Rolls-Royce originally forged its fame with the inimitable 40/50 h.p., or as it would later come to be named, the Silver Ghost. In the 1920s, in the midst of an international economic boom, Rolls-Royce readied a replacement for the so-called ‘best car in the world’ with the introduction of the new Phantom. The second car in the series, the Phantom II was the modern interpretation of its highly venerated 40/50 predecessor. The exquisite engineering, durability, and mechanical harmony the likes of which the world had never seen have cemented Rolls-Royce as a legend.
Born at the very crescendo of the jazz age, the Phantom came to be positioned perfectly as a symbol of the optimism and the decadence of the roaring 20s. The new Phantom II possessed the pedigree of the tried and true 40/50 models, and at the same time was impossibly fashionable and desirable.
The Phantom II debuted with a new overhead valve design for the massive 7,668cc (467.9 cubic inch) in-line 6-cylinder engine, boasting 120 horsepower and immense torque fed through its four-speed manual transmission.
The front and rear semi-elliptical leaf-spring suspension for the new model introduced a lower chassis line, improving both aerodynamics and handling. The braking was a four-wheel servo-assisted system with 400mm drums at each corner.
Original clientele included royalty across the British Empire, as well as celebrities, aristocrats and elites from all over the world. The Silver Ghost and new Phantom models were especially popular with members of the aristocracy in India, who often commissioned the most flamboyantly individualized designs. At the turn of the century, a brand known only by the rich and famous had by the end of the 1920s become a household name synonymous with refined engineering and international style – largely due to the overwhelming design fame of the Phantom series.
This particular model is one-of-a-kind, with the breathtaking teakwood afterdeck design.
Coachbuilder to the British royal family, Barker was established by a member of the Royal Guard as one of England’s most illustrious coachbuilders. Forging a relationship with Charles Stewart Rolls as early as 1905, Barker would remain a preferred metal crafter for Rolls-Royce up until its demise at the end of the interwar period in Europe. The company dates all the way back to 1710 and lived on into the era of the automobile, becoming Barker & Co. Ltd. in 1900. Barker was known for crafting traditional yet beautifully appointed coaches, but would sometimes throw convention to the wind and produce something truly groundbreaking. They did just that at the 1930 London Motor Show when they unveiled a dazzling, futuristic Phantom II boat-tailed Torpedo that was distinctly maritime in appearance.
Impressed by the seafaring style and design, New York socialite Andre Mertzanoff commissioned Barker for a similar two-seater, our fine example here, Chassis #179XJ. The car retained many of the same elements of the Motor Show design including sailboat-style fenders, and a rear deck which tapered down like the stern of a yacht. The decking was done in polished teakwood, further enhancing the boat-like appearance. The nautical theme carried on into the smallest details including lights on the door handles akin to the markers on a ship indicating port and starboard.
While Mertzanoff may have commissioned the car, in reality, all signs point to the car being originally driven in India. In the October 1958 issue of Motorsport magazine, the car’s second owner, A. Fillingham, omits the name of the first owner, saying, “It first belonged to a foreign, titled man.” The mystery owner was in all likelihood, Gulab Singh, the Maharaja of Rewa, avid car collector and loyal patron of Rolls-Royce. Gulab Singh had a taste for all things luxurious and lavish, and the Maharaja was admired by his contemporaries for his keen political mind. Lord Wavell, Viceroy and Governor-General of India, once described Singh as “a thoroughly wicked…clever man.” Wealthy patrons in India often had their Royces specially modified for tiger hunting expeditions in the jungle, and this car is no different, containing a rifle rack inside the spacious trunk.
In the 1958 letter to Motorsport, Fillingham further reports that he purchased the car in 1932 from a luxury car dealership in central London, and it was still in his possession. He commented on the car’s capabilities, saying, “I have touched 87 mph and had quite a bit in hand so that 94 mph is quite a possibility given suitable circumstances. It is in wonderful condition and has not yet done 50,000 miles.” Soon after, the car was purchased by British vintage race car fanatic, David “Bunty” Scott-Moncrieff. Bunty put the car through its paces at the 1958 Veteran & Vintage Rally held in Beaulieu in the south of England. Bunty, the self-styled “world’s number one dealer of second-hand Rolls-Royces” lived up to that claim, and the car made its way across the pond into the hands of esteemed classic car collector V.F. Mashek in 1960.
Mashek caused quite a stir in 1962, when he showed off his newly acquired car at the Rolls-Royce Owners Club meet held in Dearborn, Michigan. Most notably, the car caught the discerning eye of visionary designer Alex Temulis, who was at that time an employee at Ford Advanced Design. Most remembered for designing the 1948 Tucker sedan, Tremulis took several photographs of the Barker Phantom II, some of which are on display below. The design would go on to influence many of his numerous extravagant and futuristic designs. At the event, the car also captured the attention of the first well-known collector to carry out restorations, Dr. Samuel Scher, who would purchase the car from Mashek just three years later for his collection. With a chassis that improved upon its predecessor in all the right ways, and one of the most dramatic and daring bodies ever fashioned by Barker, this sea-worthy Phantom II is without question one of the most stunning and distinctive Rolls-Royces in history.