alsancle

American Rolls Royce (Ghost, PI & PII)

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Working on the PII last week, needed a few small items, and we had to make them. Brake light switch and a Bakelite part for the chassis was broken. I am going to make two extras of each in case someone else needs them in the future. 

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Invented in 1907 and made in both the US and the UK. The original patents ran out in 1927, at which point anyone could manufacture it. It actually seems quite similar to the "hard rubber" that daguerreotype cases were made of although I think it is much stronger. I think it was Westinghouse that had the idea of combining it, under extreme pressure, with linen or paper to produce a machinable phenolic resin material.

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A little late to the conversation....

 

Here is my car. 1927 Springfield Phantom I Tilbury Sedan, S274RM. This car was bought new by a member of the Vanderbilt family in NYC and sold to Al Fisk (Fisk Iron Works in Cincinnati and early RROC member) and later to David Noran. I have driven the car about 13,000 miles since 2003. When I bought it, it had about 87K original miles and the next trip out will probably make the speedometer go back to 00000. These cars take a lot of sorting out-more than most 1927 American cars-but after they are well sorted out, they are great drivers. 55 mph is no problem and the engine does not overwind at this speed. This car is mostly original with the exception of a 1960s repaint by Fisk. Although I have done a lot of mechanical work to it, it has not been apart. It has been driven hard and often during my ownership. I just love these cars. Understated elegance when they are properly presented..

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Edited by motoringicons (see edit history)
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All the Springfield cars are terrific machines. Many people look past the Springfield Ghost. BIG mistake. I think a Springfield Ghost may be the best dollar value you can get in the old car hobby today. I see open Ghosts selling for very reasonable money the last few years. I predict in the near future the next generation of collectors will figure these cars out, and they will be much harder to acquire. The more I drive our P1, the better I like it, I I was a huge fan for the past 35 years. With lots of sorting and tweaking they are a pure joy to drive when right. Most of them I have driven are not sorted, and thus stiff and unresponsive. Ed

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I have to agree with Ed in this. Personally, the nicest Springfield RR cars I've driven were unrestored Ghosts in excellent condition, notably the William Brewster car above and S111BG, the Permanent Salamanca that was used in the Robert Redford Great Gatsby movie. S11BG didn't have front brakes and was noticeably lighter handling than any  PI. Were I to have my choice, I'd want a RHD Springfield Ghost with a closed body, though the likelihood of my ever being able to afford such a car is close to nil.

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)

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On 8/1/2017 at 8:56 PM, alsancle said:

Walt or Joe,  can you explain the differences in the heads?  I assume the later heads were an improvement?  Were there cracking issues with the aluminum?

 

Ed,  bring your Duesenberg stuff over to the Duesenberg thread and don't pollute the good thing we have going here!

The issue with the Aluminum heads seems to not as much cracking of the heads as porosity of the aluminum.  My understanding was they treated the heads with build linseed oil (or some other sealer) and when that came into contact with alcohol based anti-freezes (and time) it ate the coating.  If you pick up an issue of RROC - issue 52-4 August 1952, the problem had become quite apparent by that point. 

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On 8/6/2017 at 7:59 AM, alsancle said:

Ed,  they were using Bakelite in 1931??  I always thought of that as more of mid 30s sort of material.

Plenty of Bakelite on a RR of even 1929 (and readily used in most cars of same period). 

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On 8/8/2017 at 5:13 PM, motoringicons said:

A little late to the conversation....

 

Here is my car. 1927 Springfield Phantom I Tilbury Sedan, S274RM. This car was bought new by a member of the Vanderbilt family in NYC and sold to Al Fisk (Fisk Iron Works in Cincinnati and early RROC member) and later to David Noran. I have driven the car about 13,000 miles since 2003. When I bought it, it had about 87K original miles and the next trip out will probably make the speedometer go back to 00000. These cars take a lot of sorting out-more than most 1927 American cars-but after they are well sorted out, they are great drivers. 55 mph is no problem and the engine does not overwind at this speed. This car is mostly original with the exception of a 1960s repaint by Fisk. Although I have done a lot of mechanical work to it, it has not been apart. It has been driven hard and often during my ownership. I just love these cars. Understated elegance when they are properly presented..

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I have Al Fisk's RROC publications, some of his tools, and ...., plus a variety of things from Ned Hermann and ..... (carted them around for years for the following reason).

 

This came in late June:  A 1932 Springfield PI "Dover Sedan" L Series Car.  Everyone who has seen it in the garage says it is the one of the best looking sedans they have seen from the early 30's.   It has been a pleasure to work on as it has lived its whole life in Garage Mahals.  It was restored by my Mom's cousin (quasi Uncle) in 1971, or so (high quality and holding up well) and received considerable upgrading and engine work, including new Frank Cook Cylinder Head and ... in 1998.

 

Sorry for the bad photo - It had not been run in a while, so it went directly from Flatbead to the back corner of the garage next to the workbench - not a car you take a chance with just starting it up (it has taken 100's hours of prep work).   Have only driven inside the garage - I am still waiting on my gasoline tank to get finished.  I will update.

 

As to its engineering:  In a different way, perhaps the only thing more sophisticated/complicated from the early 1930's is a Duesenberg.  And, you have to resort to:  This is going to take a long time and quite possibly every tool in the toolbox. 

 

By the way:  I could use two more 700 x 20 Denman Whitewalls for the sidemounts.  Contact me:  johnmereness@aol.com   There are 4 that never saw ground until June when I took car off jackstands and the wheels are high point painted with chrome lock rings - and I would prefer to fit two into sidemounts verses changing all 6 (hate repainting 6 wheels).  All being said, I am getting close to a new set of six BF Goodrich - my tire wanted ads have drawn countless scammers out of the woodwork - including one who got to go to jail for it (their email was being monitored and ....).  

