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Lot 195: Rolls-Royce Phantom I Playboy Roadster

Fine Motor cars incl. The Jaguar Legend, Coys (14 July 2012)

From the collection of the late Jimi Heselden, OBE Though the Springfield Rolls-Royce Factory started out with the firm intention of making all their cars identical to, and interchangeable with, the British offering, it was inevitable that the policy should be prone to alteration, and pretty soon at that. First to go was the Right Hand Drive specification, swiftly followed by the British electrical systems (to general relief), but the American coachwork offerings were universally popular. The British Ghost had established its ascendancy well before 1914, and its US cousin carried forward the same reputation for speed, smoothness and reliability, becoming a very successful seller in its admittedly rarefied price bracket. By 1926, though, it was starting to look decidedly old-fashioned (its roots dated back to 1907), and the Company decided to offer a mildly updated version , the New Phantom, for sale pending a more radical update in the form of the Phantom II. A separate cylinder head in theory offered improved breathing, braking was improved, but it was basically the mixture as previously offered, and none the worse for that. S162PM is a 1927 example of the New Phantom, and is an interesting example of a significant difference between the US and British markets. The car offered began life with a Brewster 'Arundel' limousine delivered to businessman Mr P R Maybury, who retained the car in this form until 1933. It was a fixed policy of US Rolls dealers of this period, when faced with a backlog of outdated part-exchanges, to rebody them with stylish new convertible coachwork at an attractive discount, and that is exactly what happened to this car. A Playboy roadster body was fitted in 1933, and the car re-sold. It appears to have been at roughly this stage that the car was sold to Tom Mix, the biggest cowboy star of the silent era and a noted car enthusiast. True to form he resolved on further modification and updating, and since by now of course the car was in California instead of on the East Coast, he enlisted the aid of a starry local firm, Bohman and Schwartz of Pasadena Los Angeles, who just about then were in the process of customizing Clark Gable's Duesenberg. Headlamps were lowered and the wings underwent a radical updating, with the addition of a foglight and, very up to date, an in-dash radio. Unluckily Mix, unquestionably one of the great stars of his day, was not to enjoy the car for long, as he died in an accident in his Cord L29 in 1940. The car went into the huge Warner Brothers' movie fleet, and over the next thirty years was to be seen in such classic films as Giant, The FBI Story, and even Inside Daisy Clover, in which it was driven by Robert Redford who is said to have warm memories of the car. That fleet was broken up some forty years ago, and the Playboy has spent most of the last four decades in the hands of just two collectors, Hal Blaine the celebrated drummer, and then Bill McLenahan, drawn to the car by its Hollywood links. Its condition now is a great tribute to the constant sparing and careful use which the car has enjoyed over the past half century. Coachwork is in White and Dove Grey, and is in overall very pleasing order, as is the pleasingly patinated red leather. Many traces of the car's history remain, including the blocks fitted to the pedals for the benefit of the diminutive Mr Mix and a medallion with the letter 'M' on the gear lever. An exceptionally handsome Phantom I with a glittering Hollywood history, this magnificent roadster, with rumble seat, is sure to be the star of any significant event.

Lot Details
Auction Fine Motor cars incl. The Jaguar Legend
Coys, Blenheim Palace,Woodstock, Oxfordshire, OX20 1PX
TypeCar
Lot Number195
Estimate£110000-£130000
Outcome NOT SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Year1927
Condition rating1
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis numberS162PM
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2