EX-BILL DAVIS AND RICK CARROLL COLLECTIONS
1929 ROLLS-ROYCE PHANTOM I DERBY SPEEDSTER TOURER
COACHWORK BY BREWSTER
Chassis No. S158FR
Engine No. 21588
Black with dark red leather interior
Engine: in-line, six cylinders with overhead valves, 468 ci.; Gearbox: three speed manual; Suspension: semi-elliptic front with cantilever rear springs; Brakes: four wheel drums. Left hand drive.
It was in 1906, the very year Rolls-Royce was established, that Henry Royce designed his greatest achievement. The six cylinder, 40/50 hp Rolls-Royce would establish the firm's reputation for engineering excellence. It was introduced to the world at the 1906 London Motor Show at Olympia and swiftly established itself as the ultimate in luxury motoring, and was soon credited with the title 'The Best Car in the World'. The automotive community was both stunned and gratified by the car's mechanical integrity, the degree of which had never been seen before.
The new Phantom I Rolls-Royce constituted only the third new car that Rolls-Royce had designed and was the direct replacement for the Silver Ghost. However, Sir Henry Royce was reluctant to change the Ghost design significantly and the Phantom I demonstrated this lack of enthusiasm. The new Rolls-Royce was a small evolutionary step, rather than a completely redesigned model. In order to maintain the high standards of the Rolls-Royce name, the new Phantom would have to possess all of the amazingly flawless features of the Silver Ghosts, while appearing new and modern. The Phantom I was launched in 1925 and retained the Silver Ghost chassis and transmission, except for the old cone clutch which was replaced by a single dry plate. The engine, on the other hand, while retaining two blocks of three cylinders each, was converted into an overhead valve six cylinder design with a single detachable alloy cylinder head. This provided a third more power and, with four wheel servo-assisted brakes, the overall performance and braking was well ahead of its competitors and was of optimum build quality.
In 1926 Rolls-Royce of America intelligently absorbed the American coachbuilding firm of Brewster & Company. By doing so, the British company secured themselves ownership of a quality coachbuilding firm that could be relied upon to fit their American custom built examples. It also allowed Rolls-Royce to market cars comparable to those they were selling in the UK. The specialist coachbuilders of the day provided some of the finest and most elegant body styles ever seen in the history of motoring, as the American Brewster bodied Phantom I Derby Speedster demonstrates. A total of twenty Derby models were built, with a fraction of those being the spectacular wind-swept Speedsters. It is believed that only three Speedsters exist today.
Chassis no. S158FR was delivered to Mr. Herbert Farrell of Nashville, Tennessee in 1929. Mr. Farrell was the son-in-law of the esteemed J. O. Cheek, founder of Maxwell House Coffee. The late Rick Carroll, a later owner of this Speedster, paints a wonderful picture of the car and its owner, Mr. Farrell, He had been informed the Speedster would do better than 85 mph, but he could not get to over 76. Rolls-Royce sent two mechanics to Nashville to find the missing 9 mph. After adjustments they achieved the desired speed. Mr. Farrell was asked to get in for a demonstration ride. 'Have you done it?' he asked one of the mechanics. Assured that he had, the now delighted owner said, 'That's all I wanted to know. I'll take your word for it.'
The Derby Speedster remained in the Nashville area for many years, transferring ownership several times before it was purchased by Mr. Neil McDade. In 1953 Mr. McDade sent the car to respected Indianapolis Rolls-Royce dealers, Schaler & Wade, where its first restoration was executed. In 1959 esteemed Rolls-Royce and Bentley collector, Bill Davis purchased the car from Neil McDade. In speaking of his Speedster, Mr. Davis was reported as saying, It was the standard by which all my other cars were judged. A picture of Mr. Davis' Speedster can be seen on page 76 of the book Rolls-Royce in America by author and historian, John Webb de Campi. Attesting to the desirability of the Speedster, de Campi wrote These were perhaps the handsomest bodies ever put on a Rolls-Royce chassis.
Bill Davis owned the car from 1959 until 1984, when Rick Carroll was finally able to convince Mr. Davis to part company with his cherished car. Mr. Carroll commissioned a no-expense-spared, full nut and bolt restoration. He sent the chassis to the highly regarded workshop of Mr. Clay Cook in Kentucky, while the engine was transported to England for a complete rebuild. Unfortunately, midway through the process, Mr. Carroll passed away, halting any further work on the car. In 1990 William Lassiter bought the Phantom I from the Estate of Rick Carroll and ordered the restoration to be completed by Mr. Cook.
William Lassiter has since kept the Rolls-Royce Derby Speedster in near perfect condition. The black paintwork and exterior brightwork appear exceptional in finish. The interior is finished in a deep, dark red leather and is highlighted by the rich wood trimming and delicate silver inlay. The Speedster is fitted with very stylish and attractive black and chrome wheel discs, and a discreet small rear mounted trunk and thermostat controlled front grille louvers. The engine compartment and motor are nearly spotless. The underbody shows virtually no road wear and has a full set of undershields for added protection. In 1993 William Lassiter's Speedster was awarded a First Prize from the Classic Car Club of America (#1695), as well as a National First Prize by the Antique Automobile Club of America (#18E0585). It also has the distinction of being selected in 1992 as the ultimate example of a Phantom I in the Collier Automotive Museum special exhibit Rolls- Royce: Reflections of Society 1905-1939.
The American Brewster bodied Phantom I Derby Speedsters are truly magnificent examples of the coachbuilt tradition. The distinctive sleek styling, scalloped doors and signature upswept rear fenders are the elements of perfection that make the Rolls-Royce Derby Speedster one of the most desirable of all Rolls-Royces ever built. This example is truly superb and must rank as one of the most exquisite and best restored cars that Christie's has ever had the pleasure of offering.