alsancle

American Rolls Royce (Ghost, PI & PII)

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There is little conversation on these fantastic cars so I want to start one.    I don't know much about the Silver Ghost other than the design lasted a long long time.   The PI & II are more in my wheelhouse as they were dead in the middle of the Classic era.   Springfield RR were made from about 1920 to 1931 in Massachusetts.  I believe all the PI and PII cars were LHD.   The PII chassis were built in England and shipped to the U.S. for body and assembly so I count them as "American".

 

I know some forum member own these and I'm hoping we can get some first hand impressions.  I know build quality is fantastic.  The engine is huge, but not geared to be a speed demon.  Although the later PII "continental" chassis were supposedly good for 90mph.   I don't know that the U.S. shipped models had that specification.

 

To kick things off,  here is a car I really want.  Sort of shame the took it apart.

 

http://www.realcar.co.uk/view-cars/2018

 

2018-215AMSext34.JPG

 

A very rare opportunity to acquire one of the small number of left hand drive Phantom IIs produced, in this case being a very attractive Sports Saloon in part dismantled state, ready for a relatively light restoration. The car was delivered new to Canada, and has remained there for its entire life until now. Some of the photos show the car as it arrived, partly dismantled by the last owner in preparation for restoration, and others with it loosely 'hung together' to give an indication of the car’s handsome appearance, which includes louvred bonnet, rear-mounted spare wheel, quarter bumpers, etc, etc. As you can see, there are many components included with the car, including nicely re-chromed bumpers. A fascinating project, probably never to be repeated. Click the video link below to see footage of the car arriving here, and pictures after partial re-assembly.

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The AMS and AJS series cars. Most of the LHD cars probably came to the US but they were also sold in a number of countries where driving on the right was the norm. This is 220AMS, photographed in 1951. This is the second body on the chassis. The car is still around and its history well known. About 40 years ago I had a call one evening. The voice on the other end of the line asked  "are you the guy that fixes Rolls Royces?" "yes" I said. He replied "I have one in my garage and I'd like to get it going."

 

He was the nephew of the man who took this photo and had inherited the car when his uncle died. I don't think he'd driven it because the towing company that delivered it had wrapped a chain around the tie rod and bent it like a pretzel. I had it brought to my garage where I repaired the gas tank (it was perforated with tiny holes) and made a new tie rod as well as getting it running. In returning it to the owner, I had my one and only experience with the dreaded "axle tramp" and very nearly leveled a little neighborhood bar. In part payment for the work, I got the uncle's library of RR and other car books - all of which I still have, including the original manual for this car. Some time later is was offered to me but I passed (not having anywhere near enough money and preferring earlier cars in any case). It was purchased by my former employer and, if I remember correctly, auctioned a few years ago after he died.

 

597e84b57d7d6_AldenHandysCar.thumb.jpg.e0ee856f8266cdf2ae0a44323fc91a14.jpg

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An American Silver Ghost story...

 

Years ago my friend, the late EA Mowbray, bought a fabulous 1922 or 23 Silver Ghost Permanent Salamanca (S111BG), formerly the property of August Busch. When he received it, it only had 14,000 miles on the clock. We were unloading it in the street at his father's house (where he used the garage) and dealing with the usual spate of gawkers and know-it-alls. With the hood up we'd hear "gee, a straight 12, my grandfather had a straight 12" or "is that a Packard" or "my uncle had one of those." I think we've all had the experience and, to me at least, it becomes tiresome when they want to talk and I have work to do. But... while we were unloading this one a nun walked by (this was in the day when they still wore traditional habits). She stopped and watched and finally said to us "how nice, an American Silver Ghost, and an early one too." I guess our expressions gave away our surprise because she added "my father worked at Rolls Royce of America."

Edited by JV Puleo
puncutuation (see edit history)
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8 hours ago, JV Puleo said:

The AMS and AJS series cars. Most of the LHD cars probably came to the US but they were also sold in a number of countries where driving on the right was the norm. This is 220AMS, photographed in 1951. This is the second body on the chassis. The car is still around and its history well known. About 40 years ago I had a call one evening. The voice on the other end of the line asked  "are you the guy that fixes Rolls Royces?" "yes" I said. He replied "I have one in my garage and I'd like to get it going."

 

I see that it was sold at auction back in 2009.  Interesting history.   The AJS prefix is PI and the AMS PII?

