Rolls-Royce has announced the Mayfair location for ‘The Great Eight Phantoms’ – A Rolls-Royce Exhibition. The exhibition will take place at Bonhams on Bond Street, London, the heart of the luxury world. Rolls-Royce also announced that the third Great Phantom to join the exhibition will be Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Phantom II Continental.
Need for speed: Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Phantom II
At the height of his pursuit of a new land speed record in the 1930’s, Sir Malcolm Campbell began a relationship with Rolls-Royce that would take him to glory and help him celebrate it.
At the end of 1932 Campbell had won prestigious Grand Prix races, broken the land speed world record not once but six times, and had been knighted by King George V. He had nothing left to prove. He was the fastest man on land and yet, as restless as ever, he wanted to take a crack at the 300mph barrier, the automotive equivalent of the four-minute mile. He believed that the only engine that could power his Blue Bird to this speed was a 36.5L Rolls-Royce R aero engine, which generated a staggering 2,300 horsepower.
On 22 February 1933, Blue Bird’s first run with the Rolls-Royce engine set a new world land speed record of 272 miles per hour (438 km/h) at Daytona Beach, Florida. A month later, Campbell celebrated by taking personal delivery of a new Phantom II Continental, registration AGO 1.
The short-wheelbase Continental had been introduced in 1930 as a ‘sportier’ version of the Phantom II, which had debuted a year earlier. The Continental, with its improved balance and springing, was capable of 95mph – modest by Campbell’s standards, but positively head-spinning for a car weighing almost two and a half tons.
The Motor magazine commented that the Phantom II Continental was ‘Powerful, docile, delightfully easy to control and a thoroughbred, it behaves in a manner which is difficult to convey without seeming to over-praise.”
Although AGO 1 was bodied by coachbuilders Barker as a ‘standardised touring saloon’, there were some Bespoke modifications ordered by Campbell. These included a wireless set, fire extinguisher, spotlight, an exhaust pipe specified as nine-inches longer than the norm (probably to create an exhaust note closer to the Blue Bird’s roar), a klaxon horn, a Bosch horn and a siren. Clearly this king of speed wanted people to know he was coming through! Even on public roads, Campbell’s fondness for going fast was well known.
And the colour? Pale blue, of course, with darker blue leather trim and a black roof. The pearlescent glow of the bodywork was apparently achieved by Rolls-Royce’s use of ground herring scales in the paint. Campbell must have been pleased, for he penned a promotional brochure for the Phantom II entitled ‘The best Rolls-Royce yet produced,’
Bonhams and the Rolls-Royce marque have long been entwined, with some of the most historically significant and luxurious models crossing the block at the international auction house’s sales over the years. Indeed, Bonhams hold the world-auction record for the marque with the sale of ‘The Corgi’ 1912 Silver Ghost at £4,705,000 in 2012.
The Silver Ghost was in production until 1925 and replaced by another legendary model, the New Phantom. In December 2016, Bonhams sold one of the most famous Rolls-Royce Phantoms ever built – the 1926 Rolls-Royce Phantom I, nicknamed ‘The Phantom of Love,’ which sold for £561,500 at the Bond Street Sale. Commissioned by Clarence Warren Gasque for his wife Maude, a Woolworth heiress, money was no object. Gasque demanded that the style be French and that the car surpass the luxury of any previous Rolls-Royce sold. He certainly had his way, as the car’s painted ceiling, elegant polished satinwood, drinks cabinet, ormolu clock and self-styled coat of arms affixed to the doors combined to create a vehicle more akin to the throne room of Versailles than a motor car. It is, without doubt, one of the very finest examples of art and craftsmanship applied to an automobile, and encapsulates the elegance and style that has come to embody Rolls-Royce.
James Knight, Group Motoring Chairman of Bonhams, commented, ‘‘We are delighted to be the venue for this singular celebration of the Rolls-Royce Phantom, as Bonhams has had a long history with Rolls-Royce. Bonhams has sold some of the most astounding Rolls-Royce motor cars ever created, including ‘The Phantom of Love’ sold in London earlier this year, The ex-Marlene Dietrich Phantom I ‘ and the ex-Jack L. Warner Phantom I Transformal Phaeton.”
‘The Great Eight Phantoms’, a Rolls-Royce Exhibition, will take place at Bonhams international flagship saleroom and galleries in New Bond Street, London from 29 July till 2 August.