29 April 2000
1939 ROLLS-ROYCE PHANTOM III ALL-WEATHER TOURER
FORMERLY OWNED BY THE RAJAH OF PARLAKIMEDI
COACHWORK BY THRUPP & MABERLY
Chassis No. 3DL26
Engine No. R 18M
Cream over mulberry with cream leather interior
Engine: V-12, 7,340cc, overhead valve; Gearbox: four-speed manual; Suspension: semi-elliptic leaf springs; Brakes: four wheel drum. Right hand drive.
'The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire' was apt before World War II, and an appropriate vehicle for those last rulers of the vast empire to be seen in was the Phantom III, a huge V-12 powered car introduced in 1935. It was a significant car in several ways; it was the first V-12 Rolls-Royce powered by a precursor of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. It was basically an all-new car using nothing from the Phantom II. The pushrod engine was set in a 60-degree vee and used a light alloy block and light one-piece detachable cylinder head. It would propel the Phantom III at speeds approaching 90mph. The engine was mated to a four speed manual gearbox. The chassis was a large, newly designed box section and for the first time again on a Rolls-Royce it was fitted with General Motors designed independent front suspension which enabled the traditional Rolls-Royce radiator and engine to be moved forward providing space for extremely large coachwork.
The Phantom III firmly put the company back into producing the 'Best Car in the World.' It proved to be the last big-engined pre-war car and all were built in Derby with only right hand drive. The war curtailed further development after only 710 were produced. As with the Rolls-Royce tradition, the coachwork was always handmade by the buyers' choice of coachbuilder. The Phantom III list of original owners would no doubt provide an evening's entertainment and this car is no exception having been built for an Indian Potentate, the Rajah of Parlakimedi. He chose the London firm of Thrupp & Maberley, one of the most classically inclined coachbuilders of the pre-World War II period, to build this unique All-Weather Touring coachwork. Only about 35 of the total production of Phantom III's were open cars.
According to the chassis card, in 1946 the car changed hands into the ownership of another Rajah. In 1968 Peter Brewer brought the car out of India to England and shortly after it passed into the hands of one of the foremost London Rolls-Royce dealers, Frank Dale & Stepsons, who carried out a comprehensive restoration. This took several years and the chassis, engine and transmission were stripped, overhauled and renovated with new parts where necessary and the same treatment was given to the body and interior. In July 1973 the car was offered at a Christie's Beaulieu auction. It passed into the Philip Wichard collection in 1976 and during this ownership it was repainted again and a new beige hood was fitted. Having had very limited use since the Frank Dale & Stepsons rebuild, it did not warrant any mechanical work and is said to run superbly. The car, as a late DL-series example, has an overdrive gearbox and carries four-door full cabriolet bodywork with divider and winding windows. The central pillars disappear, the boot is of integral built-out type, and equipment includes twin mounted spare wheels, wheel discs, and rear cocktail cabinets.
On page 315 of Coachwork on Rolls-Royce 1906-1939 by Lawrence Dalton, the car is photographed with the original drawings (although they incorrectly quote chassis no. 3 AZ 172). Phantom III production was very limited compared to other models. In the attractive cabriolet form they are extremely rare and this original example in such fine condition is arguably one of the most desirable Phantom IIIs.
Contact Client Service
New York +1 212 636 2000
London +44 (0)20 7839 9060
Asia +852 2760 1766
Ahead of an online sale that honours their close bond, Meredith Etherington-Smith traces the roots of a 40-year collaboration
Francis Bacon's poignant celebration of George Dyer, the artist's most important subject, will star in Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 17 May