I know this is a loophole perhaps, but I bought this model at the Petersen Museum in LA back in May especially to use in the next LaLD Car Week, knowing that it would have a decades theme. I assumed one of the decade categories would be pre-War, so I’m cheekily sticking with that assumption, and hope that the quality and awesome-ness of this car and story will allow for the judges to forgive me, as the Pebble Beach Concourse D’Elegance judges did not do back in 2005. More on this later.
So with no further ado, may I present to you the magnificent, the unequalled, the beautiful Rolls Royce Phantom I Jonckheere coupe.
Born in 1925 as a Phantom I, sporting an upgraded engine and the addition of front wheel brakes(!) as improvements over the old Phantom, this chassis was bodied as a “regular” cabriolet. But after it was initially bought by a lady in Michigan, it ended up getting returned after never leaving England, and travelled to India instead for its first ownership experience. After passing through a few more owners, it landed at the Jonckheere coachbuilder shop in Belgium in 1932, and two years later emerged as this art deco aerodynamic beast.
All hand-bodied, of course, with a fin on the back, a swept-back grille to evoke that sweet, sweet speed, round hobbit burrow doors with half-moon windows opening from the middle out, and a dual sunroof, this gorgeous, if impractical automobile could easily do 100mph in elegance and style.
It won several concourse prizes in the 1930s and ended up in the U.S. after all. However, it soon fell into disrepair, reemerging in the 1950s as a gold-painted sideshow attraction. It was later repainted an ugly beige before getting sold to a Japanese collector for around $1.5m in 1991.
Finally, after another decade spent in obscurity, it was obtained by the Petersen in 2001, fully restored to its current black shape, and now is fully loved and appreciated, at least by me.
However, when it was shown at Pebble Beach in 2005 it was denied the Best in Show prize due to a “lack of provenance.” It did end up winning the Lucius Beebe trophy for best Rolls, which is ironic given the story my vault tour guide told me, which is that Rolls Royce disowned this car and scrapped it from their books for the disgrace of tilting back the radiator grille. After all, every Rolls Royce is so well built that even at ludicrous speeds, the radiator always stand up straight and proud.
I can honestly say that the Phantom I “Jonckheere” is the most imposing vehicle I have ever stood next to. I was utterly fascinated by it when I saw it in the basement of the Petersen, and devastated at the same time that I wasn’t allowed to take photos of it. So when I saw this model at the giftshop (and on sale, no less!) it was a no-brainer that this would be my souvenir. Even better, this 1:43 is made by TSM, which just happens to be my favorite maker of 1:43 models.
I know it’s late in the day and also a bit of a loophole entry, but come on, this car is worth the flexibility.