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Old gold

Words Ben Dillon Photos Nathan Duff



australian classic car

1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom ii Sedanca de Ville


Alan G

o Point,

al e


As you can imagine, this blazingly bright car divides opinion. Even owner Alan Gale concedes he might be insane although not because of the paint job
yellow-black colour scheme on a Bugatti and knew it would suit the Rolls. This reaction to the colour is quite universal. People either love it or hate, theres no in-between, Alan explains. And then there is the size. The car is massive, no doubt about it, but how it is proportioned is something Alan took great pains in deciding, making sure the right body style was chosen for the 20-odd foot chassis. Originally he wanted a swoopy coup-style body, but after seeing the original Sedanca de Ville design, by Brewster of Springfield in the US, he knew it would be better proportioned. The nostalgia of the Phantoms era helped make the decision easier. With the Sedanca de Ville body style, Alan could enjoy the elegance of having the ladies sit in the back and then the men in the open carriage up front. Its gargantuan size doesnt really translate into imperiousness or arrogance, though. From the front it almost looks petit and has a feminine elegance about it from any angle. The cabin has adequate room for two up front and three in the back, but doesnt have the limousine spaciousness one might expect. Interesting features abound, like
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olls-Royce. The merest mention of this prestigious name conjures images of lords and ladies gathering on green lawns for a game of polo and assorted frolicking, while penguin-suited butlers stand holding trays of champagne and hors doeuvres. An accurate portrayal it might not be, but owning this symbol of wealth has never meant the owner is short of a few bob. Alan Gale is one man who has the means but still describes his love of Rolls-Royce as economic lunacy. This doctors particular poison chalice is a gorgeous 1929 RollsRoyce Phantom II that has quite a remarkable history.

Fate and destiny

Fortune has graced us in bringing Alan and his Phantom to our attention, as it is quite something to behold. A rare car to begin with one of 1680 Phantom IIs produced between 1929 and 1936 it was also subject to a restoration that has some of the RR faithful asking if another kind of lunacy led Alan to his colour choice. The true Rolls-Royce aficionados hate it, Alan smiles. I saw the


1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom ii Sedanca de Ville

the 1930s and 40s saw many a Rolls pushed into rural servitude

CARAMEL AND WALNUTS Whatever you think of the Phantoms exterior colour, theres no doubt the yellow leather and walnut trim are a match made in heaven.

compartments for champagne glasses and fold-down tables just the thing for a Sunday outing in the country, followed by some pheasant shooting. The walnut trim and Connolly leather make the interior feel even more special than the exterior. Outside, the wooden running boards feature all the flat-head screws in symmetrical alignment along the length of the board. Alan says this is due to Rolls the man being a perfectionist. It is the little things that make Rolls what they are, he says.

Fresh oFF the boat

Alan has documents stretching back to when the car was imported into Australia on February 4, 1930, aboard the SS Fonsdale.
australian classic car

The first two owners paid the princely sum of 1589 for the vehicle and sometime later sold the Phantom to a farmer. The fashion in 1930s and 40s Australia saw many a Rolls-Royce pushed into rural servitude its inherent mechanical strength made it suitable for life as a truck. The original Weymann body was turfed in favour of a tray on the back and simple cab up front, stripping the luxurious Phantom of all social status and relegating it to the role of forced labour. The Spirit of Ecstasy mascot has become the most identifiable feature of the Rolls-Royce brand (the grille also, but this can often be confused with a Bentley item for the uninitiated). Yet for all its elegance, it has a spicy history.

Given the ambiguity in partner choice by lords of the time it is lucky that Lord Montagu enjoyed relations with the fairer sex, as Rolls-Royce cars could just have easily been adorned with Roger in flowing garments.

Peas in a Pod

YOU DONT GET THAT IN A TOYOTA A fold-down table and storage cupboards for your crystal tumblers are just the sort of luxuries that gave Rolls-Royce its name.

The story is that early automotive champion Lord Montagu, who was also the editor of the first motoring magazine The Car wanted a mascot for his Silver Ghost. Marrying for everything else but love, Lord Montagus mistress was his inspiration, his muse. Thus he decided there would be no more fitting a mascot to adorn the front of his car than his lover and secretary, Eleanor Thornton. The fashion of the time was to have a mascot on the bonnet to symbolise traits, real or imagined, of the car or driver. Lord Montagu commissioned his friend and confidant, Charles Robinson Sykes, to create the adornment. Sykes used Eleanor as his model. Originally Sykes Eleanor was a lady in fluttering robes with a

finger pressed to her lips. This sculpture was named The Whisper and was a symbol of Montagu and Eleanors secret love. Yes a symbol of secret love that Lord Montagu plopped on his Rolls-Royce for all to behold! Sometime later, Sykes was again commissioned to produce a mascot for an RR, but it wasnt just for one Rolls-Royce, it was to be the official mascot for all RollsRoyce models. Eleanor was again drafted as the feminine form to be used, and thus the Spirit of Ecstasy was born to almost universal acclaim. Co-founder of the company, Henry Royce, was one man not enamoured with the sculpture, and rarely drove a model adorned with the figurine.

