No.9: Rolls Royce Phantom 1 (1925)
By 1925 Rolls-Royce's Silver Ghost, with it's side valve engine, was getting a little long in the tooth, and after 18 years it was time for a new model.
Competition in the luxury car market was intense, and so the new model was developed in the utmost secrecy. To try and throw competitors off the scent it was named the 'Easter Armoured Car'; prototypes even had metal plating attached whenever it came out into view. However rumours abounded and when it was finally unveiled in 1925 it met with near universal acclaim.
The engine was a straight six cylinder set up with a single cast-iron cylinder head. Power output was quoted by Rolls-Royce as 'sufficient' but a more scientific estimate put it at 108 brake horsepower. Either way the car was capable of about 90 mph.
Improvements included a windup window for the chauffeur, a glass panel between this person and the passengers, and a telephone intercom between them. To stop the car more efficiently a servo assisted braking system, which was licensed from Hispano-Suiza, was fitted to all four wheels.
As usual, Rolls-Royce produced only the basic engine, mechanical bits and chassis, with the bodywork being provided to the buyers' specifications by a number of specialist coachbuilders. Cars were built in both Derby for the UK market, and Springfield Massachusetts for the American market.
Magnificent though this car was, we have to remember this was 1925. It had faults, although Rolls-Royce would never admit it.
The chassis was nearly identical to the one on the old Silver ghost; roadholding and smoothness could've been better. Maintenance must have been a nightmare for the poor chauffeur; the UK version had 50 lubrication points which needed attention with a pressure gun at around 500 mile intervals, whilst the USA version had just one point, from which all of them could be lubricated simultaneously. There was a four speed transmission for UK clients, but three speed only for the Americans. No doubt there were good reasons for this difference but it didn't seem to be a problem since the engine developed such a huge amount of torque that it was quite happy in higher gears at low speed anyway.
A major problem surfaced in 1928, however, when the cast-iron cylinder head was replaced by an aluminium one. The electrolytic action between the two dissimilar metals cause considerable corrosion problems. These are still causing issues for current owners of these cars. Nevertheless, at the time, the Phantom was universally reckoned to be amongst the best cars in the world. Some may disagree of course!