1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Newport Town Car

1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Newport Town Car

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Rolls-Royce’s evolution was exceedingly slow. Between the 1906 introduction of the 40/50 or Silver Ghost and the New Phantom of 1925, only the lower-powered 20-hp could really be called its own model, one new car in 19 years.

 

  • YEAR & MAKE - 1933 Rolls Royce
  • MODEL NAME - Phantom II
  • SERIES - 
  • MODEL/BODY/STYLE NUMBER - Newport
  • BODY TYPE - 4 Door, 5 Passenger Town Car
  • BODY BY - Brewster
  • # CYLS. - Strt. 6
  • TRANSMISSION TYPE & NUMBER - 3 Speed, RWD
  • WEIGHT - 5,000 lbs
  • ESTIMATED PRODUCTION - 18
  • HP - 120
  • C.I.D. - 467.9
  • WHEELBASE - 144.8″
  • PRICE NEW - $12,939
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There was little need to do otherwise. Excellence was Henry Rolls’ guiding principle, as he had already enjoyed success as a manufacturer of top-quality electrical products. His drive for precision extended to motoring, so when he became dissatisfied with the construction of his Decauville, he began to engineer his own, uncompromising automobile.

The first 10-hp 1904 Rolls was an inlet-side overhead exhaust, twin-cylinder design. Four- and six-cylinder models soon followed, all using same the 3.75 x 4-inch bore and stroke of the 10-hp. This very square bore-to-stroke ratio was unusual for the era, and helped to give the marque its unique character. It also proved to be quite durable, and of the Rolls that survived scrappage in World Wars One and Two, the vast majority are still operable.

A new Rolls-Royce, then, was a major undertaking, and not taken lightly. Prior to the May 1925 introduction of the 40-50-h.p. New Phantom, Henry Royce and his staff tested conventional and overhead cam engines in six, eight and twelve cylinders, in a variety of materials, before deciding that the traditional pushrod six-cylinder was still best suited to make quiet, smooth power.

The pace of change was changing at Rolls-Royce, however. They produced the New Phantom, soon called the Phantom I, for only five years before substantially revising the chassis and introducing the Phantom II in early fall of 1929 as a 1930 model.

The PII was to some degree an evolutionary model, sharing the same 7,668-cubic inch engine and basic platform of the Phantom I. However, the inline-six now used a single aluminum head and produced 120hp at 3,500 RPM, a 126% increase from the PI’s 95hp. For the first time, Rolls-Royce now adopted Hotchkiss drive, incorporating clutch and transmission into a single unit. This allowed an open propellor shaft, and required both changes to the chassis and the use of new, underslung semi-elliptic rear leaf springs.

Manufacturing and distribution was also evolving through the 1920s and 1930s, and in 1919 Rolls-Royce opened a factory in Springfield, Massachusetts, producing Silver Ghosts. Soon after, in 1925, Rolls-Royce of America purchased their favorite coachbuilders, New York’s Brewster & Company, ensuring a constant and exclusive supply of bodies from one of the foremost names in the business.

By 1930 the Depression forced the closure of the Springfield factory, and Brewster assumed importation and distribution duties of English Phantom IIs. Unfortunately, over the last 10 years the Springfield factory had developed a suite of modifications for American tastes, including left-hand drive; styling and performance changes; and cold-weather equipment. With sales suffering, Rolls-Royce of America reopened Springfield and ordered 200 new Phantom II chassis.

These 200 cars would be specially built to Springfield’s specifications, and the Derby factory treated them as a complete new model with an entire testing and evaluation program, before delivering the first chassis to America late in 1930. The AJS- and AMS- series Phantom IIs were so successful that many of their improvements were integrated into the regular production cars beginning with chassis JS1. Through 1934, Springfield would only complete 116 of the 200 Phantom IIs they ordered, but with new Brewster styles available and a more refined driving experience, they mark a high point in Prewar Rolls-Royce production.

Beware: Marrying Manville Lives Here

New Yorker Tommy Manville eloped with his first wife in 1911, when he was 17. What did a 28-year-old Zigfeld Girl like Florence Huber see in him? It was apparently true love, because they weren’t getting a dime of Thomas Franklyn Manville, Sr’s $30 million fortune from the Johns-Manville asbestos empire.

In fact, Manville Sr. attempted to have the under-age marriage annulled, and Tommy responded by remarrying Florence in two other states. The “Asbestos King” then told his son he’d stop interfering–provided Tommy was willing to be cut off financially.

