A direct descendant of the Silver Ghost, the Rolls-Royce Phantom I was launched in May 1925. For the most part, the Phantom I chassis was identical to that of its predecessor. It did offer customers two different wheelbase lengths from which to choose: 143.5 inches or 150.5 inches. The Phantom I's transmission was also the same as before, except that the old cone clutch was replaced with a new, single dry-plate clutch-more conducive to smoother operation.

It didn't take long before the new Phantom was subjected to a speed test at Brooklands; the results were not in keeping with the reputation of Rolls-Royce's superior performance. When carrying average open tourer coachwork, timekeepers confirmed that the new model was not capable of a top speed as good as the 1911 London-to-Edinburgh version of the Silver Ghost.

Under strict order from Rolls-Royce designer Ivan Evernden, another tourer body was constructed following his design specifications. Evernden did not compromise on quality, but neither did he hesitate to design a lightened body. On another test at Brooklands, Rolls-Royce achieved success, with the Evernden lightweight exceeding 89 mph.

When Rolls-Royce purchased the American coachbuilder Brewster and Company in 1926, not only was the British company assured of the high-quality bodies for which Brewster was known, but Rolls-Royce was able to apply the lessons learned in designing lightweight coachwork. The result was what many feel were the most striking bodies ever installed on Rolls-Royce chassis, with performance to match.

The Ascot phaeton, as fitted to S364LR, has proven to be one of the most exquisite designs of the classic era. Its finely crafted lines, accented with polished aluminum beltlines, combine with the graceful 21" wire wheels to make this one of the most stylish phaetons of the era. Only 21 Ascot Phaetons were built, and this example is one of those original cars.

Built for A.E. Bell, founder and owner of the Bel Aire Hotel in Los Angeles, S364LR was eventually sold to famous NBC announcer Dave Garroway of Chicago. It ended up in the well-known collection of Richard Kughn, who restored the car to concours condition. The seller purchased the car from Mr. Kughn almost ten years ago. Finished in black livery with biscuit interior, it remains in high-point condition and is also in excellent mechanical condition.

SCM Analysis


This car sold for $165,770, including premium, at the RM Meadow Brook Hall auction in Rochester, Michigan on August 5, 2000. The sale price was just above the high estimate of $160,000.

A glance through the Rolls-Royce Owners Club roster reveals that 15 Ascots are owned by members of that organization, ostensibly giving this body style a most impressive survival rate. But things aren’t always what they seem, especially in the realm of car collecting. It’s a fact that a number of Ascots seen today began life with other coachwork. For instance, twenty years ago I owned a Phantom I, chassis number S254FP, that had the sorry remains of a tall and ugly body clinging tenuously to the chassis. I sold the car to a collector who had it restored using an excellent replica Ascot phaeton body built by a well-respected Rolls specialist.

There’s an old canard about Springfield-built Rolls-Royces that ought to be laid to rest permanently. For years these cars have been knocked by some collectors as not being quite as good as the Derby products. Nothing specific is ever brought up, just this vague condemnation. In my experience this is, to put it politely, hogwash. Brewster bodies are equal, if not superior, to most English coachwork. Certainly their designs are much more pleasing to the eye than many British efforts. Let’s not forget, too, that the Springfield Phantom Is were equipped with Bijur one-shot lubricating systems, disposable oil filters, carburetor air cleaners, and thermostatic radiator shutters long before they appeared on the English products.

The Phantom Is, like the Silver Ghosts before them, were built to last the ages with materials and workmanship of impeccable quality. But some of them do have an Achilles heel. From 1929 to 1931 the Phantoms used aluminum cylinder heads and over the years electrolysis has taken its toll on them. The earlier Phantoms used an iron head and consequently do not suffer from this very costly problem. Excellent new heads made of modern aluminum are available to owners and restorers, however. One quick way to tell if you’re looking at a car with an aluminum head: these cars have their spark plugs on both sides of the head while the earlier iron-head cars have them firing on one side only.

At the time SCM reported on this car’s sale, we stated it was “unlikely to appreciate in the near future.” This still holds true in our opinion, but at the price level this car sold for it seems positively cheap in view of the style, quality, superb restoration, and international esteem these automobiles enjoy. When you also consider that this is a “real” Ascot as opposed to the modern rebodies that have been built up during the past 25 years, the car seems an even better buy.

An Ascot-bodied Rolls is not so much a car to invest in as a car to own for its own sake, because they are the finest and most handsome expression of the Classic American Rolls-Royce.-Dave Brownell

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