As the last Rolls-Royce designed under the direct supervision of Sir Henry Royce, the Phantom II Continental is the ultimate and most desirable iteration of the Phantom range. As its name would suggest, the Continental was designed for high-speed touring across Europe, and in ultimate spec, was capable of approaching 100mph. What set the Continental apart from the standard range was namely the shortened chassis with stiffer, five-leaf springs to handle the rigors of high-performance touring and a series of sporting bodies offered by select coachbuilders.
The standard Phantom II shared very little in common with its predecessor (Phantom I) beyond the bore and stroke dimensions of the 7,668cc inline six-cylinder engine. Engineers made a great deal of progress within the big six; adding a cross flow cylinder head, separate inlet ports, improved exhaust manifold and a bump in compression allowing for an additional 20hp. The driveline was also improved with modifications to the gearbox and clutch and the addition of a Hotchkiss drive layout for the hypoid rear axle which allowed for a lower floor line. This of course delighted coachbuilders who could now fit lower, sleeker bodywork and the addition of the short chassis Continental allowed coachbuilders to showcase their most sporting designs. Performance was exceptional for a car of this size, and sales proved strong considering the price, with 281 of the total Phantom II production of 1,767 units leaving the works in Continental specification.
Chassis number 80MS was originally ordered by the respected dealer Jack Barclay in 1932. It was sent to directly to H.J. Mulliner where it received the handsome sports saloon coachwork it wears today. On November 21, 1932, 80MS had completed testing and was delivered three days later to E.M. Thomas and his famous motor-racing wife, Jill (Scott) Thomas. The Thomas’ were well known in motor racing circles; E.M. Thomas was a regular competitor at Brooklands, though rather uncharacteristically for the time, it was his wife who was truly the hardcore racer. She had been formerly married to “Bentley Boy” W.B. Scott and was the first woman to lap Brooklands at over 120mph. She won multiple races and held several 500km and 500 mile records. As such, she was the first ever woman elected to the storied BRDC.
According to factory notes, Mr. Thomas insisted special attention be paid to the brakes on his new Rolls-Royce. We can only assume that this wonderful Phantom II was enjoyed to its fullest by its enthusiastic original owners. In 1938, 80MS passed to Mr. Angus Fletcher, who is believed to have retained the car through the War. It then passed to Mr. John Lewis who kept the car through 1962 when it appears to have made its way to the United States. In 1989, following long-term ownership, the car was handed over to Lyle Reider of British Marque Auto in Pennsylvania who carried out a bare metal respray, re-wiring, and cosmetic restoration. In conjunction, John Dennison performed a full engine rebuild. The most recent owner acquired the car in 2003 who has continually maintained it in excellent mechanical order, using it regularly on tours, events and rallies.
Today, 80MS (engine number WO85) remains in very fine order, showing just a bit of patina from regular use. The crisp and attractive H.J. Mulliner coachwork presents very well with burgundy main body over black fenders and a black upholstered roof. The paint is in good order, showing some signs of use here and there, but remaining quite attractive since the respray was completed. Maroon wire wheels wear blackwall tires that are an ideal match for the sporting coachwork. A single rear mount spare keeps the body sides clean, fully accentuating the sweeping line of the fenders. This is the original body to 80MS, and a photo of the car is featured in Raymond Gentile’s book, “The Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental” (p156).
The cabin has been retrimmed in attractive brown leather with brown Wilton carpeting. The seats appear lovingly broken-in and the detailing is unfussy and down to business. Wood trim on the door caps and dash is in fine order. Under the bonnet, the 7.7 liter inline six presents beautifully, again showing minor signs of use but never abuse or neglect. Fittings and hardware are largely correct with a few minor accommodations for modernity such as the hose clamps and drive belt.
The Phantom II Continental was designed from day one as a driver’s car with cross continent touring its main charge. With its very intriguing early history, fantastic Mulliner coachwork and well-sorted mechanical condition, we are confident this fine example will continue to bring much enjoyment to its next keeper.