Rolls-Royce Phantom I Torpedo Tourer
The new Phantom, retrospectively dubbed the Phantom I, replaced the venerable Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP Silver Ghost in May of 1925. Retaining many of the remarkable capabilities of the Ghost and offering an impressive scale with refined lines, all things considered, The Autocar summarised its review of the new Phantom in its 22 May 1925 issue, by stating that a road trial “indicates further progress towards perfection. Acceleration and speed improved without sacrifice of comfort and refinement”.
The Phantom I’s cantilever springing made for a magnificently situated chassis, which appealed to those who wished to make a statement with their cars. It is not surprising that the chassis was a favourite with royalty, other heads of state, and many kings of India’s princely states, known as Maharajahs, who generally ordered original one-off touring bodies with bespoke features that set them apart. Historically, these special cars have held significantly higher values than the standard town cars, coupés, and saloons. Maharajahs began to compete amongst themselves, each trying to out-do the other by commissioning some of the most magnificent and extravagantly fitted motor cars of the 1920s. The Phantom I was the model most often selected, not only because of Rolls-Royce Motors’ reputation as the best car in the world, but this newly designed sturdy chassis could support the heaviest and most elaborate coachwork.
One of the rare features on this car that speaks to the incredibly high build quality is its side screens, designed to be lowered into the doors rather than removed and stored elsewhere when not required. Further bespoke appointments included an all-aluminium fascia complete with silver-faced instruments and gauges, a cigar lighter, and an ivory steering wheel and hub stalks. To ensure the prince had a car unlike all others, he specified the seats to be upholstered with pleated rather than button-tufted upholstery, as was more common in the mid-1920s. To add to his comfort and special requirements, exquisitely finished woodwork was installed, including a polished teakwood cabinet in the rear passenger compartment, complete with space for two decanters, a thermos and crystal beakers, a card case, a mirror, and a clock. The forward driver’s compartment included a “receptacle for a revolver between the front seat cushions and a flap to cover...”, indicative of both a fascination with firearms shared by many Maharajahs and the turbulent times of 1920s India.
The interior retains its special-order instrument panel, nickel-faced instruments, ivory handles and knobs, and even its rear compartment clock. The interior was additionally trimmed in a wonderful rich Nutmeg hide, which matches the flame mahogany woodwork beautifully. The rear cabinetry with ivory inlay has been outfitted with period correct items, including a four-piece silver tea set, a set of four jade travelling cups, two glass and sterling silver etched bottles, a glass and sterling silver flask, a set of leather-wrapped Champiere of Paris binoculars, a sterling silver and blue velvet ledger, an ivory grooming kit with leather case, a sterling silver vanity mirror with a matching bristle brush set, an inlaid wooden chessboard, a brass compass, a sterling silver card case, and a sterling silver Indian cigarette lighter.
Part of the RM Auctions event in London, October, 2012.
108 hp, 7,668 cc OHV six-cylinder engine, RR-design carburettor, four-speed gearbox, solid front axle with semi-elliptic leaf spring suspension, live rear axle with cantilever rear suspension, and four-wheel mechanical brakes with servo-assist plus. Wheelbase: 146.5 in.
Source: RM Auctions