Rolls-Royce Phantom III Henley Roadster

Frederick Henry Royce strove for perfection in everything that he did and this was epitomized in a comment he made to his local vicar in West Wittering where he lived. He had just finished stripping and rebuilding the vicar’s lawnmower and made a comment which inspired the famous sculptor Eric Gill, the vicar’s son, to carve the Latin words in a stone mantelpiece in Royce’s house: Quidvis recte factum: quamvis humile praeclarum. It was the maxim that Royce lived his life by. “Whatever is rightly done, however humble, is noble.”

Henry Royce’s first motor powered vehicle was a De Dion Quadricycle. He followed this with a second-hand, 10 hp two-cylinder French Decauville. The standard of workmanship was not good so Royce decided to build a car of his own.

The New Phantom was launched in 1925 and was retrospectively called the Phantom I when the Phantom II was produced in 1929 in response to increasing competition from other manufacturers. 1929 also saw Britain win the Schneider Trophy with Rolls-Royce powered Supermarine aircraft. This feat, which was equalled in 1931, prompted the awarding of a Baronetcy to Royce in 1931 but by then Royce was a very sick man. He died on April 22, 1933 at age seventy. Having started work designing the Phantom III in 1932, Royce ensured his engineering team followed his own principles of excellence. Prompted by competition from America, Royce knew that Cadillac would soon introduce a V16 and just about every other US manufacturer was using a V12 in their top models. In addition Hispano-Suiza had announced the 68, with a light-alloy V12. By then Rolls-Royce was very experienced with light-alloy construction and its V12 aero-engines had been a tremendous success. Sir Frederick Henry Royce’s last car design, the V12 engined Phantom III, was a masterpiece, but it was left to his successors to make the car a reality in 1936.

Code-named Spectre, the Phantom III was unveiled at the 1935 Olympia Motor Show and was acclaimed as the most technically advanced car in production anywhere in the world. The V12 overhead valve engine had a one-piece aluminium alloy crankcase and cylinder blocks, aluminium head and cast-iron, wet cylinder liners. The chassis was of cruciform-braced, box-girder design with wishbone front suspension and semi-elliptic rear springs. The four-speed gearbox had synchromesh on the highest three gears. It broke new ground as the first British car with hydraulic, self-adjusting tappets and hydraulic shock absorbers controlled from the driving seat. No effort had been spared to make it the ultimate in refinement. In a road test, Autocar magazine described in awe the silence of the V12 engine, the flexibility of the gearbox. “…certainly also it has a wider range of performance of the kind that counts in modern road conditions, its acceleration being, to say the least, thrilling.” Autocar went on to say, “Somewhere is an ultimate in the highest expression of road travel comfort and performance and the Phantom III is beyond question the nearest approach to it as yet.”

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in August 2009 at the Portola Hotel & Spa and Monterey Conference Center, Monterey, California.

40/50 hp, 7,338 cc overhead valve V12 60 engine, four-speed manual transmission, unequal length wishbone, oil immersed, coil spring front suspension, semi-elliptic rear suspension, four-wheel servo assisted drum brakes. Wheelbase: 142".

Source: RM Auctions

Gallery: Rolls-Royce Phantom III Henley Roadster