Rolls-Royce had experienced a major shift of philosophy in the post-war years. The Silver Dawn was the first car from Crewe to wear a standard factory-supplied body, which signaled the beginning of the end of the British coachbuilding industry. Although the custom body segment was dwindling, there was still enough demand to support continued production of the Silver Wraith through 1959, as well as the opulent Phantom IV; a straight-eight cylinder powered behemoth reserved for royalty. Both of these high-end models were supplied by Rolls-Royce as chassis only and were bodied by the best coachbuilders of the era. The arrival of the Silver Cloud in 1955 represented a further shift toward factory supplied bodies. The Cloud was a beautiful, modern motorcar that cost much less than bare chassis plus custom body. It ultimately replaced both the Silver Dawn and the Wraith. The prestigious Phantom IV was in production from 1950-1956, but only seventeen cars were ever completed and the roots of its chassis were firmly planted in the pre-war era. As luxurious, stylish and fine driving as the Silver Cloud was, there was now a distinct void at the very top of the market.
Following a three year absence, the Phantom name returned to the Rolls-Royce lineup in 1959, with the arrival of the Phantom V. The chassis was based upon that of the V8 powered Silver Cloud II, though on a more grand scale thanks to an additional two feet added to the wheelbase. By the time the Phantom V was announced, many of England’s best coachbuilders had closed or were on the brink of closure, so the Phantom V provided welcome boost in business, proving to be a magnificent base on which they could practice their craft. Utilizing many standard components from the Cloud series allowed for a more generous production number, with 516 examples produced from 1959 through 1968 with a wide variety of body styles from the likes of James Young, Park Ward, and H.J. Mulliner. The famous and infamous alike have owned Phantom Vs, including the British Royal family, John Lennon, The Shah of Iran and the notorious Imelda Marcos.
Our featured example, 5AS69, is a 1960 model from the first series of Phantom V production. It wears an elegant and handsome Park Ward limousine body originally commissioned for the London High Commissioner for Nigeria. It presents in lovely condition with a very good quality cosmetic restoration that has been extremely well maintained since its completion. Classic Mason’s Black paintwork is laid down over alloy straight panels with excellent alignment and fit. Getting such a large car to appear so straight in a single-tone black paint scheme is no easy task and is a testament to the quality and care given to the restoration. A single coach line in gold accents the paintwork, which is repeated on the wheel covers as per original. Chrome adornment is limited to bumpers, light trims, a subtle waist strip and of course, the prominent Rolls Royce radiator shell. A radiator-mounted flag holder hints at this car’s period diplomatic duties. All of the brightwork is presented in very good order, with deep, clear reflections and no corrosion to speak of.
The interior is wonderfully presented, with a black driver’s compartment contrasting a cream beige passenger compartment, separated by a powered divider. The chauffeur’s compartment is beautifully trimmed, showing some light yet attractive creasing on the leather. Black Wilton carpets are in excellent order and the gorgeous woodwork provides a visual lift to the otherwise austere and businesslike driver’s office. An under-dash A/C unit keeps the driver and front passenger comfortable, while all original instruments and switchgear present in excellent order.
The rear compartment is a drastic contrast to the front, with a light and airy feeling courtesy of the cream beige Connolly hides, light Wilton rugs, and plenty of glass. Integrated into the divider is a beautifully finished wood bar, an originally-fitted option which includes a pair of crystal decanters. Flanking the bar is a pair of jump seats trimmed in leather and vents for the rear-mounted air conditioning system. Door cards are in excellent order, with beautiful banded-wood caps surrounding the cabin. Rear passengers are whisked along in opulence, with gorgeous tan leather chairs, individual cigarette lighters, carpeted foot rests and a separate set of controls for the rear air conditioning system.
The engine (#PV34A) presents in tidy order with a few modern upgrades for the sake of reliable operation. Largely correct finishes adorn the rocker covers, ancillaries and firewall. It is reported to be an outstanding driver, with its previous owner using the car regularly for shows and events. It rides on a set of Michelin X radial tires, a widely accepted modern alternative to the original crossply tires, well suited to the performance characteristics of this large limousine.
The Phantom V and its sibling, the Phantom VI, marked the end of the long-running tradition of coachbuilt limousines from Rolls-Royce. These grand motorcars competed with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz 600 for superiority among royalty, captains of industry and heads of state. The impressive quality of this example is certain to appeal to an enthusiast who chooses to drive rather than be driven, and it remains very much in showable condition thanks to the high quality restoration and careful maintenance.
Jul 28, 2017