 

 

 

 

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Edited by John_Mereness (see edit history)
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3 minutes ago, motoringicons said:

John- Great looking PI. I was a pleasure visiting and talking PIs with you at the St. John's concours. Good luck getting yours back on the road.

Great talking with you too and thank you for all the time !

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On 8/5/2017 at 0:10 PM, edinmass said:

Working on the PII last week, needed a few small items, and we had to make them. Brake light switch and a Bakelite part for the chassis was broken. I am going to make two extras of each in case someone else needs them in the future. 

IMG_4881.JPG

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I have been repairing with 3M panel Adhesive (the material they use to glue sheet metal together in autobody repair) - it is not quite quite black, but it incredibly strong (comes in a 4- 24 hour dry and a 90 seconds and have used both).

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If it were the mid 1920's,  and I wanted the best driving (and possibly the fastest super-luxury) car,  no question...I'd want a Springfield P 1. 

 

Think about it - in that era, the typical Packard, Lincoln, Cadillac, etc...were all around 380 cubic inches,  "flat-heads".  The Phantom I was nearly 100 cubic inches larger, combined with a much freer breathing "cross-flow" cyl. head, in a car about the same weight for any given body style.

 

True, some Rolls of that era suffered the same crippling low rear axle ratios of other cars.  Understandable, considering the roads of that era.   But some Rolls had hi speed ( meaning lower numerically) rear axle ratios.    These could be cruised at much higher road speeds thanks to their slower-turning motors.

 

Yes, I am partial to a "Springfield".    With an American transmission, wheels, etc,  superb drivers compared to the awkward English ones.

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I wonder if those are the fantastically rare, optional stainless steel wire wheels? Years ago my friend EA Mowbray would go out early Sunday morning to get the NY Times and read the "cars for sale" ads. One morning he saw an ad for an unrestored PI "sedan" so we made a mad dash  to southern Connecticut, hoping to get there before anyone else reacted to the ad. It was a PI Avon (one of the best looking sedans) in fairly rough  condition although nowhere near as rough as it looked. There were no spare wheels, but on the ground it had the Buffalo stainless steel wheels. Mr. M bought the car and about a week later got a phone call from another RR collector who offered him a restored set of 6 Buffalo wheels and slightly more money than he had paid for the whole car!

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)

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I had a conversation with the owner at Carmel on the Pebble Beach road tour. He confirmed they were stainless. It's a very nice car. On the way out of the show we followed him out the back way to avoid the hours long traffic jam, and the car went along very well. It's one of my favorite PI body styles.  This car has the exposed hinges, several of the first ones did not. There are also several Reproduction bodies built in the 1980's that were well done. Ed

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Joe,  these days anybody can get Buffalo wires restored with stainless spokes and chrome rims.   I would imagine there are more than a few cars out there with this treatment.   How many originally had them is a different question.

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I've no idea how many were sold originally, but the number must have been very small. I'd think they might have been seen as too flashy for the average RR customer and I expect they were frightfully expensive, even then - so much so that I doubt they were ever added to the rebodied cars. Of course, the originals had stainless rims and hubs while "faking them" would call for plating the rims and hubs. I do not know if plated wheels were offered, but I think not. I was reacting to the color, which is softer than chrome and much closer to nickel in its appearance though not the same as that either. Of course. making that guess from a photo is a risk but that's why I asked if they could be...

 

I have seen chrome plated wheels on PIs... they look out of place to me, especially when combined with the infamous WW tires. Also, RR didn't introuduce chrome plating until 1929. My PI was one of the first. They had chrome plated the radiator and it did not stick well. Had I kept the car, I'd have polished it all off (easy enough as most of it was falling off in any case).

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They were, at least until their secret process stainless called "Stay Bright" came into use. I think that was on the PII. No American-built RRs had Stay Bright radiator shells. My radiator was plated over the german silver which I suspect is why it adhered poorly. I'd have been suspicious of it were it not that I knew the car had been purchased by a Princeton undergraduate around 1948 (for something like $100). He took it apart around 1955 in the family barn and it was delivered directly from that barn to me, the engine apart and complete with a dead rat in the sump.

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1 hour ago, JV Puleo said:

They were, at least until their secret process stainless called "Stay Bright" came into use. I think that was on the PII. No American-built RRs had Stay Bright radiator shells. My radiator was plated over the german silver which I suspect is why it adhered poorly. I'd have been suspicious of it were it not that I knew the car had been purchased by a Princeton undergraduate around 1948 (for something like $100). He took it apart around 1955 in the family barn and it was delivered directly from that barn to me, the engine apart and complete with a dead rat in the sump.

A later PI Springfield has a chromium plated grill shell - that is also removable cover over the radiator verses being the actual tank for the radiator and I assume German Silver is the base metal.  These radiators are quote "taller" than the earlier radiators via dropping down into the splash pan area.

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I wasn't aware of that. I am certain that, at least on my car, it was the actual tank that was plated, but it was one of the very first cars with a plated radiator. Somewhere I've seen a mention of the chassis number the plating started with but it has been so long since I was involved with RRs that I've quite forgotten where. I still have all my books and manuals but would have to dig them out and go through them. It may be in the "PI Service Sheets" published by the RROC back in the 1970s.

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I know it's not American but my English 1931 PII Continental was built with "All Fittings to be Stay Bright" according to the build sheet.   This included the radiator and the wheels however the service sheets revel that it was returned to the factory after about 12 months and the wheels were replaced with standard Dunlop wire wheels.  The research that I have done on this seems to show that they had problems with the wheels cracking and most, if not all were recalled. 

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