1931 Rolls-Royce Phantom 1 Regent Convertible Coupe

The Rolls-Royce New Phantom (retrospectively known as the Phantom I) was introduced in 1925 to replace the outgoing Silver Ghost, which had evolved over a nearly 20 year production run and was regarded as the car that established Rolls-Royce as the world’s premier motorcar manufacturer. Given the Silver Ghost’s stellar reputation, it was probably a wise move for Rolls-Royce to take an evolutionary step in designing the New Phantom. The chassis of the New Phantom was essentially carried over from the Silver Ghost with a few refinements, but was fundamentally the same as a late-specification four-wheel-brake Silver Ghost. Not that this was a bad thing, as the chassis had proven itself to be massively robust and capable of delivering a driving experience like no other motorcar on the market. It wasn’t until the arrival of the Phantom II in 1929 that an entirely new chassis would be introduced – a true testament to the integrity of the original design. The engine, however was almost entirely new; an overhead valve inline six-cylinder that displaced 7,668 cc. Like the Ghost before it, the big Phantom power plant was under-stressed and developed its power with remarkable smoothness and refinement.

In order to meet ever growing demand for its products in the important North American market, a subsidiary of Rolls-Royce was established in Springfield Massachusetts in December of 1919. Rolls-Royce of America Incorporated was set up in the former American Wire Wheel Company plant, and many of the highly skilled workers were retained by Rolls-Royce to work on the assembly line. By 1926, Rolls-Royce of America had acquired Brewster and Company, one of America’s most prestigious coachbuilders. A series of 28 catalog bodies would be offered, ranging from sporty roadsters to luxurious town cars. Production of Ghosts and Phantoms would reach as high as 12 cars per week until the stock market crash of 1929 when sales plummeted. Another blow was arrival of the Phantom II, which meant comprehensive retooling which RR of America simply could not afford. While Rolls Royce in Derby had moved on to Phantom II in 1929, the Springfield Phantom I would overlap it, continuing until 1931 with a total of 1241 Springfield Phantoms produced.

This magnificent 1931 Springfield Phantom I is chassis number S109PR; a highly desirable, late production example wearing its original and supremely attractive Brewster Regent Convertible Coupe body. The Regent was a handsome design featuring an all-weather convertible roof, exposed landau irons, dicky seat and beautiful detailing such as a front valance that covered the front spring mounts, making for a cleaner, more modern look. The beautiful sweeping front wings carry dual side-mount spares and a convenient half-door allows for easy access to the dicky seat, so rear passengers don’t have to suffer the indignity of clambering over the rear wings. It is a sporty, yet elegant body, and with only twenty one built on the Phantom I chassis, a very rare and desirable specimen.

According to John Webb de Campi’s book “Rolls-Royce in America”, chassis number S109PR was originally delivered to John Berry Ryan of New York, New York in April of 1931. It seems Mr. Ryan quite enjoyed his Regent as he retained the car until 1946 when it passed to Mr. Frances Drake. In 1951, the car was sold to Frederic Palmer who kept it through 1964 when it was acquired by the well-known Rolls-Royce collector Leslie Stevenson. Stevenson would be the car’s next long-term caretaker, keeping the Phantom I for the next 23 years until it was acquired in 1987 by another very well-known collector, Gerald Lettieri.

In 1995, S109PR was acquired by Elizabeth Zoller, a long-time member of the RROC and a dedicated Rolls-Royce enthusiast. During her tenure with the car, the highly respected workshop of D&D Classic Restorations was entrusted to perform a full restoration. It was subsequently shown and earned numerous awards at important events, including the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It has also been awarded an AACA National First Prize in 1997, an AACA Grand National First Prize in 2002, as well as a CCCA National First Prize and a 1997 RROC Concours National Award.

This stunning Phantom I remains in fabulous condition despite the twenty years that have passed since the restoration, which speaks to both the quality of the work performed as well as the care it has been given by the owners. The striking livery of light gray with green wings beautifully suits the sporty nature of the Brewster coachwork. A particularly nice touch is the way the green paint of the wings and front valance carries on to the radiator shutters. Black wall Lester tires and polished alloy wheel discs continue the sporting theme, and a period trunk is mounted out back with a tan canvas cover to match the roof. Chrome plating is gorgeous; as restored by D&D’s concours winning chrome shop, Brightworks. The interior is similarly beautiful, with gray/taupe colored leather having taken on just a bit of character from use over the years, but remaining supple and inviting. The woodwork has been fully restored, the dash fitted with original instrumentation, clock and switchgear.

Since its world-class restoration, this fabulous Rolls-Royce remained with a member of the Zoller family who maintained it “on the button” and ready for regular use. The 7.7 liter inline six presents exceptionally well, appearing lightly used and very well maintained. Likewise, the undercarriage is extremely tidy, clean and properly detailed.

Particularly in late-production specification such as our featured example, the Rolls-Royce Phantom I is one of the finest pre-war tour cars available. Chassis number S109PR’s fabulous restoration and beautiful, rare coachwork by Brewster make it suitable for show, while the all-weather versatility and meticulous care it has received over the years make it an ideal candidate for RROC tours, CCCA CARavan tours or virtually any other Full Classic road event.

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