1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I ‘York’ Roadster.
For Sale: A spectacularly impressive Phantom I-based Brewster ‘York’ homage that would look at home at Brooklands, Cap d’Antibes, Hollywood or The Hamptons.
Chassis Number; #25HC
We have for sale an exquisite Rolls-Royce Phantom I clothed in an incredibly attractive ‘York Roadster’ body which emulates the finest work of the celebrated American coachbuilder, Brewster & Company in Long Island City, New York. Of all the bodies to be offered by Rolls Royce of America on the P1, the York is probably the most coveted.
The car has a fascinating history and we are indebted to Bill Cooke of Wildae Restorations of Braunton in Devon, who were responsible for the car’s recreation, for some of the story.
Although Rolls-Royce factory records indicate that the Derby-built, right-hand drive, chassis # 25HC was scheduled to be bodied by Hooper with ‘Cabriolet’ coachwork, it seems that intention was never realised. The believed history, recounted in a 2008 letter from Bill Cooke of Wildae Restorations, is that the original purchaser, a Mrs Dickinson living on the Isle of Wight, bought it for her husband. Hooper was their choice of coachbuilder and they planned to enjoy the process of deciding on the car’s colour and specification together but sadly, he died before they got that far and, in her grief, the rolling chassis was left untouched until she herself passed away in the mid-sixties. Hooper records have no entry for coachwork for 25HC, helping substantiate the story. In 1971, #25HC was sold by Morris Garages to Rocco D. LaPenta on a Bill of Sale identifying it clearly as ‘Chassis Only’. In 1974, it was acquired from LaPenta by Rolls-Royce stalwart and arch enthusiast, S. Prestley Blake who, we understand, for several years could be observed tearing around his Connecticut estate perched on a temporary seat and enjoying the power to weight ratio of a 100bhp, 7.6-litre engine with nothing to propel but the chassis and its eccentric owner.
Being a man of some means and a fan of the glamorous Brewster-bodied York Roadsters featured in so many Thirties Movies, he eventually decided to have the completely original chassis clothed in a recreation of the York bodywork exactly as it would have been if it had been despatched to Brewster & Co. in 1929. Quite why he chose to have the car shipped to England and on to Wildae Restorations of Braunton is not clear, but the result must have been all he could have hoped for.
Wildae were tasked with constructing a brand new York Roadster body incorporating the design’s curved doors, side-entry rumble-seat door, raked windscreen and steeply sloping rear deck. In the thirties, Brewster bodied only five New Phantom chassis with York Roadster coachwork and today only three are known to survive, making it impossible for Wildae to access an original car to establish details and dimensions. Using numerous photos of one of the survivors to perfect the cars sweeping lines, the project took over two years to complete and the result appears correct down to the smallest detail. The sleek and almost decadent bodywork is finished in a fabulous Copper Bronze hue with a highly polished aluminium belt-line accented with crimson coach-lines. The interior is trimmed in gently-patinated brown leather, and the tan soft-top remains in good condition. The whole appearance is complemented by polished aluminium wheel flanges, dual side-mounted spares with tan cloth covers and strap-on mirrors, a trunk rack and generous wind deflectors on the raked windscreen. There is a modest plaque on the door sill stating “Coachwork by Wildae Restorations Ltd".
It must have been an amazing project for Prestley Blake and almost certainly unique. To find an unused, never-bodied 1925 New Phantom chassis and over fifty years later fit it with iconic bodywork from a glamorous period in American history that you remember from your childhood is definitely in ‘dream come true’ territory. Remarkable.
The Phantom had a complete engine rebuild to a very high standard in 2019 by Fiennes Restoration along with all the ancillaries and the engine has only covered ‘running-in’ mileage since the rebuild. New running boards have also been fitted with a toolbox on either side.
The car appears very sensibly priced when you consider that one of the surviving Brewster York Roadsters sold at auction in 2009 for $946,000 and a Derby Speedster, sold in 2013 for $1.98 million. Built to the highest standards by recognized and experienced craftsman in 1925 and bodied for the first time to equally high standards in the early 1980s, its condition is excellent.
Its sheer style, elegance and unique provenance mean that #25HC would be welcome in any collection of important motor cars but how much better would it be to see it sitting alongside the terrace of Restaurant La Mere Germain in Villefranche-sur-Mer with a view of the bay on a warm Cote d’Azur afternoon and the sun glinting of the Phantom’s sweeping Copper Bronze flanks.