BMW News

The all-new 2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII will debut in London on July 29, 2017, greeted by historically significant examples of each of its preceding seven generations. The display that will culminate with the introduction of the newest Phantom is called "The Great Eight Phantoms—A Rolls-Royce Exhibition." Representatives of four generations of Phantoms have already been named by Rolls-Royce.


The first Phantom model was built in 1925, and representing the original Phantom will be a custom coachwork 1927 Phantom once owned by Fred Astaire, the American film star best known for his dancing. Astaire was actually the second owner of this particular Phantom. He bought it in London and later shipped it to the U.S. He used it in New York City since he was one of the biggest stars on Broadway, and then in Los Angeles after he became one of the top box office draws in Hollywood.

Fred was not entirely taken by the original design, so in 1932, he had the car's body re-done by the famous New York Coachbuilder J.S. Inskip. The town car's passenger compartment is upholstered in green brocade and decorated with silver-plated fittings, his and hers English Silver vanity sets, silver bud vases, and two walking sticks. (One of the walking sticks incorporated a telescope while the other was fitted with opera glasses.) A sliding glass window and a speaking tube allowed the occupants in back to speak with the chauffeur who, by the way, was exposed to the weather.

Astaire kept his Phantom until 1950.

This right-hand drive Phantom I was powered by an engine with six cylinders arranged in two blocks of three with overhead valves and a displacement of 7668cc. It was said to have 100 horsepower and could move the car along at 80 miles per hour


Rolls-Royce starting building Phantom IIs in 1929 and continued until 1936. One of them was acquired by the fastest man in the world—at least on land and water.

Sir Malcolm Campbell spent much of his life chasing and setting both land and water speed records. He was the first man to drive a car over 300 miles per hour, which he did to set a new record at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Campbell began his relationship with Rolls-Royce in 1932, when he came to believe that only a 2,300 horsepower Roll-Royce aircraft engine would be capable of propelling him past 300 miles per hour. After his first run with a Rolls-Royce engine at Daytona got him to 272 miles per hour, he took delivery of a new Phantom II Continental. The car could go 95 miles per hour, which was nowhere near a record, but pretty good for a 5,000 pound vehicle.

The color of the Phantom II was pale blue, perhaps because blue was the color of Campbell's land and water speed vehicles that were all named "Bluebird."


The Phantom III that Rolls-Royce is bringing to the party carried a well-know British military figure, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein of World War II fame. Monty used three Phantom IIIs during the war, including the one he used to drive King George VI, General Eisenhower, and Prime Minister Churchill to D-Day planning meetings.

Montgomery's favorite, however, was said to be one originally built for the head of the De Havilland Aircraft Company, Alan Butler, so it was known as the Butler Phantom III. It was a 1936 model with a supposedly aerodynamically efficient reverse-sloped front windshield. Montgomery kept the car until 1962.

Monty's Butler Phantom III will travel to California after The Great Eight Phantoms exhibition, where it will take center stage at the Pebble Beach Concourse d'Elegance in Monterey in August. After that, it may not be seen again by the general public for some time, as it will head back to its current owner's private collection.


To celebrate not only the impending introduction of the eighth-generation Phantom, but also the 50th anniversary of the release of what has been described as the greatest rock and roll record album ever released, Roll-Royce will add John Lennon's Phantom V to The Great Eight Phantoms exhibition in London, set to run July 29 to August 2.

Originally painted in Valentine Black, this Phantom had some serious rock star modifications. The most obvious is the psychedelic paint scheme, but also include installation of a double bed in the back seat area, a television, a telephone (in 1967), a refrigerator, a "floating" record player, and of course, a custom audio system.

John Lennon, who actually owned two Phantom Vs, used this car until 1969. In 1970 it was shipped to the United States, where it was loaned out to other rock stars including The Rolling Stones, The Moody Blue, and Bob Dylan. In 1977, it was donated by billionaire Jim Pattison to the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, Canada, where it resides today. Except, of course for a quick trip to London for its great-grandchild's coming out party.

We have not seen an official announcement from Rolls-Royce on the other three Phantoms that will be on hand for The Great Eight Phantoms at the end of July, but we're fairly certain we will recognize the names of whoever owned them. History on wheels is some of the best history there is.—Scott Blazey

[Photos courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.]