 

https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/17320/lot/225

 

The ex-Gladys Swarthout, rare left hand drive 'AMS Series'
1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Sedanca de Ville
Coachwork by Gurney Nutting

Chassis no. 220 AMS
Engine no. U65J
The Phantom II was the last Rolls-Royce designed by Henry Royce, culminating a four year long process to perfect the successor to the Silver Ghost. Lessons learned in the “New Phantom”, now commonly known as the Phantom I, were applied in the Phantom II to maintain and enhance Rolls-Royce’s reputation for building the finest automobiles in the world.

Production of the Phantom I continued in Springfield, Massachusetts until 1931. The effect of the Great Depression made continuing production there unreasonable but it represented an important North American presence and still functioned as an important depot for preparing chassis and providing parts support. The Springfield Silver Ghosts and Phantoms were replaced by a series of lefthand drive Phantom IIs built in Derby specifically for the American market.

The six-cylinder pushrod overhead valve engine’s dimensions were unchanged but it acquired a new cross-flow cylinder head that put out some 120 horsepower, growing with subsequent developments to over 150hp in some cases. Engine, clutch and the four-speed transmission were now a single unit with an open driveshaft, hypoid rear axle and semi-elliptical rear leaf springs replacing the earlier cantilever leaf springs. Later changes included synchromesh on the top two gears.

Chassis changes and a taller, more imposing radiator made the Phantom II more adaptable to a wide variety of coachwork. The long 12’ 6” wheelbase accented the imposing presence that began with the classic Rolls-Royce radiator, providing abundant room for lavish formal coachwork in a wide variety of styles.

Chassis 220 AMS had a varied history before getting its present Gurney Nutting Sedanca deVille coachwork as the elegant, formal transportation for Metropolitan Opera star Gladys Swarthout. Originally powered by engine U65J which is still with the chassis today, it was one of the last recorded lefthand drive AMS series chassis dispatched from Derby in 1933 and was bodied in the United States with Brewster Keswick town car coachwork delivered to Dr. J. Bentley Squier of New York City and Scarsdale. When next recorded with new owner Frank M. Chapman, Jr. in October of 1941 it was with this Gurney Nutting Sedanca deVille coachwork, the change happening at an unknown time.

Mr. Chapman was the husband of Metropolitan Opera star Gladys Swarthout. An accomplished singer in his own right he abandoned his own career upon marrying the diva and devoted the rest of his life to managing her career. It was no small challenge as she diversified her appearances from the opera stage to film as the Thirties ended and then further into radio and television. Highly regarded for her voice, beauty and work ethic, Gladys Swarthout was plucked from her opera career in 1935 by Paramount.

Gladys was to be Paramount’s counterpart to Jeanette MacDonald and Lily Pons, opera stars bringing their talent, stage sense and voices to the movie musicals that made the Thirties a golden age of cinema. Born in Deepwater, Missouri in 1900, the daughter of a railroad Pullman conductor, Gladys and her siblings all were musically gifted and the family worked diligently to give them the best education possible.

A measure of her talent and determination can be seen in her accomplishment of memorizing 23 different parts in the few months between the time she was selected to appear with the Civic Opera of Chicago and her debut. Only a few years later, in 1929, she made her first appearance with the Metropolitan Opera. Her dedication to hard work and effort continued throughout her career. She memorized the lyrics to her film role songs in five different languages, making her a favorite in many countries.

She and Frank Chapman had primary residences in Hollywood and New York City during the Thirties and Forties but spent much of their time at a rural farm in Connecticut. Her appearances on radio, where for a time she had her own show, and elsewhere probably created the need for a formal car to deliver her in the style which her fans – and they were many – and the show business community expected.

This Springfield Rolls-Royce Phantom II with its Gurney Nutting Sedanca deVille coachwork was ideal. The coachwork was first fitted to Phantom II 17 TA, a short chassis Continental delivered December 12, 1934 directly to Gurney Nutting on an order from H.R. Owen where it was fitted with Sedanca deVille coachwork in early 1935. The bonnet was specially ordered with the distinctive 11° raked louvers. The first owner, Sir McPherson Robertson, took delivery on April 8, 1935. How the coachwork came to be in the United States, or why it was substituted for the attractive and similarly functional Brewster Keswick body, is not known but it is clear from Rolls-Royce records that the present body and chassis have been together since they were delivered to Frank M. Chapman, Jr. in 1941.

In May 1947 J. Wynne Paris of Newton, Massachusetts purchased 220 AMS from the McNear-Nash Company in Brookline, only to re-sell it in September to Alden G. Handy from whom Ted Leonard is believed to have bought it in January of 1978.

