When most people think of what a classic Pre-War Rolls-Royce is suppose to be, the image is of a chauffeur-driven sedan unhurriedly and gracefully transporting its owner to and from the county club. This may have been the case in many instances, but some Rolls owners not only wanted to drive their own cars, but they wanted to drive them fast. The Phantom ll models introduced in 1929 would provide Rolls-Royce with a perfect platform to create a high-performance car for their wealthy clientele. Enter the Phantom ll Continental.
The Phantom ll uses a 468 cubic inch inline 6 engine rated at 120 horsepower, shifted through a 4-speed synchromesh transmission that bolts directly to the engine block. Phantoms were available in two wheelbase lengths – 144” and 150”. First introduced in 1930, Phantom Continentals were all made on the shorter 144” chassis. Special features of the Continental included stiffer rear springs, a higher axle ratio and a lowered steering column. Of the 1,678 Phantoms II cars produced between 1929 and 1936, less than 300 were Continentals, and only a handful had Kellner coachwork like this car.
The car featured here is a 1934 Phantom ll Continental Three-Position Cabriolet with coachwork by Kellner. At the time it was common practice for Rolls-Royce and other high-end car companies to have bodies supplied by a variety of independent coach builders. The Kellner company began business in 1861 building carriages in Paris, and was a family run business until 1942 when Jacques Kellner was killed by the Nazis, and never reopened. Kellner started producing car bodies in 1903, and their coachwork can be found on some of the great cars of the classic era such as Bentley, Hispano-Suiza, Bugatti, Renault and Locomobile.
This example was delivered new to Mr. Edward Blawl of St Cloud, France in May, 1934. It survived World War ll, and was sold to a buyer in England in 1946, and sold again in 1951. This classic found its way to the United States in 1956. It had long term ownership and was driven rarely until it was acquired by a collector who treated it to a full restoration in the late 1980’s. The high quality restoration earned it the prestigious Gwenn Graham Award for Most Elegant Open Car at the 1990 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It went on to take Best of Show at both the Chicago International Concours d’Elegance and at the Fisher Island Concours d’Elegance in 1991.
It is an exceptional car even now, more than 25 years after it was restored. Driving it is truly a pleasure. The car feels so tight, solid and responsive, it is hard to believe it was made in 1934. The style and grace of this classic is timeless. The next chapter of this elegant machine’s history will be written later this month when it goes across the auction block at the Barrett-Jackson sale in Scottsdale, Arizona.