Friday, March 14, 2014

Rolling In Style

 
A custom-made 1927 Rolls-Royce
known as the Gasque Phantom for the
man who commissioned it for his wife.
Image: Hagerty.
The Devoted Classicist loves the full range of the decorative arts, particularly when they are far-reaching, such as this example, into automobiles.  The famous Rolls-Royce company was founded in 1904 when Charles Stewart Rolls, the 28 year old son of Lord and Lady Llangattock met 41 year old car-builder Frederick Henry Royce.  Rolls, with partner Claude Goodman Johnson, had an automobile dealership in London that specialized in importing luxury cars from France and Belgium.  Royce gave Rolls the exclusive rights to sell his car, and the brand was born.


A general view of the 1927 Gasque Phantom.
Image: The Telegraph..
The early Rolls-Royce cars followed the latest trends because the bodies were always custom made by coachbuilders on the R-R chassis.  The first chassis was the Silver Ghost, introduced in 1907, which was replaced by the New Phantom in 1925 which was basically the same but with a more powerful engine.  In 1929, this was replaced by the Phantom II which was again basically the same chassis but with an up-dated engine.  So this car is sometimes referred to as a Phantom I.

The interior woodwork of the Gasque Phantom
Rolls-Royce features inlaid satinwood detailing.
Image: The Telegraph.
The coachwork for this car, a Brougham de Ville, was made by Charles Clark & Son, Ltd.  By this time, the Clark company concentrated on the highest-end work.  After building several bodies for one of the directors of the British franchise of the F.W. Woolworth & Co., the Clark firm was introduced to C.W. Gasque, the franchise's American finance director.  Gasque wanted to give his wife, related to the Woolworth family, an especially made car "different to anything else, and also better."  The only other stipulation was that there be a French theme, and Mr. Gasque did not want to see it until completed.

An interior view with the cabinet doors closed
with the jump seats open.
Image: The Telegraph.
One of the jump seats.
Image: The Telegraph.


An interior view towards the front
with the cabinet open to reveal facing jump seats
and a drinks cabinet.
Image: The Telegraph.
The interior of the drinks cabinet.
Image: The Telegraph.
 
An enameled ormolu clock sits on the cabinet.
Image: The Telegraph.
A view of the main seat which is like a sofa.
Image: The Telegraph.
A visit to the Victoria & Albert museum resulted in finding inspiration in a sedan chair designed by Robert Adam.  All the woodwork for the interior was produced in the Clark shop although some of the more elaborate carving was done in London. 

Robert Adam's design for a sedan chair for Queen Charlotte, 1775.
Image: V & A via Jane Austen World blog.
The Aubusson petite-point upholstery was a special commission which took nine months to complete.  The ceiling was painted by an unnamed French painter living in London.

The interior with Aubusson upholstery.
Image:  The Telegraph.
A detail of the Rolls Royce ceiling.
Image: The Telegraph.
Hallmarked silver interior hardware, much of it gilded, was commissioned from Elkington & Co. 

A detail of the interior door pull.
Image:  The Telegraph.
It is believed that the car, including the chassis, cost about GBP $6,000 (roughly $30,000 at that time and $1 million today) according to West Peterson in an article for Hagerty, the source of much of the history of this car.

One of the most unusual features is a pair of vanity cabinets.
Image: The Telegraph.


A view of a cabinet open to reveal enameled bon-bon boxes.
Image: The Telegraph.
C.W. Gasque died in 1928 but Mrs. Gasque continued to own the car until her death, around 1950, although the car had been in storage since 1937.  Car enthusiast Stanley Sears bought the car from the dealer who had purchased it from the estate.  Sears added the straw-colored basket weave caning and replaced the 23 inch wheels with a smaller size since the large tires were not available.

An exterior silver lever.
Image: The Telegraph.
A rear view.
Image: The Telegraph.
Starting in 1986, the care was own by a series of Japanese collectors until the end of 2001 when it was bought by Pennsylvania Jack Rich.  The unrestored car was exhibited in several shows until bought by Charles Howard and returned to England.  In 2013 it was reportedly for sale for over one million British pounds at P & A Wood, Great Easton, Essex.

The 1927 Rolls Royce Phantom.
Image: P & A Wood.
But today's music stars (many of whom TDC has never even heard of) often are driven in cars that cost between one and two million dollars, so such extravagances have not entirely died out.  It is just a different taste in wheels among those flush with cash.

The silver coach light of the
Gasque Phantom Rolls-Royce.
Image: The Telegraph.

16 comments:

  1. It has been a long time since the day of the luxury, high-status car--what silent film star didn't have a Rolls, Isotta, Hispano-Suiza, or Marmon? Today's exotic sports cars like Lamborghini or Ferrari are certainly nice, but represent a different mindset.

    Your foray into luxury coaches reminds us that private railway cars also got the same type of treatment. I recall seeing Henry Flagler's private car on display at Whitehall in Palm Beach.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. P., it reminds me of a railway car as well. A very stylish one. Thanks for commenting.

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  2. This is one of the most beautiful automobile interiors I have ever seen. A motorized sedan chair, indeed! Beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. B., I saw an unidentified photo of the interior on Tumblr a few weeks and was truly captivated. Fortunately, some research turned up enough for this post, so I was happy to share it.

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  3. So delish...why oh why can we not have MORE of this in this age of Titanium Grey boxes! So many cars on the road just blur that it becomes hypnotic on freeways...dismal! I have a Sedan from the 18thC, and pondered restoration...shrunken leather top, flaking Arsenic Green and Terracotta paint, missing a glass pull down panel, shredded silk damask and original loomed carpet...but instead, I've set it on a dais upholstered in Rubelli's Leopard silk velvet...to signal upon entry, the LOST LOVE of Aging Gracefully in today's Titanium Grey botoxed box of a world. I did have the fortunate experience of riding in Valentino's Hispano Suiza which had liquor decanters in rear and crystal bud vases on the sides of interior...perfume bottles as well...or was that in Delores del Rios Cadillac limo? A nice blur...

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  4. Bevilacqua's leopard silk velvet...you know the one! Rubelli was around the corner in those days...in Venice...by the Gritti.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do know. I am conjuring the whole image. Thank you for commenting.

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  5. John,
    Great post! Cars are such a wonderful manifestation of design, and symbolic of our universal dreams and longings.
    Dean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. D.F., it's lots of fun, isn't it? I tried to find something on Madam with no luck. The Mrs.Gasque that I found was apparently her daughter-in-law, the former president of the international vegetarian society; I can only assume she would have not appreciated the car as much as we do today.

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  6. Wow - and I thought my taste was OTT!
    But then it was meant as a lavish gift. Better from the outside I think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. L.C., and what a gift. Perhaps it matched their home decor. Thank you for commenting.

      Delete
  7. Marvelously over-the-top.

    I assume that Mr. Gasque was closely related to Maisie Gasque, the wife of the fatefully extravagant Hubert Parson, Frank Woolworth's hand-picked successor, who built Shadow Lawn in Monmouth NJ---the residential equivalent of this car, as one thinks about it.

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  8. Duh, I could have looked it up before I commented, but yes, Mr. Gasque was Mrs. Parson's brother---that would be the Woolworth connection.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. D.E.D., your comments, especially those connect-the-dots relations, are always interesting. Many thanks.

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  9. You'd have to travese gently-Bentley with all that paraphenalia, but I suppose they did then. Sadly Rolls and Bentley are now German owned, but perhaps that's a good thing, given their excellence in engineering.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. C., the car is probably heavy and cushy, but yes, there is a lot to potentially clank around. Thank you for commenting.

      Delete

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