Rolls-Royce Motor Cars marks the 118th anniversary of the first meeting between its founders, Henry Royce and The Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls at the Midland Hotel, Manchester, England in 1904. You can find more visual details of the 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom III gallery by scrolling up.
Through the combination of Royce’s engineering genius and Rolls’ talent for promotion, their company soon became recognised as the maker of ‘the best car in the world’ – a title that Rolls-Royce Motor Cars proudly retains more than a century later.
Today, the marque’s pinnacle product – Phantom – is the ultimate expression of Bespoke luxury designed and handmade at the Home of Rolls-Royce, Goodwood. As part of its annual reflections on its origins and unique heritage, Rolls-Royce looks back through Phantom’s lineage, exploring how its namesakes evolved over the years to remain consistently at the apex of the Rolls-Royce offering.
THE ORIGINS OF EXCELLENCE
In the automotive industry’s earliest days, luxury car makers produced only the mechanical components (engine, transmission, chassis and so on) known as a rolling chassis, which underpinned the car. The bodies were designed and constructed by independent coachbuilders to the customer’s specification.
For manufacturers, including Rolls-Royce, improvements in design and engineering were directed almost entirely towards technical aspects of the car’s performance. These included reliability, hill-climbing capability, ease of control and a set of ride quality attributes still known collectively as noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).
From the outset, Phantom earned the title ‘the best car in the world’ through the superior quality and designs of the rolling chassis – the finest platform on which coachbuilders could reach the very apex of their craft.
THE NEED FOR SPEED
While the new Continental could attain speeds up to 95mph, it was still not as fast as some of its rivals. The company decided to resolve the matter once and for all. In 1934, applying its proven experience with aero engines, it developed a new 7.3-litre V12 engine, mounted on a new chassis. The resulting Phantom III, when fitted with lightweight coachwork, was capable of exceeding 100mph.
In 1939, Rolls-Royce produced an experimental car, nicknamed ‘The Scalded Cat’. In later years, this car was often loaned to influential individuals, including HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The Duke was so impressed that he persuaded Rolls-Royce to build him a more formal version; the marque obliged with the first Phantom IV, delivered in July 1950. The car remains on front-line (albeit reduced) duty at The Royal Mews, under its pre-delivery codename, Maharajah. Though originally intended as a one-off, 18 Phantom IV cars were completed: 17 were sumptuously appointed commissions for other royalty and heads of state; the other, somewhat bizarrely, was built as a pick-up truck for use by Rolls-Royce as transport and on-the-road component testing.
1933 Phantom Ill (3BT103)
This rare two-door sedanca coupé was coachbuilt by HJ Mulliner for Apsley Cherry-Garrard, one of the surviving members of Captain Scott’s last, fateful expedition to the South Pole in 1912. The car was originally finished in Primrose Yellow with a dyed Vaulmol leather interior; in the late 1940s it was repainted in black. The car was briefly owned by the legendary actor Sir Ralph Richardson; it then spent time in Wales and the USA before returning to the UK in the late 70s / early 80s. It sat neglected in a barn until 2018 when it was bought by its present owner, and has now been painstakingly restored using many authentic components, including original numbered engine parts.
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