1926 Rolls-Royce Phantom I

Cabriolet

Summary

  • Year of manufacture 
    1926
  • Car type 
    Other
  • Lot number 
    267
  • Condition 
    Used
  • Location
  • Exterior colour 
    Other

Description

  • Offered from the Collection of Charles Gillet
  • Part of the collection since 1987
  • Originally delivered to infamous financier Captain Alfred Loewenstein
  • Meticulously maintained older restoration, still in excellent condition
  • Winner of many awards all over the country
  • One of the centerpieces of the collection for over three decades
  • Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classic

Phantom I chassis number 30TC was mounted with lavishly equipped Cabriolet coachwork by Barker, the respected longtime London coachbuilders to Royalty. It was delivered in September 1926 to a buyer recorded as “Captain A. Loewenstein,” with a residence on London’s Belgravia Square. This was Alfred Loewenstein, a Belgian financier who was then one of the most famous, colorful, and controversial business figures in Europe, having established a massive fortune from early investments in electric power and synthetic silk. In 2004, Charles Gillet wrote of the car in the CCCA Bulletin, “The service record shows a stop at the Rolls dealership in Biarritz for ‘decarbonising’ and squeaky brakes. So the car got around a bit!”

At the height of his success and infamy on 4 July 1928, Loewenstein disappeared from his private Fokker trimotor aircraft while crossing over the English Channel; his body was discovered several days later, triggering the collapse of his ventures. The circumstances of his mysterious midair plunge have never been satisfactorily explained, with some suggesting that Loewenstein was killed at the behest of greedy family, or mobster Arnold Rothstein—and others suggesting that the legendarily absent-minded tycoon had simply opened the wrong door and walked out of the plane when seeking the lavatory.

Captain Loewenstein’s Rolls-Royce survived both its owner and his empire. It eventually made its way stateside and in the 1960s was advertised by W.C. Wilkinson of Calabasas, California, in the Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club magazine, The Flying Lady. It next passed into the ownership of Alexander M. Power of Redlands, then by 1967 into the care of Dick Lyon of Balboa. Mr. Lyon had served in the Navy with Charles Gillet, who, in the years before his time at Road & Track or his own major success in the automotive business, had enjoyed an illustrious Navy career—including distinguished service as a “frogman,” today known as the Navy SEALs. Both men had continued to enjoy a warm friendship, and Mr. Gillet often enjoyed rides in the Rolls-Royce while visiting Southern California.

As CCCA member Richard Marrs recounted in a story on the Gillet Collection, published in the January 2018 Bulletin with this very car as the cover image, “He was sure that his friend would never part with it. However, one day to his surprise and utter delight, his friend called and made it available to him. That may well have been one of the fastest car deals in history as Charles jumped at the opportunity to own the car. It was shipped from California to White Post Restorations for a three-year makeover. It took first prize at its post-restoration debut, and has never lost a show since.”

Among its numerous laurels, the car received the Lucius Beebe Trophy at the 1991 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, achieved a Grand National First Prize from the Antique Automobile Club of America, and enjoyed a rather remarkable 28-year career in Classic Car Club of America competition, earning Premier honors and twice scoring a perfect 100 points. It was featured in Beverly Rae Kimes’s book, The Classic Era. In his 2004 Bulletin letter, Mr. Gillet’s continued excellent care of the car was evident: referring to the three-position cabriolet top, he noted, “I open the front section often, but never the rear for fear of wrinkling.”

One of the stars of the Gillet stable, this silky-smooth machine is a wonderful reflection of the man—crisply tailored, dignified, and bearing a fascinating and dynamic history.To view this car and others currently consigned to this auction, please visit the RM website at rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/hf21.