The Queen And The Phantom ‘PGH 116’

Images: Yohan Poonawalla, Mohammed Luqman Ali Khan, Svenska Dagbladet

Leaving behind a strong and lasting legacy, including automotive, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II died on Thursday, 8th of September 2022, at the age of 96. I was in the USA when news of her sudden demise broke. Incidentally, I was scheduled to leave Florida for London that same evening, so I rushed to the Orlando airport to ensure I do not miss my Virgin Atlantic flight.

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At the Blenheim Palace

Expectedly, it was an overbooked flight full of mourners wanting to reach UK soonest to pay their final tributes. Arriving in London the following day, on Friday the 9th of September 2022, one could sense the gloom and hush in the atmosphere, and the messages flashing on London Heathrow’s display screens reminded all of the somber national mood that was prevalent in the UK in the lead up to the state funeral which was planned after days of national mourning.

Upon reaching my hotel, I dropped off my luggage and headed straight to Buckingham Palace to pay my final respects. I walked through a smoggy Park Lane and Mayfair smelling the gunpowder raining down as a result of the thunderously loud 96-gun salute from cannonballs fired in the Hyde Park at exactly 1 pm.

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Departing in style during Grand Parade at Hampton Court

I walked across Green Park and finally reached the gates of Buckingham Palace to pay my final tribute to an icon of stability, grace, service and dedication. I witnessed first-hand the countless grievers that thronged the palace’s gates and I felt the pall of gloom that had descended.

On a separate note, it was a historic day when the previously HRH Prince of Wales, entered the Buckingham Palace for the first time as the new monarch, as His Majesty King Charles III, proclaimed in an official ceremony in London the following day. ‘The Queen is dead, long live the King!’ was the chorus.

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At the Hampton Court Palace with the Poonawallas: Yohan, Michelle, Tania & Zayan

Dwarfed by the enormity of the occasion and standing amidst a mountain of floral tributes, I read the very personal and deeply moving handwritten messages on bouquets and wreaths. As the crowds swelled I exited the scene, walking solo the stretch of The Mall, going past Clarence House noticing the buzz of activity there, and then on to Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus where the iconic colourful billboards went all-black in memory of the late Queen.

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In use of the Queen on a state visit to Sweden

On my long walk I recalled the various facets of the legendary Queen’s life and the legacy she has left behind. While her motoring legacy is too vast to be described in a few words, it is comforting to note that it lives on in the safe hands of her son and the new sovereign. Amidst all the optics and pomp & pageantry of the state funeral, it is was heartening to see His Majesty King Charles III, put to use all the post-war Phantoms from the Royal Mews, the Phantoms IV, V and VI of his beloved ‘mama’, resultantly perpetuating and strengthening her motoring legacy.

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On stage at the 2021 Salon Privé at the Blenheim Palace

This 1979 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI Limousine was coach-built by Mulliner Park Ward on chassis PGH 116 with Body no. 20453. It was built to promote the then latest Phantom, which remains the company’s flagship model to this day and it represented the best that Rolls-Royce had to offer.

PGH 116 was built to highest possible specifications which included flag masts to both front wings, cocktail cabinet in division, clock to division rail, curtains and cushions in red velvet, carpet in cherry red, headrests, electrically operated rear seats, reading lights, vanity mirrors, air conditioner & heater, and an alluring black-over-burgundy colour. Acknowledged widely as the best, it was described as ‘The Ultimate Phantom’, ‘The Last Word in Motoring Luxury’, ‘Last of the Original Phantom Models’ and ‘Unique & Historic Royal Phantom’. Built to royal specifications, PGH 116 was used by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on important occasions.

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Owner Yohan Poonawalla posing with the Phantom at the 2022 RREC Rally & Concours d'Elegance

Press photographs show this car in use of Her Majesty on her state visit of Sweden in 1983 where the royal standard was seen on the flag poles along with unique number plates that were fitted which denoted ‘Her Majesty Queen 1’ (HMQ 001). The car wore a number of interesting registration numbers in its life such as 1200 TU, 1900 TU, RRM 1, SMB 762V and UTU 542V.

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PGH116 at the Burghley House

Flags of several countries which were found in the boot indicated the various state visits undertaken in this car, as this stately Phantom VI had travelled across the world from America to Japan. PGH 116 also transported the then Prince of Wales, now His Majesty King Charles III.

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Stately presence

In 1986, in a contest organized in England by the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness makers, PGH 116 won the top prize. The award-winning Phantom VI then took pride of place in front of the Ragley Hall. It has been featured in documentaries and magazines including on the cover of the ‘Queste’ and ‘Spirit & Speed’.

It also participated in ‘Motor 100’ held at Silverstone in UK in May 1985 to celebrate the centenary of motoring. In 2021 it was shown at the Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace to mark the 95th birthday of Her Majesty the Queen, having been her official transport in the past. It was also shown at the Salon Prive the same year, where it won an award in its class. In what was its last outing during the lifetime of the Queen, in the summer of 2022, it participated in the ‘Sandringham Pageant of Motoring’ held at the Sandringham Royal Estate on Sunday, 5th of June.

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With that iconic number plate RRM 1 

The event was part of the platinum jubilee celebrations held to mark 70 years of the Queen’s reign, where also on display were other cars of the royal family which are housed in the Sandringham motor museum. PGH 116 wrapped up the summer after participating in the 2022 RREC Annual Rally & Concours d’Elegance at the Burghley House in Stamford. PGH 116 was built to highest possible specifications, it was a ‘palace on wheels’ which exemplified luxury and comfort in motion, and yet it remained a classy formal stately car. Immaculately maintained, PGH 116 is now part of the famed ‘Yohan Poonawalla Collection’ which is home to one of the finest assembly of historically significant and bespoke Rolls-Royce cars.

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Piccadilly Neons paying tribute to HM

The Phantom VI was the last model produced by Rolls-Royce Motors before its takeover. Powered by a 6.75-litre V8 engine, it was the last Rolls-Royce built with a separate chassis, and between 1968 and 1991, only 374 units were produced. It initially offered a 6.2 litre V8 engine with four-speed automatic gearbox.

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The author at the Buckingham Palace

Employing traditional coachbuilding methods, lavish bodies were mounted in the form of limousines and landaulettes, and many were sold to heads of states for use as state motor cars. Famous owners of this model included Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Sultan of Brunei and Rulers of the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and other European royalty.

Mohammed Luqman Ali Khan

Mohammed Luqman Ali Khan is a UAE-based author, curator & motoring historian. A member of the Society of Automotive Historians(USA) & Guild of Motoring Writers(UK) he wrote 'Automobiles of the Nizams'


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