For sale at William Loughran Preston, Lancashire. www.williamloughran.co.uk
Don’t get muddled between the new Phantom and the New Phantom. The first is today’s offering with BMW parentage, the second its pre-war progenitor that in 1925 replaced the Ghost. With its uprated silk-smooth overhead-valve six and almost silent progress, the new car confirmed the Derby company’s claim to be maker of “the finest car in the world”. It had a four-speed gearbox, though it was a point of pride that it could proceed mostly “on top”.
It wasn’t that the Phantom was especially advanced for its time, more the obsessive quality of its assembly that made it such a superb piece of engineering. The one technical quirk was its gearbox-driven brake servo, which made the pedal light at the cost of heart-pausing delayed action.
Sold only in chassis form (although the US-built Springfield cars did offer a factory body), the New Phantom offered an opportunity for opulence approved by its more flamboyant purchasers, and many of those came from India. Bodied by an English coachworks and delivered to an address in Calcutta, this example currently in the showrooms of William Loughran is more restrained, but the pillar-mounted spotlamp is a sign of something a little special. Apparently the lamp was installed for night-time hunting – no worries about four-wheel drive in those days. After all, Ghost chassis had been turned into armoured cars during the First World War and had coped very well with the Arabian desert.
“It’s a very handsome car,” says William Loughran. “The quality of the fittings is impressive – all five lamps are Grebel, which cost about as much as an Austin 7! And the dipping mechanism is amazing. You pull what looks like a second handbrake and the headlights physically swivel downwards.”
Inside, the teal blue upholstery was redone some 20 years ago, but it’s on the dashboard that the first owner left his mark. In place of wood veneer or polished metal, the purchaser ordered mother-of-pearl, dyed to match the leather. It may be unique. Adorning the board is a very fine selection of nickel-finished instruments, including a Tapley meter to check the efficiency of those servo brakes. Finished in a stately silver over black, the Windovers convertible body has removable sidescreens for when the monsoon arrives.
“At one stage it was in Don Williams’ Blackhawk Collection in California,” says Loughran. “It retains all the original bodywork, all the numbers match and it drives well. It’s a damn nice thing!”
Engine: 7668cc straight six, pushrod OHV, single RR carb
Gearbox: four speeds, right-hand change
Power: about 108bhp
Suspension: solid axles, leaf springs, hydraulic dampers
Top speed: dependent on body
Number built (UK & USA): 3437