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Car of the Month

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Rossfeldt: Rolls-Royce and Bentley / From the Dawn of the 20th Century into the new Millennium




Car of the Month - April 2022
Rolls-Royce Phantom II, 1931, #71JS
Roadster by Kitchener & Woodiwiss


Rolls-Royce Phantom II

This Rolls-Royce was originally delivered with coachwork in the form of a Limousine by H.J. Mulliner. It can be stated that a considerable number of original bodies were substituted in later years either by erecting entirely new coachwork on a chassis or by transferring an existing unit from another chassis.  There were quite good reasons for such action, for example because after a damage a new body was preferred instead of a repair or because a new body met exactly what seemed more attractive for a later owner. It is no bold speculation that many automobiles have survived not least because they started into a second life with new bodywork.

Rolls-Royce Phantom II

On this particular automobile a plate riveted to the frame deserves special attention because it provides peculiar information. Such a plate may well appear ominous to some vehicle owners; possibly even one or the other expert would not be able to correctly identify it on the spot. This is a production-related special feature that only did appear during a relatively short production-period. With the introduction of the new Rolls-Royce Phantom II, the Company had decided to provide 'subframes' with the cars from their new model-series. This was a departure from the manufacturer’s previous standard of sending a 'running chassis', i.e. the ladder frame fitted with all the technical components, to a coachbuilder 's premises so that there the car would become completed with a body to the customer's specification. This inevitably caused waiting periods, because first the running chassis had to be completed, and then additional time had to be invested in manufacturing and finishing coachwork. The option of a subframe offered certain acceleration. While Rolls-Royce was working on the running chassis at the factory, the body could be built parallel (!) on a subframe by a coachbuilder. Then it was only necessary to combine the two units and the finished car was available several weeks earlier.  Customer satisfied, problem solved! With the over-engineering, as it has been typical for Rolls-Royce over a long time, two different versions of the subframe had been developed, in order to match such subframes exactly to different requirements of a wide variety of coachwork.  

Rolly-Royce Phantom II

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The engineers at the factory claimed another advantage, too, because the subframe insulated the body from the actual chassis and thus impacts, e.g. on uneven road surfaces, had much less effect on the body; coachwork didn't have to suffer heavy pounding from bad roads. The plate with the number 'L.1794' on the Phantom II with chassis no. #71JS is proof the body rests on such a subframe. Most presumably that had been supplied to H.J. Mulliner for their limousine body at the very beginning. It was certainly retained for the later Kitchener & Woodiwiss roadster. A windfall profit of such a subframe was that it also provided considerable stiffening of the ladder frame, which was by no means exemplary in its torsional stiffness.  

Rolly-Royce Phantom II

However, the undeniable advantages could not balance a severe shortcoming, namely that a subframe/subframe was really heavy. The additional weight reduced the performance (and a subframe was no inexpensive unit). Promptly, the axe was applied and it was cancelled to offer subframes.

Rolly-Royce Phantom II

It needs in-depths research to find the indication that only over the years from 1929 to 1931 were the following chassis-series of Rolls-Royce Phantom II available with subframes as standard:

J2      001 – 200  (#1WJ – #133WJ und 1XJ – #71XJ)
K2    201 - 400 (#72XJ - #204XJ und  #1GN - #68GN)
L2    401 – 600 (#69GN – #202GN und #1GY – #68GY)
M2    601 – 800 (#69GY – #205GY und #1GX – #68GX)

The literature states that for Rolls-Royce Phantom II motor cars produced from chassis series N2 onwards, i.e. from 1931 until the end of the model series 1935 (in 1936 only 1 example, I.e. #84UK, was produced on customer's special request) the subframe was abandoned. This statement is NOT correct. Because #71JS belongs to the chassis series N2 - and can be quoted as evidence that in any case for later chassis a customer still had the option to order a Phantom II with subframe. All in all, because there were only a fairly limited number of them made, these units are rare artifacts from the history of Rolls-Royce.

Rolly-Royce Phantom II