The ex-Jack L. Warner, Matt and Barbara Browning
1929 ROLLS-ROYCE PHANTOM I TRANSFORMAL PHAETON
Coachwork by Hibbard & Darrin
Chassis no. S319KP
Engine no. 20198
7,672cc OHV Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
Single Dual-Throat Carburetor
108bhp at 2,300rpm
3-Speed Manual Transmission
4-Wheel Leaf Spring Suspension
4-Wheel Drum Brakes
*First owned by Hollywood legend Jack L. Warner, head of Warner Brothers Studio
*Exquisite Hibbard & Darrin Transformal Phaeton coachwork
*One of only two known examples of this coachwork on the Phantom I
*Preserved and restored by collecting pioneers Matt and Barbara Browning
*Restored to the highest standards and meticulously maintained
ROLLS-ROYCE IN AMERICA
America in the first third of the twentieth century was a wide-open, fast-growing economic colossus. Its vast area yielded riches both mineral and agricultural. Exploitation of seemingly endless resources created fortunes for daring entrepreneurs, capital that soon was redeployed to support growing industries, compounding wealth upon wealth.
Like its natural resources, an epic stream of immigrants created synergies as the expanding and industrious population consumed food, news, entertainment and dwelling space. Roads, which at the turning of the twentieth century were nearly non-existent outside America's cities, expanded with the advent of the automobile, a means of transportation singularly adapted to the largely dispersed, rural character of America.
Not surprisingly, then, America became the most significant foreign market for Rolls-Royce. Rolls-Royce automobiles appealed to newly wealthy American financiers and industrialists with their quality, luxury and reliability. A newly wealthy society appreciated the cachet of Rolls-Royce's reputation. Production of Rolls-Royce aircraft engines in America during World War I introduced the company to the skills, resources and suppliers rapidly turning America into a manufacturing power. Claude Johnson recognized the potential for building Rolls-Royce automobiles there soon after the war and in 1919 arranged to purchase the former American Wire Wheel factory in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Springfield was located along the axis of America's industrial development, in an area famed for its armories and machine tool industry. It had a workforce trained in precision manufacturing and was easily accessible to a network of suppliers from Boston to Buffalo. Manufacturing began in 1920 using components imported from Rolls-Royce in Great Britain but soon began to incorporate domestically produced content, particularly electrical, that was readily available, easily serviced and found to be as good as, if not better than, that sourced from Derby. Eventually, some of the finest automobiles built by Rolls-Royce came from the Springfield factory.
JACK L. WARNER
The entertainment business, particularly motion pictures, flourished in the balmy climate of southern California feeding an ever-expanding network of theaters catering to the growing population's thirst for entertainment. The silver screen's fairy tales were matched by the lifestyles of their stars, starlets and moguls, and standing head-and-shoulders above all of them was Jack L. Warner.
Jack Warner was the ninth of twelve children and with his brothers Harry, Albert and Sam became involved in motion picture exhibition and distribution in 1903. Their success on the East Coast encouraged Jack and Sam to move to California to begin producing films to feed their theaters and distribution network. The creation of a movie empire followed as well as the creation of a legend around Jack Warner.
He was a powerful, mercurial, demanding, parsimonious figure given to extravagant gestures and to extreme penny-pinching. He feuded with everyone, from his counterparts Louis B. Mayer, Sam Goldwyn and Irving Thalberg to the stars and directors whose careers he created.
Darryl F. Zanuck, Rin-Tin-Tin, Hal Wallis, Al Jolson, Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Bette Davis, Loretta Young, Busby Berkeley, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn, Mary Astor, Ronald Reagan, Alfred Hitchcock, George Raft, Marlene Dietrich, Ida Lupino, John Huston, Kirk Douglas, Doris Day and Eddie Albert all worked for and most fought with Jack Warner.
The history of Hollywood would not be complete without the pictures Warner Brothers created: Casablanca, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Big Sleep, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Sea Wolf, To Have and Have Not, They Drive by Night, Santa Fe Trail, Captain Blood, My Fair Lady, Yankee Doodle Dandy, High Sierra, Mr. Skeffington, The Prince and the Pauper, "G" Men and Dark Passage, to name but a few.
It was only a few years after Warner Brothers Studio amazed the world with the first motion pictures with synchronized sound, Don Juan in 1926 and The Jazz Singer in 1927, that Jack Warner acquired this 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Transformal Phaeton, the ideal automobile to live the movie mogul's lifestyle in perpetually balmy Hollywood.
THE PHANTOM I
The "New Phantom", now known as the Phantom I, represented an incremental approach to the evolution of Rolls-Royce's premier model. At its core was a significantly new engine. Still a straight six, at 7,672cc displacement it was slightly larger than the Silver Ghost that preceded it. Rolls-Royce's years of experience, particularly with aero engines, resulted in a pushrod operated overhead valve head with significantly better cross-flow breathing. Real output increased from 86bhp in the Silver Ghost to 108bhp in the Phantom. The new overhead valve engine rested in a developed but largely unchanged chassis with semi-elliptical leaf springs and four-wheel drum brakes with mechanical servo assist. Springfield Rolls-Royces had the U.S. pattern 3-speed center shift gearbox and left-hand drive.
New Phantom production in Springfield persisted from 1926 until 1931, but only about 1,240 were built as the world descended into the Great Depression. Most were bodied by Brewster in Long Island City, New York, a Rolls-Royce subsidiary since 1926.
A few Springfield Rolls-Royce chassis received coachwork from a rapidly declining cadre of custom coachbuilders. Executed with nearly unique style, they are the ultimate New Phantoms, including this Hibbard & Darrin bodied Transformal Phaeton created for Hollywood movie mogul Jack L. Warner.
