No, were not talking about Homer Simpson’s favorite flavor of doughnut, but a 1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III Aero Coupe, equipped with a 165 bhp, 7,340 cc V-12 cylinder engine (two in-line 6s with twin distributors), and a spiffy purple paint job. Replacing the Phantom II in 1936, this was the only V-12 Rolls-Royce until the 1998 introduction of the Silver Seraph, which had approximately double the horsepower at 322 bhp. This particular specimen was on loan from the Klairmont Kollections, a private automobile museum in the City of Chicago.
With a wheelbase of 140 inches, and weighing in at 7,700 lb. for the original Rippon Brothers 4 door limousine body, this car was built like a tank, which is likely why Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe), in the James and film “Goldfinger,” chose to drive one in order to haul around his gold that he smuggled throughput Europe. The one featured here has an Art Deco-style, handcrafted aluminum body, designed by a French coach builder, Carrosserie Vanvooren, in Paris in 1937, but it was not built and added to the chassis until the 2000s. This version likely weighs closer to chassis-only weight of 4,050 lb.
One wonders how much gold Auric Goldfinger could fit in the trunk of this body style. I was expecting ‘Nick Nack’ (Hervé Jean-Pierre Villechaize), the 3 foot 10 inch villain to pop up at any moment, but he worked for Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) in “The Man with the Golden Gun,” who drove a 1974 AMC Matador. The real surprise is when one opens it up to find the trunk lid has a latched panel on the inside that, once opened, reveals a specialized collection of all the tools needed for this particular Rolls, including a set of spare spark plugs. Under the hood of the engine compartment, one will find easy access to the crank and tools for a manual start.
The ’suicide’ doors are very heavy, around 4 inched thick, and certainly weighing over 50 lb, and the interior is outfitted high-quality leather and wood. There are many details to explore, such as the tiny marker lights behind the beautiful chrome headlight assemblies that indicate to the driver that the headlights are on. The reverse lights that flank the license plate are two different colors, white on the right, and red on the left. Though long gone from auto design and manufacturing, I really love the aesthetic look of the split windows, and this example has them in both the front and back. Finally, if you go to the Chicago Auto Show this weekend, and find a curator willing to start the engine, you will be amazed how quiet is this 1937 V-12 engine, and how melodious the sound of the horn!
2018 Chicago Auto Show
2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois, 60616
Feb. 10 - 18 (10 a.m. - 10 p.m.)
Feb. 19 (10 a.m. - 8 p.m.)