1935 Rolls-Royce Phantom II
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1935 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Saloon
Coachwork by Barker & Co
Registration no. BYU 155
Chassis no. 36UK
Engine no. SW35
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, there were few roads in Britain where its outstanding performance - the top speed was around 95mph - could safely be exploited to the full.
The Phantom II on which the Continental was based 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. Introduced in 1930, the Continental version was conceived as 'an enthusiastic owner driver's car' and featured revised rear suspension, higher axle ratio and lowered steering column. '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 complete with coachwork (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.
Belonging to the final ('UK') batch of Phantom II production, chassis number '36UK' was ordered new by Sir George Macpherson-Grant of Ballindalloch, Elgin, a member of the famous whisky-distilling dynasty, Grant's, and owner of one of Scotland's finest herds of Aberdeen Angus cattle. Bodied as a saloon by Barker & Co, '36UK' is one of only 11 Phantom II Continentals built on the long-wheelbase chassis, a variant even more expensive than the short-wheelbase version, and incorporates typical features such as the 12x41 high-ratio rear axle; five-plate road springs; F-type steering column; a second spare wheel in the nearside front wing; and six Ace wheel discs. As a late Phantom II, it also has the four-speed gearbox with synchromesh on the upper three gears. The car retains matching numbers - registration, chassis, engine - and is featured in Raymond Gentile's book, The Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental (page 80).
'36UK' was imported into the UK in 2012 from Indiana, USA and has since been restored to former glory, the restoration costing its owner in excess of £70,000. The associated bills are on file and the car also comes with a current MoT certificate and V5C registration document.