In 1929 the arrival of the Rolls-Royce Phantom II set new standards for others to follow. It was a vehicle specifically designed with the chauffeur driven passenger in mind. At the time the only home-produced rival to compare with the Phantom II was the Bentley 8 Litre, which was a faster vehicle but was thought to be far less chauffeur friendly, with considerably heavier steering and a gearbox which was more difficult to operate. During the development of the Phantom II, the majority of the long-distance testing was carried out on the long straight roads surrounding Chateauroux in France. This fact and Mr Henry Royce’s many journeys between the South of England and the South of France no doubt opened his eyes to the type of motoring not available upon England’s narrow and windy roads. With long-distance high-speed motoring in mind, the Phantom II Continental chassis was created, the project being personally overseen by Henry Royce with assistance from Ivan Evernden. The whole car, including originally its style of coachwork was conceived by Royce, to be a more sporting and compact four-seater owner/driver motor car when compared to the long wheelbase standard Phantom II.
Just 281 such chassis were produced, and they differentiated themselves from their standard cousins with thicker springs and a 6-inch shorter chassis, measuring 144 inches. The steering column was optionally lowered to what was known as the “F” rake position, and the floor was also lowered to allow more rakish coachwork to be fitted. Mechanically speaking the Continental was fitted with a higher ratio back axle (12/41) which provided brisk acceleration and higher top speeds at lower revolutions. Royce decided that the use of 5 thicker leaf springs as opposed to the standard 9 or 10 would save weight and allow for a smoother ride if the road surface was less than perfect. To assist control of the ride additional shock absorbers were also added to the standard hydraulic units, which were controllable from the driver’s seat in the later examples. With lightweight coachwork being fitted the result was a motor car capable of carrying four people in comfort, at high speeds, for many hours at a time over great distances. It is rightly considered by many to be one of the finest pre-war Rolls-Royces ever built.
Coachbuilders Park Ward were approached by Rolls-Royce in 1922 and asked to produce a series of bodies for the 20HP model which proved to be very popular and successful. However, following the great depression in the late 1920s the roles were reversed, and Park Ward contacted Rolls-Royce in search of financial support. This was granted in return for a thirty three percent share of the company, with Rolls-Royce acquiring the remaining shares in 1939. The alliance forged during the 1930s between the two companies proved to be mutually beneficial. Park Ward were entrusted with producing bodies for a number of Rolls-Royces experimental cars at this time and in turn their showrooms on Conduit Street in Mayfair West London always had an excellent selection of both Rolls-Royces and Bentleys. The majority of Park Ward coachwork fitted to the Phantom II Continental chassis were closed, compact, close coupled four door style bodies, however upon special request more stylish open bodies were produced with chassis number 55MW being one of Park Wards most striking creations.
This particular motor car was completed in August of 1933 to the order of W.W. Worthington of Lichfield in Staffordshire. The flamboyant and striking boat tail drophead coupe coachwork is fitted with twin side mounted spare wheels and a hinged rear portion. The rear part of the body, or boat tail, is divided into two pieces which are released with the coach key. Once they are released the two sections open on hinges to allow the hood to retract and be housed discreetly inside the body.
According to early records 55MW was owned by W.W. Worthington for over twenty years, until 1954 when it became the property of H.F. Gower of London. In May of 1958 55MW left English shores when purchased by W.B. Fairclouth of Ohio in the United States of America. In 1977 the car was restored in America whilst in the ownership of Raymond Jefferson of Ohio. It is understood that 55MW remained in the United States until around thirty years ago when it returned to England and became part of a large collection of desirable motor cars. It was acquired by the present owner in 2015.
Just prior to the current owners acquisition Chassis No 55MW had been mechanically maintained and serviced in our workshops. At that time the car also benefitted from numerous improvements including new carpets, sympathetic restoration to the existing leather interior, coachwork preparation and restoration, restored wire wheels, new tyres and new polished wheel disks. More recently, the car has benefitted from a thorough mechanical and cosmetic review prior to being offered for sale. Chassis No 55MW is a unique creation by on the Phantom II Continental chassis and is widely admired wherever it is driven.
Four speed manual gearbox, 6 cylinder in-line engine, 7.7 litres displacement, 7,668cc capacity. Servo-assisted four-wheel brakes.