1931 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Huntington Limousine
Coachwork by Brewster
Chassis No. 252AJS
Engine No. E75B
Body No. 7380
40/50 hp, 7,668 cc ohv six-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, solid front axle and underslung live rear axle, both with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel servo-assisted mechanical brakes. Wheelbase: 150 in.
Rolls-Royce had an early presence in America. C.S. Rolls brought three cars to New York’s Empire City race track in 1906. A depot was set up in 1914 with Brewster & Co., the coachbuilders, beginning a long association of the two firms.
In 1919, business was sufficient that Rolls-Royce of America, Inc., was founded at Springfield, Massachusetts. The first product was the Silver Ghost, all but identical to the British-built model, but over time changes were made to suit the New World market: left-hand steering, radiator shutters for the colder climate, softer suspension and a center-change three-speed transmission.
As they had with the Silver Ghost, Rolls-Royce adapted the Phantom I to the U.S. market, albeit a more complicated task due to the new chassis. It was 1927, two years after the model had debuted in Britain, before the American Phantom was available. With it came a few features not available in Britain: Bijur central lubrication, a disposable oil filter, carburetor air filter and thermostatically-controlled shutters on the radiator. By 1931, however, the Depression was taking its toll in the United States and sales dropped off dramatically.
There was still a stalwart constituency, albeit small. In Britain the Phantom II had gone into production in September 1929. This was Henry Royce’s last design – he died in April 1933. It differed from its predecessor both in appearance and in its chassis, although the overhead-valve 7,668 cc engine remained much the same. The Phantom I’s cantilever rear springs were replaced by semi-elliptics, and the chassis rode much lower. The transmission was now mounted directly to the engine, but retained right-hand gear change; synchromesh gears were introduced for the top two speeds. Central chassis lubrication, first used in America, was adopted
Conditions did not favor PII assembly in the States. Instead, left-hand drive chassis were built in England and shipped to Springfield. Between 1931 and 1934, 125 left-drive units were dispatched, 116 to the United States, three to Canada and a further six to Europe. They were given chassis numbers with the suffixes AJS and AMS, the “A” for “American” and “S” for Springfield. Thereafter, all Rolls-Royce cars for America were supplied from England and, until after World War II, were right-hand drive.
Company records show that chassis 252AJS was ordered by Springfield on February 8, 1930. It was not shipped until August 25, 1931, but had been specified from the beginning for a Huntington Limousine body, a style specific to Brewster, which Rolls-Royce had purchased in 1925 and subsequently branded as Rolls-Royce Custom Coachwork. The chassis was landed in New York on August 29th.
Business in New York was hardly brisk. It was not until November 23, 1932, that chassis 252AJS with its Huntington Limousine body was delivered to Miss Susan Alfreda Cox of South Orange, New Jersey, and New York City. The daughter of Mark Thomas Cox, a partner in the banking and brokerage firm Robert Winthrop &. Co., she never married and became known as a philanthropist to many favored causes. She maintained her New York apartment at 40 Fifth Avenue, a prestigious high-rise co-op building in Greenwich Village. It remains an iconic address today. Miss Cox died in Connecticut in 1964.
252AJS, however, had been traded in to Rolls-Royce and was resold to Herbert L. Laughlin of Westmoreland, New Hampshire, in 1948. Subsequent owners are recorded in California, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and even Fairbanks, Alaska.
A previous owner undertook a mechanical restoration in 2000, receipts for which accompany the car. They show a complete engine rebuild, including ancillaries and the Autovac fuel system. The thermostatic shutters work perfectly. A new exhaust system and hotspot were installed, the wheels restored and balanced with new tires, and a second tail lamp and turn signals were added. A new head was sourced from Ristes Motor Company in the UK, Coldwell Engineering did the blocks and other associated work, R.P. Reid (Bensport) rebuilt the carburetor, Mark’s Carburetor and Magneto Service in Minnesota did the magneto. The hot spot was done by Ken Britten, water pump by Sam Rawlins, Dennison Motors the slipper. Dick Frawley’s restoration company in Parkesburg, Pennsylvania, performed the tear down and reassembly, including setting up the shutters. Some of the chassis work, springs, pins, rewiring and addition of turn signals, was done by Gardner Restorations.
The paint and upholstery are believed to be original. The front leather shows some wear and there is moth damage in the rear, but it is still very serviceable. The fuel gauge is not working but appears to have been rebuilt when the tank was refurbished. Springs and pins were rebuilt and new gaiters have recently been installed.
This car is ready for a transcontinental tour, will climb any hill in fourth gear, and will always get you home.