The development of Rolls-Royce Continental models is quite interesting. In September 1930, Rolls-Royce designer Ivan Evernden toured the Continent in a smart new Phantom II sports saloon. This car had been built on Henry Royce's directions, starting with a Riley Monaco saloon as a pattern and scaled up for the PII chassis. The spare tyres were moved to the rear, and the wings were flared with their undersides exposed. Fitted with a sunshine roof, it was painted in pale saxe blue and finished with an early metallic-like clear coat made with fish scales. Evernden managed a last-minute entry in a concours d'elegance at Biarritz and came home with the Grand Prix d'Honneur. The car generated quite a buzz and considerable orders, sufficient for the factory to prepare a brochure for a Continental model, which was ready by the time Evernden returned home.
The second Continental prototype was bodied by Park Ward, and Royce was very pleased. A close relationship between the two firms resulted, but Park Ward by no means had the monopoly on Continental bodies. Others were built by Hooper and some, like this car, by Freestone & Webb.
This Phantom II Continental (chassis 47RY) was originally purchased on 24th January 1934 by Sir John Leigh of Surrey, through the London dealer S.E. Longman. It was one of only three drophead coupes bodied by Freestone & Webb on the Phantom II Continental chassis. Leigh is believed to be the Lancashire mill owner who made his fortune in the cotton industry. Made a baronet in 1918, he purchased the Pall Mall Gazette, an evening London newspaper, in the early 1920s. He was elected a Conservative Member of Parliament, representing the Clapham district of Wandsworth, in a 1922 by-election, and he served until 1945. His son, also John Leigh, ascended to the baronetcy in 1959. Sir John was sufficiently enamoured of 47RY that he bought another Continental, 170SK, just eight months later.
47RY was subsequently exported to the United States, where it was owned by Mr. Fred Brown of Portsmouth, Ohio. Repatriated in 1990, it was purchased by Sir Anthony Bamford, Chairman of J.C. Bamford (Excavators) Limited, who sold it to sportsman and philanthropist Trevor Hemmings in August 1996.
Unusual for its dickey seat, a seldom-found feature on Phantom II Continentals, 47RY was treated to an extensive restoration in the period 1990-91. The car is finished in an elegant scheme of medium and light grey. It has the full wheel discs characteristic of Freestone & Webb and a medium grey hood. The seating is red leather and there is light grey carpet on the floor.
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