Carshow Outtake: 1928 Rolls-Royce Phantom 1 – Despite The Evidence, This Is Not A Taxi

(first posted 7/13/2017)     High mileage cars have featured on CC before, and there have been some surprising numbers, not least from a Fiat Brava (131 Mirafiori) and a Volvo P1800. But this one has a different history.

The car itself is a 1928 Rolls-Royce Phantom (retrospectively known as a Phantom I) built in 1928, in Derby, England and completed with a limousine body by Windovers.

Windovers had a history going back to the 17th century and of being in coach building from around 1800. Windovers built their first body for a Rolls-Royce in 1910.

By the 1920s, Windovers were fully established and respected as a coachbuilder for the market Rolls-Royce were in, and had a strong presence across export markets too, especially India, where the Maharajahs bought many Rolls-Royces, and Windovers coachwork was a popular choice.

The Phantom, launched in 1925, had a 7668cc, straight six engine, and was officially rated at 43hp., and recorded by Rolls-Royce as being “sufficient” and was probably around 100 bhp This car was effectively the successor to the famous Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, and typically came on a 143 or 150 inch wheelbase, had semi-elliptic springs all round and, by 1928, hydraulic shock absorbers all round, along with RR’s four wheel brakes assisted by their mechanical servo system.

A total of 2200 were built in the UK from 1925 to 1929, along with another 1200 in Springfield, MA.  All cars were bodied by one of the many coach builders, of course.

This car was specified by Sir Ernest Salter Wills Bt, a scion of the Wills family behind the Imperial Tobacco company and later Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, at a cost of £2850, say £100,000 in today’s values. Then painted bright yellow, it was immediately pressed into intensive service, shuttling between the family’s homes in Perthshire, Scotland, Wiltshire in southern England and Menton on the French Riviera.

This is an early photograph of the car, possibly from Windovers’ own records.

Sir Ernest kept the car for twenty years before it was used in Yorkshire as a private hire vehicle and then by a doctor in southern England on his rounds, when it was painted bright red. Long before then, of course, using this as an every day car would have been very expensive, in fuel, and tax, alternative, assuming your fuel ration went far enough to fuel it. It may have been an old car but it was never a cheap car to run.

The current owner bought it in 1965, instead of the sensible car his family were expecting, having haggled the price down to £190.00 (say £2500.00) and he used it as daily driver for many years before allowing it to go into a gentle retirement and sympathetic restoration.

So, whilst not original or restored to its exact original specification, it is car with a long and documented history, which is supported by family members’ recollections of its time with Sir Ernest Wills, and which has now covered in excess of 350,000 miles.

What maybe even more noteworthy, and is supported by service records and Wills family accounts, is that 100,000 of these miles were completed by the end of 1929. Or perhaps almost 2000 miles a week.