Tommy found work at a tire company for $60 a month, “and we thought we were rich,” he told The Chicago Tribune in 1958. And while that marriage lasted 11 years, Florence ultimately disagreed, sued for annulment herself and in 1922 walked out. After a serious dalliance with another Follies girl, Cynthia Cambridge, Tommy married his father’s stenographer, Lois Arlene McCoin, in 1924. Thomas Manville approved of this quiet, sensible woman, but a month later, he was dead.

Tommy Manville inherited $10 million from his father, including a $2 million trust to provide him with spending money for the rest of his life. By 1928, he and Lois divorced amicably, she receiving a $1,000 monthly alimony for the rest of her life. All of Tommy’s wives reportedly received the same settlement, ultimately totalling over $3 million.

In 1931, Tommy Manville, now a prominent New York playboy and part of the set which inspired The Great Gatsby, began a rapid-fire series of showgirl marriages to women later known as the Red Hot Manvilles. One wife, Sonny Ainsworth (#7), lasted seven hours and 45 minutes, and during the four-year hiatus between wives four (Marcelle Edwards) and five (Bonnie Edwards), tabloid reports counted 291 engagements.

The December 18, 1944, LIFE magazine included a feature on the auction of Manville’s mansion Bon Repos, brought about due to a shortage of servants during the War.

Throughout this period, Tommy Manville lived at his $400,000 Bon Repos estate at Premium Point, in New Rochelle in Westchester County, specifically for quick access to Broadway. To get there, Manville bought coachbuilt cars.

While there isn’t a complete record of what he owned, it’s clear he had many fine automobiles and reportedly went through them as liberally as wives (and yachts). Among his known cars were several Packards; a Duesenberg Model J; and at least five Rolls-Royces. Those include a Brewster Super Sport Phantom I Roadster shown at the 1930 New York Auto Show; an Inskip Silver Wraith roadster; a Brewster Croyden Phantom II Convertible; a Brewster Phantom II Henley Roadster; and this Brewster Newport Town Car.

Rolls-Royce Foundation documents show that Manville took delivery of his specially-commissioned Brewster Newport, chassis 249-AJS, at his office in the Helmsley Building on Park Avenue on July 6, 1933, then sold it to Mrs. Charlotte Putnam Wheeler at her summer home, the Dellwood in Locust Valley, Long Island, in 1936.

Mrs. Wheeler, wife of American Can Company executive Frederick Seymour Wheeler, owned the car though 1954, reportedly only using it for “annual trips to New York City for the Opera.” She then sold it to aviation equipment and valve manufacturer Benjamin Monroe Anderson in Houston, Texas. While there is no record of their involvement, the Rolls-Royce was driven to Texas by someone identified as a “the Vanderbilt’s chauffeur,” and Ben Anderson’s daughter Mary Abell remembers there being a monogram on the doors that she always thought was from the Vanderbilts. Much clearer are her later recollections: “We went to all our middle school dances in it,” she said. “He dressed as a chauffeur!”

Mr. Anderson owned several cars, but he was less a collector than an enthusiast. “He loved to tinker with things,” said Mary. “His purpose was to find out how it worked.” Over the course of two or three years, “He took it apart, catalogued it and put it back together.” An unidentified July 9, 1954, newsclipping from Houston’s Rice University Fondren Library says that Ben and his nephew Bill “have been engaged for the past three and a half months in taking the engine apart, cleaning the parts and putting them back in their correct position. Every Saturday afternoon they can be found either lying under the car working in its shadow or “Cadillacing” along the streets of River Oaks.” Mary Abell says that her father’s next car was a 1915 Stanley, “but he never got around to taking it apart.”

Ben Anderson advertised the car for sale almost as soon as he bought it, and after showing it at Hershey in 1954 and locally though 1956, it turns up in the Rolls-Royce Owner’s Club magazine Flying Lady in 1958 with 55,000 miles and a $2,500 price tag. A slight gap appears in the Foundation’s documents, as while he’s not listed as an owner, one O.W. Lyons of Pennsylvania appears with it at the “Guererro School for Rolls-Royce Beginners” in 1963.

By 1974 it has migrated to New Mexico in the care of Alfred C. Dumrose, a well-known Packard collector and Glidden Tour participant who was involved in the uranium recovery project at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. Al Dumrose then sold the car in early 1982 to industrial real estate broker David C. Hvidsten in Tucson, Arizona, who owned it until his unexpected death in 1987. From there, it was acquired by the Imperial Palace collection in Las Vegas and ultimately found a home with Chicago Vintage Motor Carriage through a 1999 auction.

Today, while 249-AJS has been repainted it retains a tremendous degree of originality, and serves as one of the purest examples of the automobiles of Gilded Age New York.