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Lot 545: Rolls Royce Phantom I Playboy Roadster

Grand Palais Sale, Bonhams (7 February 2013)

Rolls-Royce's 'single model' policy had proved an outstanding success for the company, but immediately after the end of The Great War the recession in the motor trade prompted the introduction of a smaller, cheaper 20hp car to be built alongside the existing 40/50hp Silver Ghost. Henry Royce's new design incorporated a number of modern features such as overhead valve-gear for its six-cylinder engine, a centre-change gearbox and 'Hotchkiss drive' rear axle, and the advanced newcomer's arrival only served to emphasise the Silver Ghost's Edwardian origins. However, the 45/50hp model would soon benefit from developments pioneered on its smaller sibling. Introduced by Rolls-Royce in 1925 to replace the Silver Ghost, the New Phantom (retrospectively known as the Phantom I) boasted an entirely new overhead-valve six-cylinder engine displacing 7,668cc and, like the contemporary 20hp model, adopted a disc-type clutch and adjustable radiator shutters. Its chassis though, remained essentially the same as that of the later, four-wheel-braked Silver Ghost and would continue fundamentally unchanged until the arrival of the Phantom II in 1929 brought with it an entirely new frame. Like its 'Ghost predecessor, the New Phantom was also produced by Rolls-Royce of America Incorporated, a subsidiary set up in December 1919 when the parent company purchased the American Wire Wheel Company's plant in Springfield, Massachusetts. Springfield commenced manufacture of the New Phantom in 1926 and by the second half of 1929 production had risen to 12 cars per week. This would prove to be the high point of Rolls-Royce of America's fortunes, the October '29 Wall Street Crash and the introduction of the Phantom II - re-tooling for which the US company could not afford - signalling the beginning of its decline. The Phantom I was in production for only five years and the Derby-built models ran parallel with the Springfield cars but ended in 1929, whereas the Americans continued until 1931. Unlike its British-built counterpart, the American product could be ordered with 'factory' bodywork, usually by Brewster, the latter company having been taken over by Rolls-Royce in December 1925. As well as manufacturing coachwork of the highest quality, Brewster had built its own automobiles from 1915 up to the time of its acquisition by Rolls-Royce, re-emerging as an auto-maker in its own right, using Ford chassis, when US Phantom production finally ceased in 1934 and the company became part of the reconstituted Springfield Manufacturing Corporation. Chassis number 'S205RM' was delivered new fitted with six-seater touring coachwork, almost certainly by Brewster, and later was returned to the factory for re-bodying. At this time Rolls-Royce of America had a policy of repurchasing low-mileage 'formal' cars and reissuing them with sporting bodies of more fashionable style. Brewster's 'Playboy' body was used exclusively for this purpose and the car offered here is one of only 28 built on the Silver Ghost and New Phantom chassis. Nowadays the 'Playboy' is acknowledged as one of the most attractive of all Rolls-Royce of America body styles. Copy chassis details on file record that the Phantom originally belonged to an owner called Cox, in Ohio, and that the Playboy body had been fitted while the car belonged to William Ockrant, having previously been on Mr Ockrant's chassis '167ML'. Subsequent owners listed are Charles E Wiedenbusch of Morgantown, West Virginia, Rick K Carroll of Jensen Beach, Florida and Claude W Brocker of New York City. Jerry J Moore of Houston, Texas is recorded as owner on the accompanying State of Nevada Certificate of Title, issued in 1992. A self-made, multi-millionaire, commercial real estate developer, Jerry J Moore was one of America's richest men and reputedly Houston's most wealthy. Moore famously lived in a mid-19th Century chateau that he had bought in France and had dismantled and shipped across the Atlantic to Houston where it was painstakingly reconstructed by specially commissioned French craftsmen. He was also an avid car collector, amassing a world-class collection running to several hundred, which at one time included the 1931 Bugatti Royale he bought for $6.5 million, a world record price for an automobile at that time. Moore died in November 2008 aged 80. This striking Playboy Roadster is finished in black with cream leather interior and red detailing. The aforementioned Certificate of Title records that the car was shipped to its new owner in Belgium in 1999, having been in the Jerry J Moore Collection for some seven years.

Lot Details
Auction Grand Palais Sale
Bonhams, Paris, France
Lot Number545
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price€250000
Hammer Price (inc premium)€287500
Condition rating2
Registration number
Chassis numberS205RM
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors