In 1904 automobile history was changed forever when Henry Royce and Charles Rolls teamed up. Royce had designed an incredible luxury vehicle, and Rolls wanted to sell the car. It was called the Rolls-Royce 10 HP, and it was put out by their company, Rolls-Royce Limited.
Rolls-Royce Limited also manufactured jet engines, but the first they made was an airplane engine that was called the 1915 Rolls-Royce Eagle. This engine was the first to be used to cross the Atlantic Ocean non-stop. While it was not a jet engine, it was obviously effective, nonetheless. Motivated to press on, the company continued to move forward, designing cars and engines one after another. In 1913 their Silver Ghost model won the ‘Best Car of the Year’ title. Then the Silver Dawn was released and manufactured between 1949 and 1955, producing 750 of the model. Other models came, and other models went.
Then, in 1971, the company had issues with their RB211 jet engine that resulted in Rolls-Royce being taken over by the state. The automobile manufacturing section of the company was on its own by 1973, and they went on to produce the Rolls-Royce Corniche. By 2003 BMW had gained rights to the Rolls-Royce logo and name, while the Volkswagen company got rights to the grill and mascot, but BMW had full permission to put out vehicles bearing the Rolls-Royce name. They proceeded to release the Rolls-Royce Phantom; incredibly enough, the Phantom was available in 44,000 interior and exterior shades, something essentially unheard of, yet true.
The Phantom I: A Deeper Look
The Phantom didn’t just spring into existence on its own. It was originally designed as a replacement model for the Silver Ghost, and was first released as the New Phantom in 1925, and it was manufactured until 1931. While BMW had re-released a version in 2003, the first was born long before. The New Phantom had a bigger motor than the Silver Ghost, which was one claim to fame, as was the fact that it had overhead valves that were operated by push rods. It is important to note that the New Phantom is more commonly known as the Phantom I today, and has also been referred to as the 40/50 Phantom. Rolls-Royce never used the Phantom I designation, rather it has been easier to call it that to differentiate that model from models that came after it.
Rolls-Royce Phantom I: Specifications & Features
Since the New Phantom was to take the place of the Silver Ghost, it was important that improvements and upgrades were made to make it a more desirable model, and therefore, a bigger seller. The main differences were mentioned earlier, of course, and were in the engine size, though there were other minor changes as well. It seemed they didn’t really matter to anyone, however, except when it came to the price. The Silver Ghost’s chassis, by itself, cost $5,000 in 1907, if that gives you any estimate of its retail price. The Phantom I likely carried a price of more than $20,000. This, of course, was no small amount, considering the times, with the pending Depression. Hopefully, not too many crash-landed in their efforts to own one.
But the specs are what is important here, so let’s touch base on what the New Phantom was made of.
Rolls-Royce Phantom I: Specs & Features
The Phantom I came in a couple of differing styles. Below are the specs for the model, which was first produced in 1925.
- 468 cubic inches; 7,668cc
- Both three-speed and four-speed transmissions were available
- Pushrod OHV straight-six engine
- Single detachable head; two groups of three cylinders
- 4 ¼ inch bore and 5 ½ inch undersquare stroke
- Total 7.7 liter displacement
- Cast iron heads until 1928, then replaced with aluminum
- Semi-elliptical frames beneath the front axle (as with the Silver Ghost)
- Rear axle suspended with cantilever springs
- Servo-assisted brakes on all four wheels
- Single dry-plate clutch
- 3-speed transmission in US models; 4-speed in those from the UK
The New Phantom was constructed in both Springfield, Missouri and in the United Kingdom at Derby. They were only made in the United States from 1926 to 1931, however. There were differences between the cars made in the UK and those from the US, and the majority of those differences were in the transmission and the wheel base measurements. Also, the UK model had the gas gauge on the tank, while the US placed its gauge on the dash in front of the driver. Rolls-Royce only made the actual mechanical parts and the chassis; the rest of the vehicles parts and body were constructed by the coach builders Zagato, Park Ward, Mulliner, Thrupp, and others.
Bringing It All Together…
When Rolls-Royce began their heyday, it was a time of celebration in America and around the world. Automobiles, which were the things of dreams, were fast becoming a reality, and Rolls-Royce cars seemed to come straight from dreams. Not only were these luxury vehicles comfortable, but they were large, spacious, and ran like the dreams they encompassed. The public simply could not resist, and it seems that they still cannot.
Today, the Phantom is still sought by collectors. A 1925 model Rolls-Royce Phantom sold for $1.2 million in 2008 at auction, and many have sold for more over the years. The reasons that this model is such a high seller are more than obvious. Not only are they collectible, they are beautiful pieces of history that seem to carry a stigma of being somewhat ‘intangible’ for most, and that would be true. Most all of us have driven a Chevy, and many may get the chance to drive a Ferrari or Lamborghini, even if only for a moment. But the Rolls-Royce is plainly out of touch for the mass majority. They are, indeed, a dream car, and for many it is difficult to believe that really even exist.
But they do.
If you are a lover of the Rolls-Royce, continue to be. If you weren’t familiar with them before reading this, there is a good chance you are growing fond of them now. Though you may never drive one, much less own one, it is more than possible to close your eyes and travel to the days when the Phantom was brand new. Climb behind the wheel and just soak up the luxury; feel the road beneath you as you maneuver this huge vehicle that was made just for comfortable, smooth driving.
And remember, it’s okay to dream, because as we said, the Rolls-Royce is exactly what dreams are made of.
Written by Benjamin Smith
Read more posts by Benjamin Smith