Pride of place goes to a spectacular 1933 Phantom II – one of just 281 short-wheelbase Continentals produced between 1929 and ’35 – with exquisite coachwork by Freestone and Webb.
The fixed-head coupé on display was constructed to the bespoke requirements of Lancashire cotton magnate Sir John Leigh, who had a passion for expensive motor cars. He owned no fewer than 22 Rolls-Royces over the years, including – at one time – four Phantom II Continentals that were garaged between his four homes.
Leigh’s coachbuilder of choice was Freestone and Webb, based in Stonebridge Park, north-west London. His specification details noted ‘for use in the UK and Continent, mainly for fast touring’. Leigh requested the glorious two-tone colour scheme, which was reinstated by the current owner – also a long-time Royce aficionado – who paid $2.4million for the Continental in 2013, a record for a Phantom II.
This magnificent Rolls-Royce is featured exclusively in the December issue of C&SC. ‘Driving a Phantom II is a marvellous treat,’ enthuses International Editor Mick Walsh. ‘The 7.6-litre overhead-valve straight-six powers this two-ton beauty with ease. It’s a glorious event as it purrs along wooded Cotswolds roads at 70mph in top.’
Alongside the Phantom II will be a Merlin piston aero engine, the legendary 27-litre Rolls-Royce V12 best known for its deployment in the Supermarine Spitfire and Avro Lancaster. Nearly 150,000 of the liquid-cooled engines, designed by Rolls-Royce, were produced after it first ran in 1933. Initially known as the PV-12, it later became Merlin following company policy to name its aero engines after birds of prey.
The Merlin first entered service in the Spitfire, Hawker Hurricane and Fairey Battle, but the bulk of the production run was to used in the four-engined Avro Lancaster, with power output increasing from 1000bhp to almost 1800bhp over the duration of WW2. The engine on show was built in 1943 at the Rolls-Royce’s Derby factory as a Mk22 for a Lancaster. It is rated at 1360bhp + 16psi boost. It was modified to MkT24-2 specification in 1945 and fitted to an Avro York before being modified again in 1950 and sold to Spain for use in a CASA 2.111 bomber.
Make sure that you don’t miss these outstanding examples of Rolls-Royce machinery, on stand 245 in Hall 1.