10-11 March 2017
A Gentleman's Collection: The Pride & Passion of Orin Smith
1931 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Croydon Convertible Coupe by Brewster
- Chassis no. 239AJS
- Engine no. C35T
- Body no. 7375
Sold for $506,000
- Best in Class, 2012 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance
- One of 13 original examples built on Phantom II chassis
- Original chassis, engine, and body, as delivered to the original owner
- Formerly of the Raymond Ward and Richard Atwell collections
- One of the most scarce, desirable, and beautiful American Phantom IIs
The Croydon Convertible Coupe was one of the most attractive open styles fitted by Brewster to the American Rolls-Royce chassis, with a posh four-passenger interior and a convertible top that lay nearly flush with the body when folded. Its distinguishing feature was a hood shut line that flowed at a curve from the windshield post to the center of the front fender, with the top of the hoodline covering the cowl and meeting the bottom of the windshield frame. Similar to the “false hood” pioneered by stylist Raymond Dietrich on Packards of the era, the “Croydon line” visually lengthened the front of the car, while adding its own sporting flair. It would be subsequently copied on other late Brewster designs for the Phantom II.
Thirteen original examples of the Croydon design were built on American-delivery Phantom II chassis, for a roster of clients that included asbestos heir Tommy Manville and silent film legend Charlie Chaplin. Today the survivors are the treasures of renowned collectors across the United States, and the Croydon is widely considered one of the most beautiful and difficult to acquire of all the Brewster styles on the Phantom II.
The car offered here, number 239AJS, had its chassis built and tested in early 1930, and was delivered to New York the following year. Typical of grand, expensive Classics during the Depression, an order was not placed for it until 1934, when it was delivered with its Croydon Convertible Coupe body to Frank M. Gould, grandson and heir of railroad baron Jay Gould. By amazing coincidence, Mr. Gould’s first wife, Florence, is believed to have been the original owner of the Phantom II Newport Town Car we have the pleasure of offering at this sale, while his son, Edwin Jay Gould, was the original owner of Orin Smith’s Bentley S1 Continental drophead coupe, making for something of a “family reunion” here at Amelia Island.
Following Mr. Gould’s passing in 1945, his widow, Helen, sold the Croydon back to New York dealer J.S. Inskip. It was subsequently resold to Martin Jones, impresario of the Vanderbilt Theatre on Broadway, then in 1950 passed to Henry Benedetto of Jamaica, Long Island. The Rolls-Royce Foundation’s records note a complete succession of later owners, including Dr. Royce Noble of Massachusetts, Joseph Cooper of Arkansas, and finally longtime Rolls and Bentley collector Raymond Ward of Oklahoma.
Richard Atwell of Kerrville, Texas, a second-generation enthusiast who curates one of the finest collections of Brewster-bodied Rolls-Royce in America, acquired the car from Mr. Ward in 2000 and sold it the following year to Daniel Mouton of Beaumont, Texas. Mr. Mouton had desired a Croydon for decades, since seeing the example in the Nethercutt Collection, and was thrilled to acquire this one. Following considerable research, he began its restoration, working largely in his own home shop with great care and patience. Eventually he handed the project over to the well-known D&D Restoration in Covington, Ohio, which completed it to a beautiful standard, working over a 10-year period with completion in time for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2011. It was subsequently judged Best in Class, here at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in 2012.
Stephanie Smith acquired the Phantom II from Mr. Mouton, having fallen in love with its spectacular design and lovely details, including Wedgwood china fillets decorating the interior woodwork, the period-correct Art Deco pleated pattern of the seats, and the sparkle of the copper-finished brake drums behind the chrome wire wheels. The fitted boot is occupied by a lavish tool tray, on top of a three-piece set of leather luggage in a Louis Vuitton motif. Overall the appearance is both opulent and elegant, and the condition of the car, appropriately, is still on-pair, with some rubbing of the fabric top as the only noticeable flaw; even the chassis appears clean and well detailed, and the finishes under the hood, perhaps a bit shinier than the factory presentation, are superb.
The only restored Croydon to have come to market in the past several years, this car awaits the completion of its new owner’s own assembly of the best of Brewster. It is truly spectacular.
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