Few other cars would suit a royal ruler more completely than the Rolls-Royce Phantom IV. The mere sight of one stopped conversations and induced gawps of curiosity. Built from 1950, it was only available to the select few; possessing the necessary funds was not enough on its own to get a Phantom IV into your sumptuously appointed garage. A crown on your head might just be helpful, though.
Production of the Phantom III came to an end in 1939, and it wasn’t until 1950 that the model series staged its comeback. Sure, the all-pervading hardship of war had waned, but an enduring lack of spending power and significant material shortages hardly suggested a successor to such a sumptuous, prestigious model was in the pipeline. But then the British royal family sent over its rather surprising order, and everything changed.
Test the best.
No lesser figure than the Duke of Edinburgh had recently taken a Bentley test car for a spin, and so had sampled the charms of the large Rolls-Royce eight-cylinder in-line engine under its bonnet. Which was interesting, since the British royal family was in the market for a state limousine to serve Princess – later to be Queen – Elizabeth and her significant other. That was 1949, and for Rolls-Royce a decades-long wish was about to be fulfilled; at last, it would be asked to build the “best car in the world” for the royal family of its home country. Rolls-Royce was duly named as a purveyor to the Royal Household.
Engineering with a sense of tradition.
The bodywork of a Rolls-Royce was usually supplied by the likes of Hooper or H. J. Mulliner, and would be mounted on a classical ladder frame. The eight-cylinder in-line engine behind the grand old radiator grille extracted its suitably majestic power from 5.7-litre displacement. There was independent suspension at the front, a live axle at the rear and semi-elliptic springs. Given this was a car designed entirely to be chauffeur-driven. An automatic gearbox never got a look-in – popular as autos were becoming at the time; selecting which of the four gears could have a go next was the job of the Crown’s chosen driver, and he alone.
The opposite of mass-produced.
With a wheelbase of almost 3.70 metres and an exterior length stretching to 5.82 metres, the Phantom IV offered its passengers all the seat comfort they could wish for and lavished them with every conceivable luxury. Wood and leather dominated, and the workmanship of every last detail was second to none. The peerless quality of a Rolls-Royce is as old as the legendary marque itself. And so there could be no doubt that here was a car fit to carry the future Queen of England through the streets of her nation.
In the automotive world, the Phantom IV was the best of the best. It was, after all, impossible to imagine greater prestige or rarity, or a similar ability to turn heads while simultaneously existing within a cloak of discretion. The British royal family were the first to tread this exalted path, and just a few, very special dignitaries around the world have managed to follow in their tyre tracks. This was never a car that could simply be ordered; money alone was a long way from being enough. No wonder then, that only 18 examples of the car were built over a six-year period. 16 of these have survived, each as unique as their illustrious owner’s signature.
Come across one today, and it will envelop you instantly in the same wave of emotions. Its magic lies less in the details or even the price, should it over go under a hammer. No, the Phantom IV is all about the power of the extraordinary. Or simply put: it’s every inch the regal Rolls.