It is an unusually handsome and attractively outfitted automobile even by Rolls-Royce Phantom II standards, with sweeping, crowned fenders, dual sidemounted spares and wide whitewall tires on painted wire wheels. Its subtle black livery enhances the formal nature of the design, the perfect accoutrement for a famed artist’s arrival at the theatre, studio or function. Its lefthand drive makes it particularly attractive to American collectors and commend it to a very small subset of the luxurious Rolls-Royce motor cars of the era. It is outfitted with beautiful, large Marchal headlights supplied through Trilux of New York and has synchromesh on the top two gears in its four-speed box. A separate luggage trunk adapts it for formal work in town, for touring and for frequent excursions between the New York residence and the Connecticut retreat. The tool kit resides under the driver’s seat which is protected from the elements by a cloth tendelet which folds into a compartment in the roof.

The occupant of the left rear seat, presumably Mr. Chapman, had a smoker’s kit while the passenger on the right was provided with a more elaborate combination smoker’s kit and vanity. Two additional passengers could be accommodated in occasional seats. There is a rollup divider and a radio in the rear for entertainment as well as a footrest for comfort. Trafficators are located on the body’s B-pillar to help negotiate New York traffic safely, although few others on the streets even of “The City” would be bold enough to challenge this imposing Rolls-Royce and its privileged passengers for right of way.

It appears to be largely original with just an old repaint. The front seat’s grey leather is cracked and stiff but not split and may respond well to sympathetic attention. Similarly, the beige broadcloth upholstering the rear compartment is aged and tender but sound and complete. Other interior appointments are sensitively aged and sound.

A great example of Gurney Nutting’s mastery of the art of formal coachwork and Rolls-Royce’s successful perpetuation of its position as the finest automobile in the world, Gladys Swarthout’s Phantom II Sedanca deVille also has the provenance of ownership by a genuine star of opera, recordings, film and radio, a lady who was accomplished and sufficiently recognized to be a Mystery Guest on What’s My Line. It is a thoroughly deserved reward for the girl from Deepwater, Missouri who made good as George Bizet’s beautiful gypsy, Carmen, and a monument to her accomplishments.
 
 

RR-PII.png

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Being born and raised in Springfield Mass, I have always been a fan of these fantastic automobiles. My early mechanical lessons were from several RR factory employees. I learned directly from the people who built them. Fortunately I was aware how lucky I was to be taught by the people who were all hands on craftsmen, ladies included. One can't explain the quaility of a P1 with a Brewster Body, it is just a joy beyond words to drive a PROPERLY sorted Phantom. Here I am last month, at a local brewery.

IMG_4569.JPG

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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AJS and AMS series cars are PIIs. They follow the British chassis numbering system. The American cars were numbered S(number) (letter code). My PI was S193FR, a 29 aluminum head PI, one of the last cars built with drum headlights. I set myself the goal of owning a RR before I was 21... and bought this about 4 weeks before my birthday.

 

And, I agree with Ed... Brewster coachwork has no peer. The rear doors and back of this car were done in Brewster faux cane work. Although badly faded, the paint was original. The front was blue with black fenders and black above the belt line. It must have been really striking when new. The passenger compartment had the Brewster skeleton trim... the roof supporting woodwork was outside the head liner...

 

S193FR.jpg.bf955b90b95b77795448807cd877c833.jpg

 

No PIIs were assembled in the US. The chassis were shipped complete from Derby and most were fitted with coachwork in New York.

Edited by JV Puleo
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PII Henley roadster in NY traffic. I think this was taken outside the Inskip Motors building in NYC. Alden Handy (who owned 220AMS) was an avid photographer. I have an entire album of his photos, many of which are of RR cars taken in the 40s and 50s when there were still a handful of them on the road. Most of these were posted on the Old Motor web site at one time and can be seen by going there and searching on "Alden Handy collection."

 

The Henley was a Brewster body. I think it was originally designed to rebody traded-in limos which were a big problem with RR... rich people traded them in, usually in excellent condition, expecting a fairly substantial value but they were almost unsellable. Hence, a special series of sporty bodies to help move them. This car is a PII however, and likely had this body from new. The easiest way to tell is that is has Rudge-Whitworth hubs. Springfield cars had Buffalo Wire Wheels.

 

597f2f3f993cc_PIIRoadsteremail.thumb.jpg.36a55967665c5f06c60eb274d7e58e1b.jpg

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)
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1 hour ago, JV Puleo said:

AJS and AMS series cars are PIIs. They follow the British chassis numbering system. The American cars were numbered S(number) (letter code). My PI was S193FR, a 29 aluminum head PI, one of the last cars built with drum headlights. I set myself the goal of owning a RR before I was 21... and bought this about 4 weeks before my birthday.

 

You had loftier goals than me.  My goal was to get my GTO on the road by the time I was 18. 

 

How does the conversion from 40/50 work into HP?   I always thought it was brake HP but was never sure.

