1927 ROLLS-ROYCE PHANTOM I COUPE
COACHWORK BY GEORGE W. McNEER
Chassis No. S442FL
Engine No. 20426
Grey with black leather interior - for restoration
Engine: six cylinder, two blocks of three, overhead valve, 7,668cc; Gearbox: four-speed manual; Suspension: front, semi-elliptic leaf springs, rear, cantilever; Brakes: four wheel drum. Left hand drive.
Although reluctant to change a successful model, in 1925 the New Phantom Rolls-Royce was introduced to succeed the famous 40/50hp Silver Ghost. The main feature was the engine, which was now an overhead valve six cylinder design with a single, detachable alloy cylinder head. A third more power was available and with the four-wheel servo-assisted brakes, the overall performance and braking was ahead of the competition. Despite just a five year production run, the Phantom I was very successful as a Derby-built car and as an American Springfield version.
This early Springfield built left hand drive example, chassis S442FL, was first delivered with a Salamanca Permanent Town Car body in January 1927 to William Skinner of New York City. This was a popular body style and certainly one of the most attractive designs available at the time. As with many cars of the period, records do not show what became of the car thereafter, but it is known that the car was offered back to Rolls-Royce in January 1935 with an asking price of $250! We suspect that around this time the car was indeed sold to a new owner who decided to update the car by fitting new coachwork. This of course was a very common practice with coachbuilt cars of high quality and many Rolls-Royces, notably Silver Ghosts and Phantom I's, received several different bodies during their working life (and some still do today!) to suit a new owner's tastes and needs. This Phantom I was fitted with the current coupe coachwork by George W. McNeer of Brookline, MA. George McNeer was a well known car dealer and coachbuilder based in the Boston area and it is known he fitted out a few Rolls-Royces, later becoming quite well known as a Nash dealer. We believe the owner at this time was Mr. Norman V. Gifford of Warwick, Rhode Island, and also Yaphank, Long Island. Apparently Mr. Gifford was a successful salesman for a cinder block company and he used this car as his regular transport up until 1940. At this time it would appear that the car went into storage on blocks.
The Rolls-Royce remained in his ownership until 1965, when the current owner agreed to purchase the car, which took him two years in stage payments. Taken off the blocks, the wheels and tyres refitted, the car was trailered from Warwick, Rhode Island to the current owner's garage, where it has remained ever since! Having been stored in reality for the past sixty years, it will require careful recommissioning of the engine and restoration of the body and interior. Inspection shows that at some time the paintwork was turquoise in color before the grey it wears now. The coupe body is not unattractive and would lend itself to restoration. There are a number of unusual design features such as a two-piece windscreen which is made up of a vertical lower half section intersected by a top piece angled forwards from the roof line/peak. There are triangulated quarter windows and the vacuum operated (as used on some early Cadillacs) wipers slide horizontally across! Apart from this, the Phantom has side mounted spare wheels and a vacuum horn on the passenger side. The whole car has a very low profile which is unusual for a Phantom I. There is a small compartment in the rear, but not really room for a full size rumble seat. The interior also needs attention as the seat back has collapsed (and is torn). There are disc covers for the wheels and a Spirit of Ecstasy mascot, but they are not currently fitted. The engine is original to the chassis. Number plates on the car indicate the car was last on the road in 1939 and a new set of plates were issued for 1940 but never fitted to the vehicle.
This intriguing Rolls-Royce therefore requires restoration, but this should be rewarding in the long term.