BACK TO ITS BEST Former owner and 1960s TV star, Tony Ward, would barely recognise the Rolls had he lived to see it now.

What is the ultimate antithesis to a Rolls-Royce? Why a Datsun 120Y of course! Such vehicular extremes would never usually have a chance to meet, but destiny works in mysterious ways. On one of his many trips to the petrol station, Alan stumbled upon a missing piece of his Rolls-Royce puzzle. Attached by rusty screws to an even rustier Datsun 120Y was the period black and white number plate RR 1929. Alan knew right away he had found the perfect object to set off his Rolls. A brief introduction followed, in which the 120Y owner relayed that his father had had the initials RR and was born in 1929 and that he had inherited the RR name (Roy Ratbag, Alan jokes) along with the plates, and most probably the ancient Datto. Alan named his price for the whole car (plates cant be bought), which coincidently happened to be exactly the amount that Mr R needed to buy a new shotgun. Alan didnt delay. He went to the RTA with Mr R and transferred the Datto into his name, exchanged number plates and sold the car back to Mr R for $10. With the deal done and both parties extremely satisfied, Alan farewelled the gun-loving Mr R and attached his new prize to the Phantom.

LeFt to die

Before coming to live with Alan, the Phantom II was rescued from an early death by vintage Rolls expert and well-known Australian actor/journalist, Tony Ward. The star of 60s TV spy show Hunter, he found the remains of the Phantom II on a farm. Realising the cars value, he quickly bought the chassis and running boards and made plans to restore his prize. Unfortunately for Tony, a messy divorce saw the end of that dream, but it let Alan sink his teeth into his first Rolls-Royce experience. When Alan first took delivery of the Phantom, he looked through the endless documentation Tony
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1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom ii Sedanca de Ville

SHOTGUN SALE The number plate once belonged to a Datsun 120Y and had nothing to do with Rolls-Royce. Alan snapped it up.

alan has had the Phantom valued at circa $800,000

The sPecs
1929 Rolls-Royce PhaNtom II seDaNca De VIlle

made in relation to restoration advice, parts included and other useful pieces of information. Amongst the literature was the official Rolls-Royce Phantom II fuel consumption figure, pegged at 55 pints per hour without any engine speed indicated. Broaching the subject of fuel consumption Alan is deadpan: We dont talk about that. A little later he opens up and reveals that realworld consumption is around 30L/100km or close to 8mpg. Alan cites Tony as the first real enthusiast who knew more about vintage Rolls than anyone else and often talked with the veteran TV man about all things RR. Tony never got to see the finished product, though, as he passed away in 2006. Alan may have skipped over
australian classic car

Tonys notes on how the resto should be done, and he concedes the late actor could be spinning in his grave at Alans colour choice.

EnginE: 7.7-litre (468ci) inline six-cylinder Transmission: Four-speed manual PowEr: 90kW (120bhp) @ 3000 rpm TorquE: N/A whEElbasE: 3658mm (144 in) / 3810 mm (150 in)* lEngTh: 5588mm (220in) widTh: 1524mm (60) hEighT: 1369mm (53.9) wEighT: 1837kg (4050lb) / 3,500 kg (7,700lb)* 0-60 mPh: (0-96 km/h) 16.8 seconds ToP sPEEd: 140 km/h (87 mph) *dependent on body style

economic Lunacy

The Phantoms restoration is where the economic lunacy begins 13 years of hard graft and a mammoth amount of folding went into making the Sedanca de Ville body and refurbishing all components. Having parts made and sourced burned up a lot of cash, examples being the six-ply white rubber Firestone tyres from the US and the Spirit mascot, which despite being a reproduction, was a four-figure outlay but dont tell anyone. Once you are in so deep, everything has to be absolutely concours, which it is, Alan says. Well... absolutely concours

besides the paint, that is. The car has won many awards, including Australian and Queensland titles, and it often takes the peoples choice award due to its striking hue. Alan has had the Phantom valued at circa $800,000, which understandably put a large smile on his face, but he has no plans to sell the yellow apparition just yet. Alan is in good company, as Clark Gable and JFKs old man, Joe Kennedy, also chose this Phantom model. Being in such auspicious company is just one of the many perks RR drivers enjoy. A less attractive side of ownership is often visited upon Alan when hes driving in the city. The Phantom builds up a lot of momentum, so I leave a significant gap in traffic only to have a teenage girl talking on her phone in a Korean jam-tin whiz in front of me and then slam the brakes on, Alan laughs, but coming close to a serious accident in the big Rolls has played out more than a few times with Alan at the wheel. Still, with a car as gorgeous as Alan Gales Phantom II, suffering economic lunacy has never seemed so attractive.