Established in Springfield, Massachusetts as the American subsidiary of Rolls-Royce in December 1919, Rolls-Royce of America Incorporated began automobile production with the mighty Silver Ghost chassis, progressing to the improved ‘New Phantom’ (retrospectively named ‘Phantom I’) in 1926. Catering to the fabulously wealthy carriage trade in America’s northeastern corridor, Springfield-built Rolls-Royce motorcars enjoyed the same high esteem as the Derby-built cars from Rolls-Royce’s home works in England. Of particular importance to American buyers, the Springfield operation avoided stiff duties on imported motorcars and brought Rolls-Royce to prominence in the burgeoning American automobile market. Despite early success, the operation ultimately fell victim by 1929 to the high retooling costs for the Phantom II and the near-collapse of the elite, custom-coach built automobile market during the early 1930s.
During Springfield’s glory years, an American-built Rolls-Royce could be ordered with ‘factory’ coachwork, unlike their British-built counterparts, produced as bare chassis. Numerous body builders, mainly located to the northeastern United States, produced a stunning array of bodies listed in the Rolls-Royce of America Custom Coach Work catalogue. Uniquely, Rolls-Royce of America named each of its Brewster body styles after towns in the United Kingdom. The Tilbury Sedan, attributed to the renowned Brewster coachworks, was a prime example of the concept. Consistent with Rolls-Royce, the Tilbury sedan was a very attractive, well-proportioned and equipped body style aimed at the growing numbers of well-heeled owner/drivers during the era.
Numbered S123RP, this Springfield-built 1928 Rolls-Royce Phantom I is one of just 20 examples fitted with Tilbury sedan coachwork, according to marque authorities. Provenance is outstanding and exhaustively documented from new and confirmed by the wealth of chassis records and RROC rosters on file, plus the chassis listing published in the definitive book Rolls-Royce in America by John Webb De Campi. Following delivery on May 19, 1928 to the first recorded owner, Edith Archibald of New York City, S123RP passed to Roland G. Archibald, presumably a family member, on January 23, 1929, and then the Rolls-Royce was sold privately on October 7, 1929 to A.M. Baxter of San Francisco, California, under whose ownership the vehicle remained until July 23, 1947, when it was acquired by Leonard E. Barges, also resident in San Francisco.
The vehicle remained continuously in California in the care of several successive owners until May 21, 1970, when S123RP was acquired by RROC member Ronald Henges of St. Louis, Missouri, who advertised it in the Flying Lady with the engine professionally rebuilt and other mechanical attention, and then sold it in November 1984 to Californian RROC member Avedis Kalaydjian, who passed S123PR to RROC member Michael Wilkinson of Rancho Santa Fe, California in March 1986. The next owners of S123PR were none other than noted classic-car collector/enthusiast and RROC member William B. Ruger of Newport, New Hampshire, and then William Ruger, Jr. in 2003. The Rugers were well known for having particularly keen eyes for quality, and for keeping every vehicle in their collection in absolute top form. After many years in the Ruger collection, Ed Schoenthaler of Oak Brook, Illinois, acquired S123RP in October 2012.
As offered, S123PR sports appealing livery and clearly continues to benefit most handsomely from a well-detailed and finely maintained older restoration, nicely complemented by Buffalo wire-spoke wheels finished in black to complement the wings and body trim. Paired with blackwall tires, the combination gives a deeply appealing and purposeful appearance. Desirable and period-correct accessories include Springfield’s signature tubular front and rear bumpers, plus drum-type headlamps, an iconic “Spirit of Ecstasy” radiator mascot, dual side-mounted spare wheels and tires, dual cowl lights, and a period-correct trunk complete with matching fitted suitcases.
The legendary and startlingly quiet Rolls-Royce 7.7-liter inline six-cylinder engine, numbered 21237, is paired with a centrally-shifted three-speed manual transmission characteristic of Springfield-built examples, in contrast to the four-speed gearboxes of their English counterparts. It runs and drives very well, with a refined and civilized character. As expected, the beautifully restored passenger cabin is both spacious and comfortably appointed for all occupants, trimmed in pleated gray cloth up front and sporting a striking brocade and broadcloth combination to the rear. Characteristic of the Tilbury body style, there is no divider window separating driver and passengers, providing an airy, inviting feel for classic touring pleasure. With space for friends and family, S123RP is ready for sharing the wonderful experience and irreplaceable integrity of the mighty Phantom I, which make it an ideal choice for the wide array of RROC or CCCA touring events and shows.
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