The Rolls-Royce New Phantom succeeded the long-running Silver Ghost for 1925. Over the nearly two decades of Ghost production, Rolls-Royce made countless improvements to the engine and chassis; therefore, it was unsurprising that engineers took an evolutionary approach to the New Phantom’s design. The chassis carried over essentially unchanged from the very last Silver Ghost, yet under the bonnet was an all-new 7.7-litre inline-six with overhead valves, replacing the Ghost’s refined but admittedly antiquated side-valve unit. Power output was listed as “adequate” by the factory, but more importantly, the new engine had the characteristics of exceptional smoothness and unparalleled refinement that has always defined the Rolls-Royce marque.
Like the 40/50 Horsepower Silver Ghost before it, the New Phantom (known retroactively as Phantom I after the arrival of the Phantom II) was produced in parallel at Rolls-Royce of America’s Springfield, Massachusetts works, and Springfield Phantoms eventually accounted for 1,241 of the 3,453 Phantom I chassis. With demand at its peak, Rolls-Royce of America added the legendary coachbuilder Brewster & Co. of New York to its portfolio and retained the firm as the exclusive supplier of catalog bodies for Springfield-built Phantoms through the dissolution of Rolls-Royce of America in the mid-1930s. Clients could always select coachwork from any outside firm of their choice, and a handful of American buyers opted for this route, typically at considerable extra cost.
Samuel Jaskow of New York City was one of the few American buyers to fit his New Phantom with something other than Brewster Coachwork. Factory records show that chassis S302LR originally wore Brewster’s formal St. Andrew town car coachwork. It is possible the car was used as a demonstrator or was built for dealer stock, and it was at Jaskow’s request that it be rebodied at the factory with this elegant all-weather Transformable Phaeton by the Parisian firm, Hibbard & Darrin. Ex-Brewster designer Tom Hibbard met Howard “Dutch” Darrin in the early 1920s after Hibbard left LeBaron Carrosserie. The two Americans set up shop in Paris and offered elegant, exquisitely crafted coachwork for the world’s finest motorcars, including Minerva, Duesenberg, Packard, Hispano-Suiza, and, of course, Rolls-Royce. When Hibbard took a job with GM, Darrin remained in Paris, teaming up with a local financier to found Fernandez et Darrin. Accounting for the time it took to build, ship, and fit the new body, Jaskow did not take delivery of his completed Rolls-Royce until August 27, 1932.
The prominent, heavy beltline molding and delicate, scrolled door handles of this Transformable Phaeton are Hibbard & Darrin hallmarks. The design’s signature trapezoidal windows are tightly nested within the matching convertible top, a feature for which the coachbuilder secured patent rights. The elegant bodywork features their signature “Sylentlyte” construction method, which comprises hand-formed aluminum sheets wrapped around a wood and thinly-cast aluminum structure. This Transformable Phaeton’s front and rear fenders are the only body pieces composed of conventional steel.
The cabin and exterior are highly detailed in Hibbard & Darrin’s typical fashion, with exquisite fine hardware and inlaid woodwork throughout. Interestingly, S302LR has a roll-up central division window – a unique feature not seen on any other extant Transformable Phaeton.
At some point around 1944, fellow Manhattan resident S. Mindlin purchased the Rolls-Royce. It reached its third Manhattan owner, Harry Walendorf Jr., in 1955 and remained under his care until the early 1960s. Between 1963 and 1976, this uniquely configured chassis passed through several collections up and down the East Coast of America until 1977, when it was acquired by Philip Wichard of Huntington Bay, New York. Wichard purchased the car with it having just been treated to a complete restoration to the stunning maroon and red livery it wears today.
In March of 1995, this remarkable Phantom I was acquired from Wichard by the nephew of Howard “Dutch” Darrin. Over the past 25 years of private and carefully tended enjoyment, it has been the crown jewel of the Darrin family’s collection. As such, the car has been fastidiously maintained—without consideration to expense—by Rolls-Royce specialist Charlie Webb of Automotive Restorations, Inc. in Stratford, Connecticut. A comprehensive binder of service invoices accompanies the car, with its most recent entry showing north of $12,000 worth of routine mechanical servicing within the last year. Also included are chassis records and ownership documents. While in the most recent owner’s care, the distinctive and elegant Phantom I was shown at the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, where it undoubtedly found many admirers. As offered here, it is in excellent condition, with a rich and appealing character earned through years of care and enjoyment.
No collection of essential pre-war classics is complete without a Springfield Rolls-Royce Phantom I, and few are more graceful and important than this unique Hibbard & Darrin Transformable Phaeton.
Offers welcome and trades considered