Rolls-Royce Phantom I Henley Roadster

As a direct descendant of the landmark Silver Ghost, the Rolls-Royce Phantom I was launched in May 1925. Sir Henry Royce felt that the Silver Ghost chassis was adequately robust, and he was not easily persuaded that an all-new chassis was actually required. Instead, further improvements were made to the existing chassis design, marking a process of careful technical advancement over change for its own sake.

For the most part, the Phantom I chassis was identical to that of the Silver Ghost, and it was offered in 143.5- and 150.5-inch wheelbase lengths. The Phantom I transmission was also the same as before, except that the old cone clutch was now replaced with a new, single dry plate clutch, which was conducive to quieter and smoother operation.

It was not long before the new Phantom was subjected to speed tests at Brooklands; the results were not in keeping with the reputation of Rolls-Royce for superior performance. When carrying average open touring coachwork, timekeepers confirmed that the new model was not capable of a top speed equal to that of the 1911 London to Edinburgh version of the Silver Ghost.

Rolls-Royce officials worked to remedy the situation almost immediately. The idea was to offer a mildly tuned alternative to the standard engine. However, there was the risk of an increase in weight. So, a Phantom chassis was fitted with a lightened Barker touring body. Unfortunately, even with the lightweight coachwork, the Phantom still did not measure up.

Under strict orders from Rolls-Royce designer Ivan Evernden, another touring body was constructed following his design specifications. Evernden did not compromise on quality but neither did he hesitate to design a very light body. On yet another test at Brooklands, Rolls-Royce achieved success with the Evernden-designed lightweight achieving over 89 mph.

Utilizing the same design, lightweight bodies by Hooper and Jarvis were fitted to new Phantoms for further trials. Royce had suggested making changes to the inefficient radiator in the interest of aerodynamics, but several people at Rolls-Royce opposed that. The logic was that despite the grille’s lack of aerodynamics, it was instantly recognizable as a Rolls-Royce trademark and therefore essential to the brand and image of the company.

The well-established Brewster firm of coachbuilders had executed many designs for Rolls-Royce and its clients, so when Rolls-Royce purchased the American coachbuilder Brewster and Company in 1926, not only was the British company assured of high-quality bodies built to Crewe’s exacting standards, it was also assured of a coachbuilder familiar with Rolls-Royce’s reputation as the manufacturer of the world’s best cars.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in July of 2010 at the Shotwell Gustafson Pavilion at Meadow Brook Hall, Rochester, Michigan.

113 hp, 7,668 cc inline six-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, live axle suspension with front semi-elliptic leaf springs and cantilevered rear leaf springs, and four-wheel servo-assisted drum brakes. Wheelbase: 146.5"

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel

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