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.
Following the cessation of the First World War J. Gurney Nutting founded the firm which quickly became one of Britain’s top coachbuilders. In 1923 the factory in Croydon was destroyed by fire and the firm moved to new premises in Elystan Street in Chelsea. The firm’s reputation for quality and style grew quickly, with orders being placed by a number of members of the British Royal Family, including the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) the Duke of York (later King George VI and the Duke of Kent.) Gurney Nutting were subsequently granted a Royal Warrant by the Prince of Wales for the years 1931 to 1935. The work of chief designer A.F.McNeill is widely recognised as some of the finest coachwork fitted to a Rolls-Royce and Bentley chassis. Gurney Nutting were famous for their sedanca coupe designs with their Owen Sedanca designs perhaps their finest.
Chassis No 97RY which we are currently offering for sale is one of just eighteen cars built to Gurney Nuttings Owen Sedanca Drophead Coupe design on the Phantom II Continental chassis and is considered by many to be one of the most attractive and iconic motor cars from the 1930’s regardless of marque, with its long bonnet, tail mounted trunk, low windscreen and flowing wings. This particular car was completed in June 1934 and delivered to its first owner, Mr A.P.Bigelow, an American living in London. Interestingly, on the build sheets it states that “all communications and accounts to be sent to Mr C Mansell (Mr Bigelow’s chauffeur)at The Café, Dorchester Hotel Garage on Park Lane W1”.
The car is understood to have remained in London until the early 1950’s when purchased by Lt Col J.H.R.Rayson in Perthshire Scotland. Later in the 1950’s, like many exotic Phantom II Continentals, it was purchased and exported to the USA when acquired by Mr Harold Davis. It was then owned by the following during its time in the United States, Mr William Tritt (1962-1963) Mr George Abernathy (1963-1965) Mr William C Williams (1969-1971) Mr Gerald Perkl (1973-1979) and Mr Richard and Mrs Linda Kughn (1979-2000) In 2001 it joined the highly regarded collection of Malcolm Pray where it remained until 2006 when it returned to the UK for the first time in almost fifty years when purchased by Mr Malcolm Ginns of Essex. It was then purchased in 2007 by Mr Anthony Trahar, a well-known collector in the UK. During his ownership Mr Trahar spent around £80,000 on Chassis No 97RY predominantly with noted Rolls-Royce specialists A J Glew in Gloucestershire and A&S Engineering in Hampshire with expenditure covering both cosmetic and mechanical aspects. All of the invoices are present in the car’s history file. The car was subsequently rewarded for its quality at the RREC Annual Rally with first in class honours.
The car was then supplied in 2016 by P&A Wood to a collection in the far east where it remained on display in a museum facility until 2022. Over the past twelve months Chassis No97RY has been through a comprehensive recommissioning process to ensure it is driving beautifully, is reliable and is in excellent cosmetic condition in every respect. This work was recently completed, making this one of the very best examples in the world once again.
It is complete with all of its tools both under the bonnet and also in the drop-down tray situated in the tail mounted trunk. A detailed history file also accompanies this magnificent motor car. Perhaps the ultimate pre-war Rolls-Royce motor car with this particular example ideal for touring, concours entry, or both.
Four speed manual gearbox, 6 cylinder in-line engine, 7.7 litres displacement, 7,668cc capacity. Servo-assisted four-wheel brakes.