Claude Johnson, the business genius at Rolls-Royce was somewhat of a visionary and saw the future potential of the American car market long before production began of Rolls-Royce motor cars in the United States. Following much persuasion by Johnson, C.S. Rolls set foot on American soil for the first time in the autumn of 1906. His brief but eventful stay in America included a meeting with the famous Wright Brothers, who he was later to forge a strong friendship with. It also included his 20 horse power winning the silver medal at The Empire City oval track, beating off the likes of a 30 horse power Packard and a 60 horse power Renault. Following this success Rolls attention turned to the American Auto Show where he not only exhibited his 20 horse power to wide acclaim, but established the Rolls-Royce Import Company, with new acting agents based in both Manhattan and Ottawa, Canada. Two months later his successful stay was brought to an end and he returned to England, with four Rolls-Royces sold and the ground work laid for what was to become a famous chapter in the history of the company. By 1913 it was agreed that Rolls-Royce should acquire its first premises on American soil, renting space in one of the buildings belonging to coachbuilders Brewster in Long Island New York. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 cut off the supply of new cars but as peace returned, so did prosperity and by 1919 almost 400 Rolls-Royce motor cars were present in New York, owned by some of the citys wealthiest and most important families. Noted admirers of the marque included the Bloomingdales and the Guggenheims to name but a few. In 1919 Claude Johnson returned to America following the companys decision to set up a production plant in the United States. The finance was put in place and the search for a suitable location began. The American market was now the largest and most important car market in the world, with more cars sold in America per annum than the rest of the world combined. Cars brought into the US were also subject to substantial importation taxes, so the natural and logical move in order to satisfy the huge demand at a more cost effective price was to join the American market on their own soil. Later that year the decision was made to purchase the old American Wire Wheel Corporation plant in Springfield Massachusetts. It was an ideal location to cater for the vast potential clientele in both Boston and New York, two of Americas major cities. There was also an abundance of skilled labour in the Springfield area, with many locals trained in precision metal work. The site also had excellent transportation routes, being situated on a railroad which facilitated shipping and receiving goods. The new site had 150,000 square feet of floor space and was considered to be ideal for its purpose. By November of 1919 Johnson had formed Rolls-Royce of America Inc but it wasnt until well into 1921 that the first American built chassis were ready to be sold. Over fifty staff from the Rolls-Royce works in England were relocated with their families to Springfield and they began by replicating the Derby built chassis. But before the 200th chassis had been completed a number of changes were implemented, with American parts being introduced. One off bodies were available to American buyers in typical English coach building fashion, but the majority of cars were built to standard designs by Rolls-Royce Custom Coachworks. These bodies were constructed to standard designs by a number of companies, largely built in batches of twenty or more. Production quality of the coachwork however was first class, finished with aluminium bodies and steel fenders in most cases, quite different from the British style of construction. By 1925 the new Phantom had been unveiled in Great Britain by Rolls-Royce but the American produced version was not seen until 1926. The model changeover in Springfield was slow because the British designs had to be modified to incorporate left hand steering. The delay was costly and production of the successor to the Silver Ghost started slowly but the companys profits were still healthy and the future looked bright, at this point in time. It could be argued that the American Phantom was a superior car when compared to its Derby built cousin. It incorporated many innovative features including the handle operated Bijur chassis lubrication system, carburettor air cleaner and thermostatically controlled radiator shutters. One of the most stylish bodies offered at this time was the Piccadilly Roadster design which is fitted to Chassis No S285RM which we are currently offering for sale. According to records supplied by the Rolls-Royce Foundation, Chassis No S285RM was delivered on the 13th of December 1927 to Colonel Joseph Samuels who was a long time Rolls-Royce customer and known philanthropist in the Rhode Island area. It became the property of Mr Frederick Schloss in September of 1929 and then returned to Inskip of New York to be offered for sale ten years later. Following Mr Schloss’s ownership, the car became the property of enthusiasts such as Walter Hanson, Hathaway Weekes Scully, Ted Barlett and Lewis L Smith. It was featured in the Flying Lady publication in February of 1963 whilst owned by Oliver Merrill and then changed hands becoming the property of Barry Randell of New Jersey who restored the car. It was shown at the RROC National Meeting in 1988 where it was rewarded for its quality and condition. The car presents very nicely and is complete with fitted luggage in the tail mounted trunk. It comes serviced, prepared and thoroughly tested in our workshops as per our normal policy. This stylish American built Phantom I with its original coachwork will serve its next owner very well and should be considered by both collectors and enthusiasts alike.
Jul 28, 2017