1931 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Merlin Special

Chassis 64GX left Crewe as a standard Phantom II saloon, but in the late 1970s, Rolls-Royce collector Nicholas Harley of London decided to create a showcase of British engineering might. The restoration that ensued spanned approximately seven years, during which time the Phantom II frame was lengthened, reinforced and fitted with this lovely Gurney Nutting-inspired body constructed by Wilkinson’s of Derby, and a 27-liter Mk I Merlin V12 engine was fitted, fed by two fuel pumps delivering 100 gallons per hour.

Upon completion, the aero-powered Phantom II was tested at Donington Park, where is was pitted against a 1958 Vanwall Grand Prix car-amazingly, the Rolls-Royce out-accelerated the racing car. In the 1990s, the Rolls-Royce made its way Stateside and, in 2000, it was sold to a well-known Florida collector.

In 2007, this car was acquired by its current owner, who has since embarked upon a mechanical overhaul. When the car was first constructed, the tremendous torque and power caused transmission and clutch issues, so during the mechanical overhaul, the transmission was converted to a Jaguar unit with high-strength gears. In addition, the Merlin engine was tested and tuned.

In 2008, following its meticulous rebuild, the Rolls-Royce was invited to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it was displayed alongside a number of 20-plus-liter automobiles, earning the Rolls-Royce a class award. The Merlin remains in exceptional condition. Beyond its remarkable engine bay, one of the most evocative aspects of this car is its overwhelming instrument panel, which would not look out of place in a Spitfire airplane.

Unlike other examples of aero-engined automobiles, this Rolls-Royce stands apart in its impressive presentation and loyalty to original details. This Merlin-powered Phantom II is ready to draw crowds wherever it goes, and its new owner should be capable of experiencing the unbelievable feeling of piloting a WWII-era fighter plane down the road.

Simon Kidston

Simon Kidston - SCM Editor at Large

Simon is from an old British motor-racing family. He started his career at Coys, leaving to co-found Bonhams Europe in Geneva. Over the next decade, he staged high-profile auctions around the world, branching out on his own in 2006 to found Kidston SA, a consultancy responsible for some of the larger deals you rarely hear about. Simon also judges at Pebble Beach and is “the voice” of the Villa d’Este Concours and the Mille Miglia.

Posted in English