1935 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental: The Best Of The Best
Images: Makarand Baokar
Rolls-Royce had, at the time, developed a reputation as the makers of what was supposedly the ‘World’s Best Car’. However, after Bentley won the 24 Hours of Le Mans five times between 1924 and 1930, Sir Henry Royce was charged up enough to decide on developing a ‘sporty’ car to rival the Bentleys.
Based on the Phantom I, four experimental lightweight ‘sports’ Rolls-Royces were made, but it wasn’t until the launch of the Phantom II that a sportier version was put on sale.
Designed to be self-driven over long distances at considerable speed, by a more sporting owner, the Phantom II Continentals were shorter, lighter and markedly quicker than the ‘full size’ Rolls-Royce Phantom IIs that were built to be chauffeur driven. Only 279 of these ‘sporty’ Rolls-Royces found buyers who were willing to pay a hefty premium over the already expensive Phantom IIs. Just six of the Phantom II Continentals found customers in India and only one still remains in the country.
Of the six, two were ordered by the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Umaid Singh, who seemed to have had a penchant for Rolls-Royces, given that he “ordered 18 over two decades,” as pointed out by Rolls-Royce historian André Blaize. The first of the Phantom II Continentals to arrive in Jodhpur, in 1934, was chassis # 15RY, in chassis-mechanical form. In all likelihood, it received the body tub of another Rolls-Royce, a Silver Ghost that the Maharaja owned, with fenders crafted on locally. Taken out of India many years ago, this car featured in the American television series Bring ‘Em Back Alive.
The last of the Phantom II Continentals to come to India though, was this Streamline coupe that you see here. Also from 1935, this car was in fact, the very last of the Continentals built. Chassis # 62UK features sublimely beautiful coachwork from J Gurney Nutting, the most flamboyant amongst the classically staid British coachbuilders of the era. Acknowledged as one of the best of the English stylists during the 1930s, J Gurney Nutting’s chief designer A E ‘Mac’ Macneil drew out a perfectly proportioned coupe that embodied the delightful leitmotif of the coachbuilder’s house style, with superb two-toning that amplified the flowing lines of this gorgeous automobile.
Ordered by the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Umaid Singh, on the 5th of June 1935, the Phantom II Continental was shipped from Birkenhead via the ship “City of Venice'' on the 27th of September 1935, and it was delivered in Bombay on the 18th of October, the same year. From 1935 to 1944 there seems to be not much on record on 62UK. It was in 1944 that the first registration of the car is to be found, whence it shows the car to be registered in the name of the Maharaja of Rewa, Martand Singh.
The car was acquired by a Mr Currim in Bombay sometime in the mid-1950s, who in turn sold the car to H H Jetha in 1962. The Phantom II Continental was used regularly by H H Jetha, and since 2002, by his son, Amir Ali Jetha, who has been driving and maintaining the car. The car “still manages to attract a tremendous amount of attention every time she hits the road,” explains Amir, adding, “The car has been featured in numerous magazines over the past few decades, has won numerous awards at local rallies and even won the second place in its class at the 2008 edition of the Cartier Concours d’ Elegance in Mumbai.”
Since then, the Phantom II Continental has been repainted and the interior has been extensively refurbished twice. In 2009, the car went through its first engine overhaul. The car is in excellent shape and all the subsystems are fully operational. It still runs on the original autovac system (no fuel pump override!). Though the car was invited to participate in the 2012 edition of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in the maharaja class, the car could not be readied in time, as it received, once again, a thorough body-off restoration. But it did make it for the 2018 edition of Pebble Beach, where it won two trophies: the Rolls-Royce and Bentley class and the Lucius Beebe trophy for the most elegant Rolls-Royce. For the Rolls-Royce enthusiast, the Phantom II Continental is regarded as the finest from the pre-war era, and this car is easily one of the finest of the finest.
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