Rolls-Royce Limited was an English car and, later, aero-engine manufacturing company founded by Henry Royce and Charles Stewart Rolls in 1906 and was the result of a partnership formed in 1904. In 1884, Royce started an electrical and mechanical business. He made his first car, a "Royce", in his Manchester factory in 1904. He was introduced to Rollsin Manchester in that year, and the pair agreed to a deal where Royce would manufacture cars, to be sold exclusively by Rolls. A clause was added to the contract stipulating the cars would be called "Rolls-Royce". The company was formed in 1906, and moved to Derby in 1908.
The Silver Ghost (1906-1925) was responsible for the company's early reputation. It had a 6-cylinder engine; 6173 cars were built. In 1921, the company opened a second factory in Springfield, MA to help meet US demand, where a further 1701 "Springfield Ghosts" were built. This factory operated for 10 years, closing in 1931. Its chassis was used as a basis for the first British armoured car used in both World Wars.In 1931, the company acquired rival car makerBentley, whose finances were unable to weather the Great Depression. From then until 2002, Bentley and Rolls-Royce cars were often identical apart from the radiator grille and minor details.Rolls-Royce and Bentley car production moved to Crewe in 1946, and also to Mulliner Park Ward, London, in 1959, as the company started to build bodies for its cars for the first time: previously it had built only the chassis, leaving the bodies to specialist coachbuilders.
The Phantom was the replacement for the original Ghost. Like the famed Ghost, the Phantom was constructed both in the UK and US, with the US model trailing the UK by one year on introduction and two in replacement.One major improvement over the Silver Ghost was the new pushrod OHV Straight 6 engine. Constructed, as was state of the art at the time, as three groups of two cylinders with detachable heads, the large engine produced excellent power to pull the large heavy car. The engine used a 4¼ in bore and long 5½ in stroke for a total of 7.7 L of displacement. Aluminum was substituted for cast iron in the cylinder heads in 1928. Semi-elliptical springs suspended the front, while cantilever springs were used in the rear. 4-wheel servo-assisted brakes were also specified, though some initial US models lacked front brakes.
Differences between the US and UK models included available wheelbases— both were specified with the same 143½ in base length, but the UK long-wheelbase model was longer at 150½ than the 146½ in American version. Other differences included the transmission, with UK models using a 4-speed and US models using a 3-speed, both with a single dry-plate clutch.
UK models were built at Rolls' Derby factory, while US Phantoms were built in Springfield, Mass. 2269 PI's were produced in Derby and 1243 in Springfield.
Two American designers, Thomas L Hibbard and Raymond H Dietrich had met while working for Brewster. Tiring of the corporate environment they started freelance work in their spare time and when William H Brewster discovered this he fired Dietrich and Hibbard left. They decided to set up on their own and formed a new company and called it LeBaron after a family friend. LeBaron did not build car bodies, they sold designs. Fellow designer, Howard "Dutch" Darrin met Tom Hibbard in 1923. Hibbard by this time had left LeBaron and the two decided to go to Paris, initially to try to sell LeBaron designs but instead decided to set up their own company and founded Hibbard & Darrin.Over the next few years they built innovatively styled bodies on many of Europe's most prestigious chassis but the partnership ended in 1931 when Hibbard returned to the USA to take up a position in GM's design department. One innovation they pioneered is the "Sylentlyte" body building method derived in part from Rail Cars. This utilized cast aluminum as a primary structure as opposed to the wooden frames used commonly from the days of carraige building until all metal bodies started appearing in the mid 30's.
Chassis #79 OR utilized the Sylentlyte body technique on the longest Chassis, this car was among the most expensive cars of its time. The Sylentlyte technique uses cast aluminum for the body structure instead of the traditional wood framing, and was exclusive to Hibbard and Darrin at the time. The car has a known history and is accompanied by a wealth of Documentation including Service records, manuals, letters from Thomas Hibbard, Build Sheet, and more. The car runs and drives as a Rolls should and has a top speed of 90 MPH which is amazing given its weight of 5880 lbs. Recently refinished in a stunning color combination by one of the midwests leading restoration shops, the car is show ready and will be most welcome at the most important Concours in the World. It has not been shown for some time.
What strikes us most about the car is the effort Hibbard & Darrin went to to make this car appear more like a Convertible Sedan than a Town Car. The Front seat windows have the hinged chrome flap that covers the window when open, which would later become one of the Hallmarks of Dietrich bodied cars. All the window treatment reads more like a Convertible Sedan, and the large landau bars perfectly complete the effect. The car is referred to in the delivery sheet as an "Imperial False Cabriolet" a fitting title if there ever was one.
This stunning and elegant car is clearly one of the most important PI's in existence and is a true Work of Art.