- Chassis # 79OR
- Engine # ZG85
- Retaining Its Original Engine And Drivetrain
- Body Constructed Entirely Of Aluminum Utilizing The Sylentlyte Technique
- Benefiting From An Extensively Documented History
- Possibly One Of The Most Important P1 Rolls-Royce In Existence
The Rolls-Royce Phantom was Rolls-Royce’s replacement for the original Silver Ghost. Introduced as the “New Phantom ” in 1925, the Phantom had a larger engine than the Silver Ghost and used push-rod operated overhead valves instead of the side valves in the Silver Ghost. Phantoms were built in one of two factories, one in Derby, England, and the other in Springfield, Massachusetts. Between the two there were several differences in specifications, which included the wheelbase and the transmissions offered. The US-built cars had a slightly shorter wheelbase than the UK-built ones at 3721 mm and 3822mm respectively. The next difference was in the transmission. While both cars got the same single dry-plate clutch, the US-built examples got a 3 speed while the UK built ones a 4 speed.
In this era, Rolls-Royce only produced the chassis and mechanical parts, leaving the body in the hands of a coachbuilder of the original purchaser’s choice, depending on whether the chassis was US or UK spec. In this period, the choices were plentiful, with marques such as Barker, Park Ward, Bidde and Smart, Thrupp & Maberly, Mulliner, and Hopper all available to UK based clients, and Chatsworth, Newmarket, and Hibbard & Darrin were available to US-based clients.
Howard Darrin met Tom Hibbard in 1923. Hibbard by this time had left the well-known designer LeBaron, and the two set off to Paris and started their own company, Hibbard & Darrin. In the years following the two built innovatively styled bodies on many of Europe’s most prestigious chassis. In 1931, the partnership, unfortunately, ended when Hibbard returned to the United States to pursue a position in the design department and General Motors.
The Phantom I on offer here, chassis #79OR, is a 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Imperial False Cabriolet by Hibbard & Darrin. Construction of #79OR utilized the Sylentlyte body technique on the longest chassis, The Sylentlyte technique uses cast aluminum for the body structure instead of the wood that would traditionally be used, which was an exclusive crafting technique to Hibbard & Darrin at the time. Also worth noting, it is believed that only two Phantom l’s were built on this elongated chassis utilizing the Sylentlyte technique, one for King Leopold, and the other, this chassis, for Princess Pageteli of Italy.
This car benefits from an extensively documented history including service records, manuals, and a build sheet of the car. According to the documentation included with the sale of this car, the chassis was completed in 1930 at the Derby, England Rolls-Royce plant. The chassis was then sent to Hibbard & Darrin who were located in Paris, France. The chassis cost $16,650 while the body cost $9,985 bringing the total to $26,635. The completed car was then delivered to Italy where it resided with Princess Pageteli. From here the history gets a little vague but at some point, the car made its way to the US shores. According to included restoration photos which are available in the documents section located above, it appears that this PI was restored in 1970 by a Mr. John Griffin of Montgomery Alabama. Mr. Griffin was responsible for the expert restoration of other fantastic and rare Roll-Royce vehicles and his expertise shows in this car as well. It appears that shortly after the restoration the car was sold to a Mr. Reid of Ohio in 1981 from a Mr. R.J. Moye of Emmanuel County, Georgia, who is possibly the gentleman who had the car restored. Mr. Reid was an enthusiastic owner of the car and is responsible for much of the communications and history that we now have on file. A notable letter from the period Mr. Reid sent to Thomas Hibbard describes a morning he spent with John Griffin, the man who restored chassis #79OR and how delightful his garage was, and how many prizes he had one as an antique automobile restorer. Though today the Phantom sports a tan top, photos from 1970 show the car originally had a dark-colored top, though both suit the car equally well.
Today this very special Roll-Royce PI presents very nicely for the age of the restoration. There are a few minor things that could be touched up and attended to in order to bring this car to its full potential. Once fully in order, both the special body and its unique construction, ensure that this P1 would be welcome at shows and concourses around the country.
body and paint
This PI was the beneficiary of an older cosmetic restoration and still remains in excellent condition. The paint is of very high quality and was nicely applied. Given the age of the restoration there are a few minor imperfections that come with normal use. The top of the car was replaced during restoration but due to it being a light tan color it isn't aging as nicely as the rest of the car.
glass and trim
The bright work throughout the car is in decent condition. Minor staining on the front grill and around the windshield is present. The front and rear bumperette present in like-new condition showing no signs of wear. The front lights are showing a bit of yellowing on the glass but are in good condition.
The wheels were all redone at the time of restoration. There are a few minor imperfections scattered about, most of which have been touched up. The white sidewalls have experienced some dirt and grime from use and are slightly stained.
There is some minor chrome chipping on trim as well as some paint chipping on the wheels, some of which has been touched up.
seats and surfaces
The interior of this PIII was entirely gone through during the restoration and was completed very nicely and in a highly correct manner. The leather seats are fantastic and remain in excellent condition throughout. The carpets in the rear of the vehicle present nicely, the carpets upfront, however, are worn and need replacing. The wood on the dash is in great condition with no cracking in the veneer around the edges of some of the gauges. The wood trim on the door cards is in fantastic shape with a smooth finish and beautiful grain.
functionality and accessories
The gauges all remain in good condition with bright legible lettering and relatively clear glass overtop showing some minor scratching and hazing. Switches and knobs all appear to be in good condition both cosmetically and mechanically however they do show a bit more age than the rest of the interior. The steering wheel appears that it was left relatively original, showing a bit of age and patina on the rim, spokes, and the center horn button and controls. There is a vanity in the rear of the car on the bulkhead between the two passenger compartments that appears to have contained a liquor decanter and two glasses at one time. According to an inquiry letter written to Lalique & Co by the owner who restored the car, it was purported to have been a set by the famous Parisian company, although this cannot be confirmed on our part. Currently, it is missing the contents of what was contained there, leaving the open holes present. Paintwork around the area is neat and tidy, however.
engine bay and trunk
The engine compartment shows as largely correct, well put together, well maintained, and overall clean and tidy. There is some light scratching on the top valve covers and some runs in the paint from fluids but the paint overall is smooth and consistent. Metal surfaces are clean and tidy, showing no real signs of issues. Hoses, cables, etc. appear in good cosmetic and mechanical condition.
The trunk area is clean and tidy, matching in material to the top of the car.
The underside of this PI is overall clean but the work carried out doesn’t quite reflect the rest of the car. Some surfaces were painted while others were left alone. All mechanical aspects on the underside appear well maintained and in good operating condition and there are no signs of any major cosmetic issues present.
This PI benefits from a recent servicing to its starting carburetor and has aided in its ability to run and drive smoothly. A few minor tweaks would get this car in perfect running order, for now, a few hiccups with fuel delivery persist.
Although we have only done brief testing, the transmission seems to shift smoothly between gears, holds power well, and displays no signs of any mechanical issues.
brakes and suspension
The suspension systems appear to be in good order, operating as it should, with no odd noises or behavior to speak of. The brakes however may need an overhaul as they seem to need some extra effort when getting the car to stop.
The white walls on this P1 appear to be a bit on the older side, displaying some light cracking on the sidewalls as well as some staining. They retain ample tread but should likely be replaced before any extended driving is undertaken.