Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Freestone and Webb
Rolls-Royce developed the Phantom II Continental for a discerning clientele – motorists who demanded a car capable of covering great distances at high average speeds in the utmost comfort and style. Featuring a shortened chassis, with a specially tuned engine and revised suspension, the Continental was the rare luxury car that offered performance to match the finest sports cars of the day. In total, just 281 of the 1,680 Phantom II chassis built between 1929 and 1936 were to Continental specification, a figure that speaks to their purposeful nature and relative exclusivity.
Connoisseurs have always admired the Phantom II Continental and the model is held in the highest regard among marque specialists. Longtime Rolls-Royce specialist Frank Dale of London once remarked, “To improve upon perfection may be an impossibility, but this Phantom II seemed to do. The Continental was conceived from the outset to be an enthusiastic owner-driver’s motorcar. There can be no question of its ranking in the very forefront of the world’s great automobiles. And it is one of the few, the very few, that are entitled to the appellation: Grand Touring.”
The Phantom II Continental presented here, 47RY, is a superb example of this thoroughbred Rolls-Royce, a car distinguished by its exceptional Freestone and Webb coachwork, noteworthy provenance, and impressive presentation.
The history of this Continental dates back to January 1934, when London dealer S.E. Longman placed an order for a new car on behalf of Sir John Leigh. A Lancashire mill owner who built his fortune in the cotton industry, Leigh was made a baronet in 1918, and later purchased the Pall Mall Gazette, a London evening newspaper. In 1922, he was elected to Parliament and later served as a Trustee of Manchester Academy of Fine Arts. A man of substantial means and refined tastes, Leigh was a regular customer of Rolls-Royce, ordering several new Phantom IIs and Phantom IIIs, almost all bodied by Freestone and Webb or Windovers.
As noted in the Rolls-Royce build records, 47RY was intended “for use in the UK and Continent – mainly fast touring” and was specified with steering at the “F” rake, sloped bonnet louvers, wheel discs, and separate speedometer and rev counter, rather than the standard grouped instrument cluster.
Once completed, the Continental chassis was sent to Freestone and Webb, the upscale coachbuilder located in Willesden, London. Specializing in bodies for Rolls-Royce and Bentley, Freestone and Webb were best known for their handsome “Top Hat” and “Razor Edge” designs, which gave cars an elegant, tailored appearance. For 47RY, Freestone and Webb produced this attractive Convertible Coupe with a dickey or rumble seat, a light and sporting design seldom seen on the Phantom II chassis. Surely among one of the best looking Rolls-Royce of the period, 47RY was selected as a fine example of Freestone and Webb coachwork in Lawrence Dalton’s famous book Those Elegant Rolls-Royce and described by the author as an “extremely attractive and sporting car” in his definitive book on the model, The Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental.
Following Leigh’s ownership, 47RY passed through a succession of English owners including Nora Moore, Lord Patrick Stuart, F.G. Greenaway, and Roland Smith. In 1939, King’s Court Garage, Ltd. of Hammersmith, London advertised the Continental for sale in The Motor, describing it in superlatives: “This is the only body of its type in existence and was built to the special order, regardless of cost, of a multi-millionaire.”
The Rolls-Royce remained in the UK through at least 1949, before its export to the US, where it was acquired in 1959 by Dr. Francis A. Sooy of San Francisco, California, an internationally renowned surgeon, pilot, and UCSF professor. During his ownership, the Continental was restored by Dennis Balchin, finished in black over red leather, and then sold around 1963 to Robert C. Hill. In the 1970s, 47RY passed through the ownership of two noted Rolls-Royce collectors – Ray Lutgert and Dr. James Stickley – before being sold to Jeffrey Pattinson and returning to England in the early 1980s.
Around 1983, the Continental’s original engine, number SU55, was exchanged for engine number KC45, which had been supplied in another Continental, 8MY. After participating in a 1984 RREC rally at Charterhouse School, the Rolls-Royce returned to California, where it was owned by Markley Brown and Don Williams.
In 1990, the famed English collector Sir Anthony Bamford acquired 47RY and commissioned a complete restoration, with mechanical work being carried out by Coldwell Engineering of Sheffield, and cosmetic work overseen by David Hemmings and Brian Frost. Finished at this time in the present two-tone grey color scheme offset by red leather upholstery, the Continental went on to win several concours awards before being sold, in 1996, to Trevor Hemmings. Most recently exhibited at the 2013 St. James’s Concours of Elegance, 47RY remains in lovely condition, having been carefully maintained by knowledgeable caretakers over the past two decades.
Among the most desirable cars of the classic era, the Phantom II Continental represents the zenith of Rolls-Royce automobile production prior to WWII. This particular example, with its elegant Freestone and Webb Drophead Coupe coachwork and distinguished pedigree, is at once an ideal entry into the leading concours d’elegance as well as an open-air touring car par excellence.
*Please note that this lot is currently located in the UK. It is UK registered and has a UK DVLA issued V5C.
*Please note that the Seller of this Lot is a private individual.
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