2022 | Pebble Beach Auctions
1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III Sedanca Coupe
From the William Maxwell Davis Estate
Coachwork by Barker
$275,000 - $350,000
Nicknamed “the Third Wife”; Part of the Davis Collection Since 1967
Among the Most Beautiful Phantom IIIs Built
Known History with Only Three Private Owners Since New
Last Restored by Rolls-Royce for Noted Collector Mills Lane Jr.
Featured in Numerous Books and Publications
Accompanied by Mills Lane Jr.’s Original History and Restoration File
7,338 CC OHV Alloy V-12 Engine
Single Twin-Choke Downdraft Carburetor
165 BHP at 3,000 RPM
4-Speed Manual Gearbox
4-Wheel Servo-Assisted Mechanical Drum Brakes
Front Independent Suspension with Coil Springs
Rear Live Axle with Semi-Elliptical Leaf Springs
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas J. Hughes, London, UK (acquired new in 1937)
Mills Lane Jr., Atlanta, Georgia (acquired from the above via Paddon Brothers in 1959)
William Maxwell Davis, Charleston, West Virginia (acquired in 1967)
Blenheim Palace Concours, Oxfordshire, UK, mid-1960s
Collier Automotive Museum, Florida, 1992–1993, Rolls-Royce: Reflections of Society 1905–1939
Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, 2002
Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences of West Virginia, 2006, The Classic Automobile
Rolls-Royce Owner’s Club National Meet, Michigan, 2014
Boasting what its manufacturer had learned from its decades of experience with aeroengines, the Phantom III was always silky-smooth and powerful, but its proportions did not lend itself easily to beautiful coachwork. There were a handful of exceptions, prominent among them this car, chassis 3BT149, dressed with a unique sedanca coupe body by Barker to the order of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas J. Hughes of London. That Mr. and Mrs. Hughes were pleased with the result is evident, because they kept the car until 1959 when it was traded to Paddon Brothers, the longtime Rolls-Royce agency in London. Paddon Brothers sold the car to Mills Lane Jr., of Atlanta, a successful banker, local philanthropist, and prolific automobile collector, known for his superb taste, generosity, and dry wit; one imagines that he and William Maxwell Davis had a lot in common.
Before bringing his two-owner Phantom III stateside, Mr. Lane returned it to Rolls-Royce, whose workshops at Hythe Road returned it to original condition, aside from the addition of a second side-mounted spare on the passenger side and a color change to Pininfarina Grey over brown leather upholstery, both performed by Caffyns. The new livery was selected for the car by the renowned automotive designer, Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, who was advising Mr. Lane and whose painting of the car would be immortalized in Automobile Quarterly. The completed car was photographed with original owners Mr. and Mrs. Hughes – an image included in the car’s file – and then exhibited at the Blenheim Palace Concours. Soon thereafter, the Phantom III departed for the States. Its owner dubbed it “the Third Wife,” for its original British registration, WYF III.
William Maxwell Davis acquired 3BT149 in 1967, and it has been an important part of his collection since; in past years, it was driven occasionally on tours, with the odometer believed to have rolled over in that time. The late Joe Smith reupholstered the interior over a decade ago, and the rear valance has been touched up, but much of the restoration remains that done by Rolls-Royce, and much of the chassis surface remains original to 1937. One of the most beautiful and best-known Phantom IIIs, as-yet unshown at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, the car has undergone a recent inspection by noted specialist E.F. Murphy Inc. of Baltimore, Ohio. E.F. Murphy Inc.’s invoice on file states that the car would benefit from further service and sorting in order to be tourable; but notably, the tests he reported showed no presence of coolant in the oil, indicating that this engine may not have suffered from the typical Phantom III malady of internal corrosion which can lead to coolant migration.
Accompanying the Rolls-Royce is the fascinating, comprehensive original restoration and correspondence file kept by Mr. Lane and preserved by Mr. Davis, as well as its 1967 West Virginia title, now preserved as part of its file.
“I’ve never considered selling it,” Mr. Davis wrote in The Classic Car. “It is a part of me.”