HIBBARD & DARRIN
Tom Hibbard and Howard "Dutch" Darrin were American carrossiers. Tom Hibbard had learned French with the American Expeditionary Force in World War I. He and Ray Dietrich left Brewster to establish LeBaron Carrossiers with Ralph Roberts and when New York Minerva agent Paul Ostruk commissioned two LeBaron bodies to be built in Brussels, Hibbard got a ticket to Europe to oversee the project. Later in Paris, Hibbard met up with Dutch Darrin and the two soon established Hibbard & Darrin with a showroom on the Champs d'Elysees.
From that modest beginning some of the most appreciated coachwork of the classic era emerged. Hibbard's deft sense of proportion, balance and design complemented Darrin's salesmanship, intrigue with intricate mechanical details and social contacts to make Hibbard & Darrin one of the most important coachbuilders of the period. Minerva, Stutz, Renault, Mercedes-Benz and Duesenberg chassis all received Hibbard & Darrin coachwork.
Probably thirty-five Rolls-Royce New Phantoms were bodied by Hibbard & Darrin as American clients traveled to Europe for grand tours and picked up familiar Springfield Rolls-Royce chassis, or simply chose Hibbard & Darrin's designs to be constructed on Springfield chassis and shipped "in the white" from Paris to Brewster in Long Island City to be finished.
The team of Hibbard & Darrin made its reputation with innovative coachwork details, but none is more distinctive than the Transformal Phaeton, a barrel-side design the firm called the torpedo phaeton. Composed of cast aluminum panels, the close-coupled body employed a Darrin-patented top with triangular fabric roof elements that snapped tightly to the B-pillar between trapezoidal rollup side windows and a fixed "dual-cowl" type center division. As adaptable as any coachwork of the classic period, Hibbard & Darrin's Transformal Phaeton could be fully open for a bright, sunny day, rolled up as the weather got more brisk and transformed into a buttoned-up fully enclosed sedan with formal aspects for meteorological catastrophes.
If you were a Mogul or a star, it was, on the Rolls-Royce New Phantom chassis, the only automobile you needed. Only two are known to have been built, one (S317KP) for Paramount Studio's Erich von Sternberg, who in 1930 presented it to his newly-arrived star, Marlene Dietrich.
Competition among Hollywood's egos knew few bounds in those days, because just a year before (March 7, 1929) Jack L. Warner had taken delivery of his own Hibbard & Darrin Transformal Phaeton, S319KP.
Eventually the Jack Warner Phantom I Hibbard & Darrin Transformal Phaeton came into the hands of Matt and Barbara Browning.
MATT AND BARBARA BROWNING
Pioneers of the concept of restoration as preservation, Matt and Barbara Browning brought thoughtful, sympathetic restoration to a series of important automobiles from the classic period. They strove to preserve that which was viable, while treating their cars with the style and flair that they had when new. Their legacy, like that of pioneers of Dr. Samuel Scher and William Harrah, survives in the quality of the cars they discovered, restored, drove and showed.
Nowhere is that more apparent in this 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Transformal Phaeton, a car that was restored to the highest standards in 1991 yet today still presents itself as crisp, sharp and conscientious. A brass plaque affixed under the dashboard commemorates this sympathetic restoration. Nowhere overdone, it is the magnificent object that Jack Warner would have sought in 1929. There is no flash, no excess, in this Phantom I, just a superbly restored automobile of the highest quality that has held up over nearly three decades, a tribute to the care and attention to detail of Matt and Barbara Browning.
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
Rolls-Royce Phantom I Transformal Phaeton chassis no. S319KP is a rare find. It was acquired from the Brownings in 2000 and since then has been part of a premier Scandinavian collection where it has been regularly maintained and scarcely used.
It was built by Rolls-Royce in Springfield, where the finest automobiles in the world were tailored to American tastes. Its American components make it, as was intended by Rolls-Royce America at the time, easily serviceable and maintained.
Its Hibbard & Darrin coachwork is sublime. Shared by only two known examples, both Hollywood in history and ownership, the coachwork's proportions and details are meticulously crafted to make the most of the Phantom I's long wheelbase but keep its occupants in the center of attention. Of the two such cars bodied by Hibbard & Darrin, S319KP was the first.
The gently raked split-vee windshield Hibbard & Darrin employed in this Transformal Phaeton is unusually integrated into the body design by Matt and Barbara Browning's uniform cream livery, a star-turn that makes the coachwork the center of attention.
It is equipped with drum headlights, tubular bumpers, a tan cloth covered leather luggage trunk tucked between the rear fenders which neatly matches the soft-top roof, body color center-lock wire wheels with chrome lock rings and dual side-mount spares with tan cloth covers and strap on mirrors. The tan cloth top fits tightly over a luxurious interior upholstered in dark tan leather with glass roll-up division, rear compartment footrest and robe rope. Dark wood panels bring a luxurious accent to the division and door caps.
Preserved and restored by two noted pioneers in classic automobiles, Matt and Barbara Browning, its provenance is exceptional. Jack L. Warner had only recently established himself as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood when he took delivery of this Hibbard & Darrin bodied Transformal Phaeton in 1929. If the car could speak, what stories it might tell of deals made, reputations destroyed and propositions offered by Warner during his ownership. Its price -- $19,665 in 1929 dollars, one of the most expensive cars in the world -- and image of success and wealth added to his stature with a presence that would be noted wherever it appeared.
That is still the case today, and this is a rare opportunity to acquire a Springfield Phantom I of unusual history, style, rarity and presence.
- Please note that this vehicle is titled under its engine number and its title is in transit.