On the 27th July 2017, a truly British spectacle takes place in the prestigious district of Mayfair in London, often described as the heart of British luxury.
British motoring giants Rolls-Royce will hold an exhibition entitled “The Great Eight Phantoms”, bringing together eight of the most eye-opening Phantom models, stemming back over 90 years. In the weeks leading up to the event, Rolls-Royce will announce which of these beloved, beautiful machines will make an appearance, with many travelling from various parts of the world to gather in the heart of Mayfair. The first chapter in the illustrious history of the Rolls-Royce Phantom tells the story of the Phantom I, owned by beloved actor, dancer and singer, Fred Astaire. The Phantom I is being generously loaned out by its current owners The Petersen Museum, residing in Los Angeles.
The Rolls-Royce was first unveiled to the British public in 1925, and ever since, has witnessed some of history’s most defining moments, from the signings of various treaties to state celebrations, and events which have had an effect on the world as we know it today.
The Rolls-Royce Phantom has served as a chariot to some of the most infamous, influential and powerful men and women to walk the earth, ranging from Liverpool lads The Beatles, who travelled by Phantom to collect their honours at Buckingham Palace. Field-Marshal Montgomery sat behind the wheel of a Rolls-Royce Phantom as he chauffeured British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Dwight D Eisenhower, and a number of A-list actors and actresses who collected their awards at the Oscars.
Rolls-Royce is the longest existing name in the motoring industry, and it’s clear to see why the brand has cemented its legacy at the forefront of British motoring, widely loved by royalty and rock stars alike. In celebration of this longstanding luxury, The Great Eight Phantoms will explore the past seven generations of the Phantom at this ‘once in a lifetime’ experience.
The Rolls-Royce Phantom was kept from the British public, with construction beginning in secret in 1925, where it had been given the ambiguous codename of the ‘Eastern Armoured Car’. Such a name bears connotations of military, and hot off the heels of The First World War, it’s suggested that this was the route Rolls-Royce wanted to travel down, with Lawrence of Arabia serving as an influential figure in the world of wartime vehicles. To throw off curious competitors and their prying eyes, Rolls-Royce deliberately left sections of armour plate lying around the factory floor, as behind closed doors, they built “the best cars in the world.”
Upon its release, the premier Phantom was a global success. It featured a 7.688 litre straight six engine, which breathed new life into the British car industry, putting a fresh spring into its step. The Phantom was put through its paces on the tracks of a training ground in Michigan, opened by General Motors. Here, after two laps of the four-mile circuit, most cars fell apart, with the machine’s demise coming at their big ends, often where the piston attaches to the crankshaft. However, the Phantom effortlessly glided around the Michigan training ground, maintaining a steady pace of 80mph without any forms of failure.
Sir Henry Royce had an unstoppable aspiration to “take the best that exists and make it better”, which soon paved the way for the Phantom II in 1929, which featured a brand-new chassis. This improved the handling of the Phantom, and featured a re-designed engine. The Phantom III came in 1933, however Sir Henry Royce tragically passed away 12 months into its development at the age of 70. The Phantom III was unveiled in 1935, and featured a peerless 12-cylinder engine. The Phantom III was developed between 1936 and the start of the Second World War in 1939, with the final chassis created in 1941. Due to the war, the Phantom III didn’t receive its coachwork until 1947. No announcements would follow for years – it was feared that the Phantom III was another victim of the war.
However, just three years later, the Phantom IV was unveiled, a machine thought to be a one off exclusive for Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth, who we now know as Her Majesty the Queen. However, once witnessed, a further 17 were commissioned by foreign Royal families and heads of state from every corner of the world. With its straight eight engine, the Phantom IV performed remarkably well at low speeds; this was essential for its participation in ceremonial parades and royal events. The Rolls-Royce Phantom IV featured the iconic kneeling version of the infamous Spirit of Ecstasy bonnet mascot.
The Phantom IV’s successor came in the form of the Rolls-Royce Phantom V, produced between 1959 and 1968. The Phantom V proved to be widely successful, with over 500 models made for high profile clientele, including John Lennon and the Queen Mother to name just two.
Between 1968 and 1990, the Phantom VI came into production, serving as a long-running Rolls-Royce Phantom model. In 1977, a raised roof version was presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in celebration of her Silver Jubilee – this celebrated 25 years of Queen Elizabeth II on the throne. The same car was later famously used at the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding.
With the millennium fresh in the minds of Rolls-Royce appreciators everywhere, in 2003, the Rolls-Royce Phantom VII was unveiled. This embodied Rolls-Royce’s renaissance, making its debut on the iconic tracks of Goodwood, West Sussex. It embodied the spirit of its predecessors, both contemporary and timeless in its aesthetic. It was built at the home of Rolls-Royce, and was armed with a 453bhp 6.75-litre V12 engine under the hood, which allowed the Phantom VII to race from 0 to 62mph in 5.9 seconds. It also featured every luxury a driver after the ultimate vehicle could ever want. It was dressed in the finest, most intricate details, with Teflon-coated umbrellas and self-righting wheel centres. It confirmed the Marque, and the Rolls-Royce name, had never been in safer hands, nor lost pace over the years. Production of the Phantom VII lasted thirteen years, before being retired in the closing weeks of 2016.
The Great Eight Phantoms is a beauty pageant like no other, and there may never be another like it. “The Great Eight Phantoms” takes place in Mayfair, London on 27th July.
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