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A 1927 Rolls-Royce Phantom once owned by King Edward VIII, which didn’t turn a wheel as it laid dormant on a Suffolk farm for more than 30 years after his abdication, is set to cause a right royal stir at auction next month.
The King’s Phantom is valued at £150,000-£200,000 and it goes under the hammer with Bonhams at The Beaulieu National Motor Museum in the New Forest.
Rolls-Royce Phatom’s royal heritage
The car’s royal heritage and Edward’s notoriety — he is famed for causing a constitutional crisis when he fell for double-divorcee American Wallis Simpson to whom he proposed just months after ascending to the throne — will no doubt increase interest both sides of the Atlantic.
He chose to abdicate after just 326 days when Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin decreed that a divorced woman with two living ex-husbands was “politically and socially unacceptable” as a prospective queen consort.
While his choice of wife were being questioned, there were no complaints about this choice of car. The Rolls-Royce Phantom came into production during the motor trade recession following World War One. It was offered as a smaller, cheaper, 20hp car to be built alongside the existing 40/50hp Silver Ghost.
Phantom was packed with innovative engineering
Henry Royce’s Phantom showcased many modern features such as overhead valve-gear for its six-cylinder engine, a centre-change gearbox and ‘Hotchkiss drive’ rear axle.
It was upgraded as the New Phantom in 1925 this time boasting a more powerful 45/50hp engine.
Retrospectively known as the Rolls-Royce Phantom I, it had a new push-rod overhead-valve, 7,688cc, six-cylinder engine with detachable cylinder head, and was considerably more powerful than its Edwardian predecessor.
Rolls-Royce turned out just 2,212 Phantom I chassis by the time production ceased and one of them, chassis number ’14RF’ was ordered by The Prince of Wales before he became king.
It gave him several years of happy motoring before his accession, subsequent abdication and relocation to France.
King’s classic was left unloved in Suffolk farmyard
What happened to the Rolls-Royce Phantom after its royal tour came to an end is not known, but for many years it lay unused and unloved in a Suffolk farmyard until its discovery by car restorer, Edward Overton.
The Beaulieu sale notes reveal: “He visited the farm to buy a Bentley chassis and offered to buy the Rolls-Royce Phantom chassis as well, only for the farmer to refuse, saying ‘No, that’s the King’s car’.
“Taking note of the engine number – ‘OM15’ – Mr Overton was able to confirm the farmer’s story. Despite the farmer’s initial reluctance to sell, a price was soon agreed.”
Mr Overton was building a batch of Bentley Specials when he acquired the royal Roller so the restoration project was put on hold until the late 80s.
Once the frame, engine, transmission, and axles had been restored and the car brought to rolling chassis state, a replica of the original Gurney Nutting Weymann saloon body was fabricated using period photographs as a guide.
A pair of 1928 front wings were sourced and altered to match those shown in the photographs, while the rear wings were made from scratch together with a rack for the trunk.
Roller’s restoration took 30 years to complete
The radiator shutters were missing and it took five years to find a set, which gives some indication of why the Rolls-Royce Phantom project took three decades to complete. But complete it is now and looking fit for a king once again.
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The Beaulieu sale will be held on Saturday, September 7. To view more sale lots visit the Bonhams catalogue.