Embrace a Life Less Ordinary Aboard this Yellow Rolls Royce

06 April 2021

There are plenty of stories relating to the more smug aspects of the 'good old days' of Rolls-Royce when it was still under British ownership, from the rigid refusal to reveal horsepower figures to the assertion that 'a Rolls-Royce never breaks down, it only fails to proceed'. But peak pomposity was surely reached with the arrival of the Phantom IV in 1950 that was allegedly available 'only to the British Royal family and heads of state'. As a sales technique it certainly sucked, with a mere 18 being built during the model's six-year production run - one of which was ignominiously pressed into service at the Crewe works as a pick-up truck, with three going to the Spanish dictator General Franco and two to the Shah of Iran. But when the Phantom V arrived in 1956, the order books were opened-up to all sorts of people , even those who didn't have their own countries - an insightful wheeze that pushed output to an average of almost 70 cars a year before the 'Phantom VI' took over in 1968.

Democratising the Rolls-Royce flagship in such a way opened the floodgates to all sorts of odd characters, most famously the Beatle John Lennon who ordered his first Phantom V at the age of 24 in 1964 - inadvertently creating his own version of a 'Black Badge' car more than 50 years before the factory thought of doing so itself. In the autumn of 1966, Lennon was driven to Spain in the Phantom V to shoot the black comedy film How I Won the War - and it came back needing a comprehensive mechanical and cosmetic overhaul, the latter being taken care of with the now-famous custom paint job executed in the style of a gypsy living wagon that helped the car achieve a record $2.2m at Sotheby's in 1985.

The rare James Young-bodied car (just 217 were produced) is on offer with auction house Bellman's as part of a live, online sale ending on April 21 - at the decidedly tempting estimate of just £40,000 - 60,000. As with most Phantom Vs produced, it has a noteworthy history having been completed in 1963 as one of the first 'B' series cars. So it got the twin headlamps and what Rolls-Royce called 'the seven per cent more powerful' engine of the Silver Cloud III' - meaning, at a guess, the 2.5 ton behemoth (that's Imperial tons, of course) has around 220 bhp beneath its majestic bonnet to get it rolling.

In its original, rather more low-key Midnight Blue, the car was displayed on the James Young stand at that year's London Motor Show where the proletariat were able to gaze in awe at its 'push-button door locks', 'curved pattern front and rear screens', 'electrically-powered Triplex division,' front and read radios and - possibly the piece-de-resistance and certainly worthy of individual mention - the spring-assisted lid of its refrigerated boot (not an area that one would go near, of course). Having demonstrated to the great unwashed the exact style in which they would never find themselves travelling, the Motor Show Phantom V was sold to its first owner, one Sir Patrick Hall who, despite having received a knighthood, failed to make much of a mark on the history books - and may, in the words of the late Tory party chief whip Michael Jopling, even have been the sort of chap 'who had to buy his own furniture'.

The car's light history further states only that it subsequently belonged to London's Stirling Motor Company, after which there is a vague claim that it once belonged to the Queen Mother - although she was not well known as a buyer of used cars. The current owner, however, has had the car for 18 years and, as Amy Shore's playful photographs show, has been careful to maintain it correctly. Which is why its decanters were full, its drinking glasses were sparkling and there was a vintage selection of Cohibas in the rear armrest - none of which our millennial models partook of, we might add.

More than anything else, they suggest that this particular Phantom V has a greater story to tell - and if its full ownership history turns out to be half as colourful as its paintwork, it could prove to be a fascinating bargain...

Author - Simon De Burton | Photography - Amy Shore | The full article can be found on Classic Driver - Embrace a life less ordinary aboard this yellow Rolls-Royce | Classic Driver Magazine

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