Rolls-Royce’s 20/25 succeeded the 20 H.P. in 1929 as the company’s “Small Car” offering intended for clients who chose to drive themselves rather than be driven. A vast array of improvements were made over the 20 HP, and while this was considered an entry level car by Rolls-Royce standards, it was still very much an exclusive, high end automobile that competed with the likes of the Alvis Speed 20, Hispano Suiza HS26 and the large 20hp Sunbeams. Also, it carried on the Rolls-Royce tradition in that it was offered as a complete chassis, less body, so customers specified their preferred coachbuilder at the time of ordering. As a result, a wide variety of 20/25s were built; ranging from formal closed limousines through sporting open roadsters with just about every imaginable configuration in between.
The overhead-valve inline six-cylinder engine was similar to the outgoing 20 HP, but enlarged to 3,669 cc. Both coil and magneto ignition systems were provided, and the four-speed manual gearbox returned with traditional right-hand shift. Early 20hp models had a central shifter on the 3-speed gearbox which was (rather curiously) condemned by the public as appearing cheap and not to the standard expected of Rolls-Royce. The chassis of the 20/25 was a traditionally robust affair, with solid front and rear axles, semi-elliptic springs and four-wheel brakes assisted by a mechanical servo. The improved engine of the 20/25 afforded this new driver-focused Rolls-Royce with 75 mph performance, depending on the body configuration selected. Of course, heavier and more luxurious Saloons and limousines were hampered by their weight, but were nonetheless enjoyable to drive thanks to their smaller dimensions and uncompromised build quality. 4,000 were built between 1929 and 1936 making this one of the most successful Rolls-Royces of the period.
The Twenty, 20/25 and their successors set Rolls-Royce on a path to success, for it was these owner/driver-focused models that formed the basis for Rolls-Royce production through the 1930s, 1940s, and into the post-war era. A top-line, Chauffeur driven model would remain as part of the line through the 1990s (with the Phantom VI), but it was the “entry-level” cars that sustained the company through today.
Our featured 1934 20/25 is a handsome machine wearing sporty tourer bodywork, constructed in the style of 10EX, an experimental Phantom 1 chassis originally bodied by Barker. While most 20/25s were rather conservatively styled, this car features a rakish and exciting open four-seat body with a tapered, semi-boattail trunk – dubbed “bordino” by Italian coachbuilders of the period. The sporting body is accented by sparse, flared racing-style fenders, disc wheel covers and minimal exterior detailing (most notably, a lack of externally mounted spare wheels). The presentation of this 20/25 is outstanding, thanks to a comprehensive, body-off restoration performed while in the hands of the previous owner.
According to RROC build sheets and records, this 20/25 was originally delivered to G. Vaughan Morgan of South Kensington, London, wearing D-back Limousine coachwork by Hooper. This lovely motorcar eventually found its way to the hands of Robert Collins of Miami, Florida. Mr. Collins then sold the car to a Midwestern collector who retained the car in his expert care from 1974 through 2013. Though fully restored, it is easy to see this was always a very well kept and cherished automobile. Bright red paint on the body is beautiful, free of noticeable flaws, and accented by a well-judged shade of dark red on the wings and sills. The body construction is of very high quality and the detailing is outstanding. Proper tripod headlamps are fitted as is a centrally-mounted spot lamp. The windscreen folds flat for the ultimate in 1930s sports-motoring, and a pair of very cool period Shell Motor Spirit fuel canisters are strapped to either running board.
The cockpit is trimmed in lovely black leather which shows just the slightest signs of regular use and is extremely inviting and barely broken-in. The gorgeous burl-wood dash is exquisite, with centrally mounted instruments and typically over-engineered switchgear. This is a right hand drive model with right hand shift, allowing for plenty of passenger space up front. In the rear, black leather and high-quality carpet appear to have hardly been used, and a strip of matching burl wood on the rear cowl mimics that on the dash. The numbers-matching drivetrain is equally well-presented and has been restored to provide trouble-free motoring.
This stylish, sporting and beautifully presented 20/25 is an unusual example of this traditionally staid model from Rolls-Royce. As a late production 1934 model, it benefits from the running improvements made by the factory, such as a 100hp engine and four-speed gearbox with synchromesh on the top two cogs. It is a joy to operate and would no doubt be a very fine and enjoyable choice for RROC or AACA touring, especially considering its original intent as the Driver’s Rolls-Royce.