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43 minutes ago, JV Puleo said:

PII Henley roadster in NY traffic. I think this was taken outside the Inskip Motors building in NYC. Alden Handy (who owned 220AMS) was an avid photographer. I have an entire album of his photos, many of which are of RR cars taken in the 40s and 50s when there were still a handful of them on the road. Most of these were posted on the Old Motor web site at one time and can be seen by going there and searching on "Alden Handy collection."

 

The Henley was a Brewster body. I think it was originally designed to rebody traded-in limos which were a big problem with RR... rich people traded them in, usually in excellent condition, expecting a fairly substantial value but they were almost unsellable. Hence, a special series of sporty bodies to help move them. This car is a PII however, and likely had this body from new. The easiest way to tell is that is has Rudge-Whitworth hubs. Springfield cars had Buffalo Wire Wheels.

 

 

That is awesome info!  I have always loved the Henley, of course.  The only thing that would make that picture better would be if the white walls were gone.

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It is the old, British taxable horsepower rating which was based on bore but not stroke. At the time it was instituted (early in the 20th century) it was generally believed that stroke did not effect horsepower. When that was disproved, British car builders uniformly went to long stroke engines. In true political fashion, even after the premise was proven wrong the law never changed. I believe they were taxing by horsepower until shortly after WWII.  Even RR owners were not anxious to be taxed excessively. The British horsepower tax was a serious problem for Ford selling the Model T in Britain because it was taxed quite heavily in comparison to cars of similar power with small bore - long stroke engines.

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So there is really no reliable conversion?  Has anyone ever put a P1 engine on a dyno or compared it to a PII?

 

I'm assuming with that much size, it has to be 100-120 HP.

Edited by alsancle (see edit history)

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It's my understanding the wheels, clock, lights, and a few minor hardware items were all sourced in the US for the PII chassis. I think they may have went back and fourth depending on when the chassis was shipped. We have. P1 and two PII's in the collection, from memory I thought the PII's had Buffalo Wire Wheels on them, but I can't remember, I'll check net week when I get home. 

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I am pretty certain I've never seen a PII with Buffalo wheels but I can imagine that some of the electrical equipment was American. The earliest American Ghosts had British electrical equipment and Rudge-Whitworth wheels but these soon proved a service liability. The company went from 12-volt systems to 6-volt systems with the late, LHD, Ghosts because owners were complaining they couldn't get 12-volt batteries. Actually, I remember hearing a rumor (it's hard to believe rumors like this stay alive for 80 years) that some other parts, especially valve springs, were all American made going back to the late Ghosts. I've no idea how you'd prove that but the story was that they were better than the English springs and RR literally smuggled them into the country to avoid offending the appropriate British unions. Quite a few operations were done much more efficiently at Springfield than at Derby which caused all sorts of problems in England when they tried to introduce the American procedures. Part of this may have come from the fact that RR of America picked up a large number of ex-Springfield Armory employees, let go at the end of WWI. The Armory is literally just down the street and may well have been the most modern small arms plant in the world at the time. The quality of it's product was equal to the very best commercial arms.

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5 hours ago, alsancle said:

So there is really no reliable conversion?  Has anyone ever put a P1 engine on a dyno or compared it to a PII?

 

I'm assuming with that much size, it has to be 100-120 HP.

 

Frank Cooke did. He had a dyno in his shop to test his engine rebuilds. Off hand, I don't remember what the figures were but I suspect you are close on the HP.

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Years ago I remember a British PI modified with a triple SU carburetor intake manifold. It was supposed to be a real rocket. Of course, I've no idea what else was done. They are very understressed engines so I imagine, if one was of a mind to, quite a lot could be done with them.

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5 minutes ago, JV Puleo said:

Years ago I remember a British PI modified with a triple SU carburetor intake manifold. It was supposed to be a real rocket. Of course, I've no idea what else was done. They are very understressed engines so I imagine, if one was of a mind to, quite a lot could be done with them.

 

The late 20s to early 30s was a transitional time for roads.  There was just not a lot of places you needed or could go fast.  My understanding from Ed is that a Phantom 1 with factory gearing is quite comfortable at 45mph but 10 mph more feels like you are pushing.  I'm thinking perhaps the PII's had higher gearing.

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39 minutes ago, alsancle said:

 

The late 20s to early 30s was a transitional time for roads.  There was just not a lot of places you needed or could go fast.  My understanding from Ed is that a Phantom 1 with factory gearing is quite comfortable at 45mph but 10 mph more feels like you are pushing.  I'm thinking perhaps the PII's had higher gearing.

