1938 ROLLS-ROYCE PHANTOM III SEDANCA DE VILLE
COACHWORK BY H.J. MULLINER
Registration No. FLX 885
Chassis No. 3 DL 104
Engine No. See Text
Dark blue with white coachlining and light blue leather and cloth interior
Engine: B80 Rolls-Royce (see text), 8 cylinder, overhead valve, 5,675c.c.; Gearbox: manual four-speed, synchromesh on top three ratios; Suspension: independent front by wishbones with coil springs in oil filled casing, rear live axle with half elliptic leaf springs; Brakes: servo assisted four-wheel drum. Right hand drive.
The Phantom III was never intended to be an outright sporting car and relatively few were built with open or owner-driver bodies. Rather it was meant to provide the most modern handling and ride qualities, while carrying dignified formal coachwork. Even so burdened (weight could be around 2.5 tons) the great car's performance was praiseworthy. Testing a PIII limousine, The Autocar road-testers saw almost 92mph and quoted a 0-60mph time of 16.8 secs. Coachwork varied in style, from modern-looking 'razor-edge' outlines, to frankly conservative shapes, more 1928 than 1938. But even those had a certain presence and with independent front wheel suspension permitting the engine to be further forward than on previous Phantoms, leg-room and space for occasionals in the rear compartment was greater than ever.
This Phantom III was one of the last to have been built and was sold new to Sir Herbert Smith, fitted with the H.J. Mulliner Sedanca de Ville coachwork it wears today. It is thought that the high-line of its design was at his request for he liked to wear a Top Hat whilst being driven in the car. The factory records detail history through 9 owners between 1938 and September 1965; Chas. Attwood & Sons (1945), Mrs Dorothy Frost (1946), A.L. Oppenheimer (1947), Alfred Esdaile (1949), Miss F.W. Claxton (1954), The 20th Century (Joining and Packing) Co. Ltd. (1957) and F.R. Pensford-Jones (1965). At this point the car left the British Isles for Long Beach California, U.S.A. and its subsequent ownership is not known until Christie's sold the car at auction in Melbourne, Australia on 18th June 1986. Later in the 1980s it was purchased for the collection.
Since its acquisition this car has been the subject of extensive work which has included refurbishment of the bodywork to a very high standard and repainting to the current attractive livery. Of particular note is the white coachline which perfectly highlights the chrome waist moulding on the bodywork. The interior has similarly been refinished with understated light blue upholstery, cloth in the rear and leather in the driver's compartment in keeping with standard practice and reflecting the wear that a Sedanca de Ville would receive.
During restoration, the original V12 engine was found to be in very poor order and deemed to be unrepairable. However, with a keen wish to use the car a B80 Rolls-Royce unit was sourced and fitted. This may seem an unusual replacement unit, but the B80 was of course the same engine fitted to the later Phantom IV models and so thematically is not out of keeping with the car, within the collection this compromise bridges the gap between the pre-war and post-war Phantoms. Sadly at this point the original unit was sold off for spares use and is no longer with the Phantom. Despite this modification, it represents a very usable example, which would be a rewarding car to use and enjoy without the fears that many associate with the V12 unit.
A supremely elegant and beautifully presented Phantom III.