Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Brewster & Co.
From an Important Private Collection Formerly the Property of Bill Davis, Rick Carroll, and William Lassiter
The history of this exceptional Rolls-Royce dates back to 1929, when a Springfield-built Phantom I chassis, S158FR, was fashioned with Brewster’s exquisite Derby Speedster coachwork in preparation for delivery to its first owner.
As recorded in John Webb de Campi’s definitive book Rolls-Royce in America, the completed Derby Speedster was originally delivered to Herbert Farrell of Nashville, Tennessee, the son-in-law of Maxwell House Coffee founder Joel Cheek. A wonderful anecdote survives from the early days of Mr. Farrell’s ownership that paints a classic picture of Rolls-Royce ownership in the American gilded age.
Apparently, Mr. Farrell had been informed that his new Speedster would do better than 85 mph; however, after repeated attempts, he could not manage much more than 75 mph. After Mr. Farrell expressed his dissatisfaction with the car’s performance, Rolls-Royce sent two mechanics to Nashville to find the missing nine mph. Following various adjustments to the engine and chassis, the mechanics achieved the desired speed and asked Mr. Farrell to climb aboard for a demonstration ride. “Have you done it?” he asked one of the mechanics. Assured that he had, the now delighted owner said, “That’s all I wanted to know. I’ll take your word for it.”
After being sold by Mr. Farrell, the Derby Speedster remained in the Nashville area for many years, transferring ownership several times before passing into the care of Neil McDade. In 1953, Mr. McDade sent the Derby Speedster to famed Indianapolis Rolls-Royce dealers, Schaler & Wade, and the car’s first restoration was executed.
In 1959, esteemed Rolls-Royce and Bentley connoisseur William Maxwell Davis purchased S158FR from Mr. McDade. When speaking of his beloved Derby Speedster, Mr. Davis stated, “It was the standard by which all my other cars were judged.” Considering that Mr. Davis has owned a superb example of almost every Rolls-Royce model, such a statement is high praise indeed.
S158FR remained in Mr. Davis’ world-class collection for 25 years, during which time it shared duties with an equally rare York Roadster, the Derby Speedster’s roadster counterpart.
In 1984, famed Rolls-Royce and Duesenberg collector Rick Carroll managed to persuade Mr. Davis to part company with his cherished Derby Speedster and commissioned respected classic car specialist Clay Cook to perform a complete, no-expense-spared restoration of this most deserving Phantom I. Sadly, Mr. Carroll passed away before he saw the restoration completed.
In 1990, noted classic car collector William G. Lassiter Jr. bought the Phantom I from the Carroll Estate and had Mr. Cook finish the car to the same high standards demanded by its previous owner.
Upon completion, the magnificently restored Rolls-Royce garnered great acclaim from knowledgeable collectors and expert judges alike. In 1992, the Collier Automotive Museum selected this Derby Speedster to represent the ultimate example of a Phantom I in the special exhibit, Rolls-Royce: Reflections of Society 1905 – 1939. The following year, the Derby Speedster received a First Prize from the Classic Car Club of America as well as a National First Prize from the Antique Automobile Club of America.
Acquired by the current owner from the Lassiter Collection sale in March 1999, the Derby Speedster was displayed at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance that August and earned an impressive Second in Class award.
Carefully maintained and selectively displayed since, the Derby Speedster remains in outstanding cosmetic condition, a proud testament to the high quality of Mr. Cook’s initial restoration. The black paintwork and polished exterior brightwork are quite striking on the sporting lines of the coachwork. Similarly, the interior is tastefully finished in deep, dark red leather and highlighted by rich wood trim and exquisite silver inlays.
Outfitted with very stylish black-and-chrome wheel discs, correct tubular bumpers, a small rear-mounted trunk, and thermostat- controlled grille louvers, the Derby Speedster is an impressive sight to behold and the very embodiment of classic elegance.
Of the five Derby Speedsters originally built, just four remain today. S158FR is arguably the finest surviving example, a beautifully restored classic Phantom with a peerless history of devoted stewardship. As one of the most handsome and sporting pre-war Phantoms, a Derby Speedster is an essential component of any serious Rolls-Royce collection and a contender for top honors at the finest international concours.
Having known this outstanding motorcar for many years and admired its exceptional qualities, Gooding & Company recommends serious consideration of this magnificent Brewster-bodied Rolls-Royce – it is truly a car fit for the connoisseur.