 

The rear axle ratios were varied with a thought to how heavy the body was going to be. They didn't change the rear axle when they were putting sporty bodies on ex-limo chassis so a roadster that was once a limo is going to have a lower top end than one that was built as a roadster. Certainly the PII Continentals were faster than the regular models. They had a "high lift" cam as well although that proved troublesome and I understand that many have been replaced with the regular cam. My own experience would argue that a crusing speed in the neighborhood of 50 or 55 was the comfortable top end but I haven't ridden in one for more than 30 years so my experience is a bit dated. There were three different steering columns as well... the straightest went into chauffeur driven limo - the lowest into roadsters but I particularly remember a rebodied SG roadster that had the limo steering column. It was very uncomfortable to drive.

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Thanks Joe.  That makes a lot of sense.  Did the club or Frank Cooke or anyone else have do a run of high speed rear ends?

 

This picture is of what I assume is a Ghost that was converted to a tow truck by Gus Schumacher.  Prospect Garage eventually was renamed to "Schumacher Motor Service".  I like it because it shows the split tube with chrome straps over the edge of the bed which was a Gus trade market in all his "sprint cars for the street" bodies.

GusSchumacherGhostTowTruck.thumb.jpg.23a1c08740d9175d5b3629667c57a609.jpg

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Very interesting. That could be one of the very first American Ghosts as it still has the British Wheels but the lights look like the American cars. It could also be a much older, pre-WWI Ghost that was updated (as many were) or re-bodied in America. I guess the date of the photo would tell us something. The car had to be old enough to be nearly worthless when the conversion was done. It does look as if it may originally have been an open-drive town car... the roof is awkward looking.

 

I've no memory of high speed gears. Actually, I've no memory of anyone wanting them. Ghosts and PIs have a torque-tube drive and the rear ends are massive. The cost of new  gears may have been prohibitive even 40 years ago. Frank Cooke did fit overdrives to some cars. If I remember correctly, he had an overdrive on his Newmarket convertible and commented that he had no problem with highway speeds although he cautioned potential buyers that it was also essential that the front end and steering be checked and made perfect. Again, I'm recalling conversations that took place nearly 40 years ago so, while I have a good memory, it isn't perfect.

 

I've never heard of a RR rear end or transmission wearing out. I bought the stripped remains of an aluminum head PI from Bills Auto Parts many years ago... the transmission,  rear end and lower half of the engine were completely intact. No one had ever needed them. I'm not sure why I bought it - maybe because I couldn't say no to a RR for $300, even if most of it was missing.

Edited by JV Puleo
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Now you've got me ransacking my drawers. I found this photo. This is William Brewster's car, a late (1926?) LHD Ghost with a 3-speed transmission and an autovac, like the PI, rather than the traditional Ghost air pressure fuel system. It had a PI axle fitted with Westinghouse air brakes and was reputed to have been the test car for those. I can't remember now if it was black or an extremely dark green... so dark that you had to get it in good natural light to tell. What you see here is the original paint... everything on this car was  untouched. Also, it has no side lights. Apparently Mr. Brewster didn't like them. The day after this photo was taken, my friend EA Mowbray drove the car from RI to Williamsburg VA for a RROC meet.

 

As far as I know, it is now in the UK. I've corresponded with two UK owners, a dealer in Wales and the new owner on the Isle of Man. The first one found a receipt under the seat with my friend's name on it and tracked him down via the internet. EAM died about 15 years ago but they found his son, whose desk is about four feet from mine. He was too young at the time to remember much about any of the cars so he passes all those questions on to me.

 

Notice the nice BLACKWALL tires. Mr M used to say that whitewalls made a car look as if it was on roller skates.

 

597fe4d9b6db6_WilliamBrewsterSG.thumb.jpg.7134ddfd69303694349e099d60e34e44.jpg

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)

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RR cars seem to do well without high speed gears. Our P1 is bone stock, and runs out well without any modifications. It will,do highway speeds, but the motor is working harder than I like to run it. I'm not actually worried it will come apart, but I just don't like pushing such great machinery past their sweet spot. Our your runs comfortably at 53-54 mph. Anything more and she communicates back to you if you listen. Since I don't like driving highways, the car seem PERFECT for surface roads, but it's a Rolls, what else would you expect. The PII's are similar with a bunch of overall upgrades. I seem to enjoy the P1 more than the PII's although the PII's have better overall lines.

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That 53-54 mph is what I remember also. I've found PIs a little heavier to steer compared to the Ghosts without front brakes but the actual speed is little different. Even with 4-wheel brakes (and RR brakes are very good when properly adjusted) I would not want to have to stop one in a hurry from 70 mph.

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