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Lot 039: Rolls-Royce Phantom III Windovers Sports Saloon

Classic & Vintage Cars & Motorcycles, Brightwells Auctioneers and Valuers (18 July 2012)

It was inevitable that the new Phantom III Rolls-Royce should use engine developments pioneered by Rolls-Royce's aviation division. The company had built V12 aero engines as early as 1914, but their masterpiece came in the form of the R-Type which powered the Schneider Trophy winning seaplane, developing into the immortal Merlin which remains to this day the most famous aero engine ever. No surprise then that behind the closed doors of the experimental department work was being done on a V12 car engine  the Spectre which used much of the thinking used in the R-Type. When introduced, the 60-degree V12 used wet liners, had dual ignition firing 24 spark plugs and a large twin choke carburettor. This 7,340cc engine was rated at a whopping 50.7hp for tax purposes and featured such advances as hydraulic tappets for silent running and a complex split pressure oil system providing lubrication to different parts of the engine at different pressures. The chassis was shorter than the outgoing Phantom II at 11'10, a move which encouraged less formal coachwork and the independent front suspension significantly improved the handling  which was quite sporting for a car where the chassis alone weighed over 4,000lbs. At a time when Austin and Morris cars were selling for just over £100, the £1,900 asking price for the chassis alone ensured that just 710 found customers between 1936 and 1939. Rolls-Royce themselves described it as at once the most luxurious road vehicle ever produced and they were right. Chassis number 3AZ 90 is one of the first series cars manufactured in 1936. The bare chassis was delivered to Windovers for coachwork, where a fine close-coupled sports saloon with division was fitted, believed by the vendor to be one of just three chassis so bodied. Windovers started business in 1796, but in the mid 1920s decided they needed to be closer to London and so purchased a redundant factory in Collindale. Offering the best quality available, they found much favour in the Indian market, even opening a showroom in Calcutta to attract the Princes and Maharajas. The original buff log book shows that this Phantom was owned by a Mr. Peet of Oswestry, before moving to Morgan Motor Mart in Epsom by 1971. Tom Bickley Ltd. then took ownership in 1972 before it moved to Scotland when it became the property of Angus Ogilvy of Drumtochty Castle. The vendor purchased it from him in 1976. Ogilvy was famous for marrying Princess Alexandria  the Queen's cousin - as well as for his role in the much criticised Lonrho affair which involved the breaking of sanctions against Rhodesia. As soon as he had got the car back home, the vendor decided to embark on a thorough restoration. The work was entrusted to Brunts of Silverdale, Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialists, who took the rolling chassis and fully restored it. The vendor reports that bills amounting to some £30,000 were paid, by which time the chassis had been completely restored to perfect condition. The engine was modified to incorporate improvements in the cooling department and the rolling chassis was run and completed. Alas once this work was completed, restoration ceased and the chassis was returned to the vendor who refitted the un-restored body and then placed it in less than ideal storage conditions. Due to a change in circumstances all further work ceased and the car has lain unused, with the major part of the restoration work completed, for some 30 years. Time has not been kind and the chassis shows deterioration to its finish. The vendor has wisely decided not to attempt to start the engine which will need fully re-commissioning before doing so. Photographs exist of the restoration work, which includes a shot of the engine in pristine condition. The body will also require work to the wooden frame to bring that back to its former glory although the aluminium panel work looks to be good and the car is believed complete. This ultra-rare and fabulous motorcar deserves once again to be king of the road. It represents a most unusual opportunity, not just because of its rarity, but also because much of the expensive work has been undertaken, although there is no getting away from the fact that returning this wonderful car to the road will be no small undertaking. Nevertheless you can be sure that the finished car will be immensely rewarding to its new owner. We were lucky enough to cadge a ride in a similar Phantom quite recently and have to say that the quality of ride and utter silence both inside and out have to be experienced to be believed. CATALOGUE AMENDMENT: We are delighted that further information has now come to light, with special thanks to Steve Stuckey, Australia, Fellow of the Phantom III Technical Society. This chassis was sent off test on 18 July 1936, having been built at the Derby factory with Works Number 5735. It was fitted with engine number K24P, and steering at the low F rake. The car was set up for a saloon with division body, and for use in the UK and on the Continent for town work and fast touring. The car was to have seating for 4 to 5 people (usually two or three) as well as two hundredweight of luggage. Unusually, as well as the standard front wings, Rolls-Royce were also asked to fit rear wheel arches (although the coachbuilder was to be charged for those). Fittings for a Clayton heater were supplied. The cost of the chassis was £1,531.13.0, a 17½% discount on the usual price of £1,850. The chassis was sent to coachbuilders Windovers on 30 July 1936, by road from the Rolls-Royce London depot at Lillie Hall. There the chassis was fitted with a saloon with division body, to design 4758, and with body number 6371. It was finished in light grey throughout, and was the only Phantom III with this Windovers design. The chassis had been ordered on 26 October 1935 (the last day of the London Olympia Motor Show where the first Phantom III cars had been displayed, most with bodies on dummy chassis). It was ordered by Hawker Siddeley Aircraft Ltd. of Cambury Park Road, Kingston-on-Thames. The car was for the Chairman of the company (from 1935 to 1963), Thomas Octave Murdoch (TOM) Sopwith (born 18 January 1888, died 27 January 1989  at 101 years of age). He had designed the famous Sopwith Camel biplane, used in World War I, and the Hawker Hurricane fighter, used to great effect in World War II. Sopwith lived at 46 Green Street, London W1. 3AZ90 was registered DGF 996 on 1 October 1936. In June 1937 (during one of the hottest summers on record in London), the car was returned to Derby for attention to overheating problems, as well as rear axle issues. Sopwith was a prolific owner of Rolls-Royce cars, owning his first in 1916 (a second-hand Silver Ghost), then three more Silver Ghosts, two Twenty HP cars, a Phantom I, three Phantom IIs, two 10/25HP cars, A Silver Wraith, a Silver Cloud I, a Bentley S1, a Silver Cloud II, a Silver Shadows coupé, and a long wheelbase Silver Shadow in 1974, when he was 86 years of age. He had been Knighted in 1953.

Lot Details
Auction Classic & Vintage Cars & Motorcycles
Brightwells Auctioneers and Valuers, Easters Court, Leominster, Herefordshire, HR6 0DE
Lot Number039
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£21000
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Condition rating
Registration numberDGF 996
Chassis number3AZ/90
Engine numberK24P
Engine capacity (cc)7200
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors4