had successfully completed most of the chassis elements as well as the engine, which had been sent out to Wallace Donoghue of Plymouth, Michigan, for a complete overhaul with new sleeves, bores, pistons, and a reground camshaft. Assembled as a functional rolling chassis with temporary seats, the Phantom III was shipped to Nashville for display at the National Meet of the Rolls-Royce Owners Club and won a special award.
Returning to Mssrs. Frawley and Mullin, the Rolls was further restored with completion always seeming just beyond grasp. One reason for this, as the documentation reveals, was the start-and-stop nature of the work, a consequence of the Sherpers' constant deployment to far-flung exotic locales like Ethiopia, Yemen, Sudan, Yugoslavia, and the Philippines.
Finally, in early 2010, Mullin declared his work complete, and the body and chassis were properly reunited, with copious finishing touches then applied. One of the benefits of such a drawn-out process was that 3BU86 sat in a nearly finished state in Frawley's shop for quite some time, during which it was viewed and praised by numerous knowledgeable Rolls enthusiasts. The tips and observations from such visitors, including two AACA judges and a Pebble Beach judge, helped ensure that the restorers did not miss any details that might result in a point deduction.
In July 2010, 3BU86 debuted in stunning fashion at the annual RROC National Meet held in Toronto, Canada, earning first-in-class and the Most Popular Car Award, including a perfect coachwork score. Accepted at Pebble Beach, the Phantom III was presented in August 2012 and drove away with second in the Maharaja Rolls-Royce class, while at the Radnor Hunt Concours d'Elegance a month later the car won three separate awards, first-in-class, the People's Choice award, and the Timeless Elegance award. The Best of Britain award followed at the 2013 Elegance at Hershey, and an appearance at the 2014 La Jolla Concours d'Elegance netted the Philip Wichard Memorial Award for Excellence in Design.
With just four custodians over a seventy-six year period, this exceptionally restored and documented Phantom III is a vision of prewar British India, as the elegant whip of choice for two Indian monarchs, the Maharaja of Patiala and the Nawab of Bhopal. The complete fold-out tool tray on the rear deck, the machine-turned dashboard, and the carefully researched Bhopal coat-of-arms on the flags attest to the level of detail the phenomenal Rolls has enjoyed. This stunningly restored example of the celebrated Maharaja Rolls-Royces is ideally prepared for further display at world-class events, to be admired for its singular aesthetic brilliance, incredible authenticity, and historic significance.