The black Phantom I pictured here has chassis number S381LR and was constructed by Rolls-Royce of America, Inc. in Springfield, Massachusetts. It received a body by Brewster & Company in Long Island City, New York. Its sports roadster body was the most expensive style offered for the Phantom chassis. The body number 5599 indicates that this was the first of five such bodies produced.
This car was originally delivered new to T.F. Manville Jr. on September 19, 1930. Mr. Manville, known to all as Tommy, was the heir to the $20 million Johns-Manville asbestos fortune and was a much-publicized Manhattan socialite and playboy. During his lifetime, he was married 13 separate times to 11 different women and his predilections, off-color remarks, drinking habits and wealth made him a minor celebrity in his day. He was even the subject of an Irving Berlin song and a Jackie Curtis musical.
Mr. Manville paid nearly $18,000 to acquire this car. His trust stipulated that, when he married, he would receive approximately $250,000. Clearly, he was capable of such extravagances.
As could be expected of a man with so many passing interests, Mr. Manville sold this York Roadster less than a year after purchasing it; however, his time with the car outlasted three of his marriages! Throughout the 1930s, the York remained in the care of Frank Levinsohn of 65 Central Park West. From the 1940s until the 1960s, the car had a handful of owners, many of whom had the car serviced by Rolls-Royce.
In early 1962, the car came to the attention of Mr. William M. Davis of West Virginia, now one of the foremost Rolls-Royce authorities in the country and a longtime judge at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. The York Roadster was purchased in February from an abattoir owner named Mr. Bucher. Mr. Davis recalled driving the York Roadster from West Virginia to Indianapolis, where it was placed on the showroom floor of the Schaler & Waters Rolls-Royce agency with a "sold" sign in the hopes of generating traffic. By 1965, the car was entrusted to Ned Hermann Sr. of Hermann's Vintage Auto Shop in Cincinnati, Ohio, where a complete ground-up restoration was undertaken. The restoration was finished in 1966 and was immediately shown at the RROC National Meet. During its first outing, the York won an award. After the car was returned to Hermann for final adjustments and fine-tuning, shown at Hershey that October. Once again, it earned an award.
Throughout Mr. Davis' ownership, the York Roadster continued to win trophies: a First Place in the PI class at the Goodwood Rolls-Royce Pageant, a First Place at a 1967 CCCA Grand Classic, an award for the Best Pre-War Rolls-Royce at the 1970 RROC National Meet, a First Place at the 1972 AACA Hershey Meet and First in Class at the 1982 Meadow Brook Hall Concours d'Elegance.
In the late 1980s, Mr. Davis reluctantly sold the York Roadster to its current caretaker who has continued to treasure this important Rolls-Royce. Since then, the York has always been entrusted to noted Rolls-Royce specialist Rick Hamlin. Mr. Hamlin has ensured that the car is regularly exercised, meticulously maintained and highly original. On a recent test drive, he confirmed that the car performed beautifully in every respect: the engine is smooth and strong, the transmission is precise, the steering is light and the brakes perform exceptionally well. Although the paint has not been touched since Mr. Davis had the car restored, a marque expert recently restored the interior as it was beginning to show its age.
Under its current ownership, the car was shown at Pebble Beach in 1992. As recently as 2009, this spectacular car was awarded the Breitling Award for timeless beauty at the Amelia Island Concours d?Elegance.
Of the five original York Roadsters, only four exist today. Two reside within two of the country's most impressive collections from which it is unlikely that they will depart anytime in the near future. The third example is not this car's equal.
Text: Gooding & Co.
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