Arizona | Lot 261
1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III Pillarless Saloon by Vesters et Neirinck
$593,500 USD | Sold
| Phoenix, Arizona
19 January 2018
- The 1938 Brussels Motor Show car
- Exceptional one-off bodywork; among the sportiest Phantom IIIs produced
- Numerous Best in Class appearances
- Interesting history; formerly owned by G. Gordon Liddy and Charles Nelson Reilly
- Offered with sets of road and hand tools
- Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classic
Brussels coachbuilders Vester et Neirinck produced some of the finest and most interesting designs to come out of Belgium during the Classic Era. They were particularly proud of their close relationship with Rolls-Royce and Bentley, courtesy of local dealer Andre Pisart, who would often forward clients to the nearby shop, and who spurred some of Vesters et Neirinck’s most remarkable creations into being.
One of them was this stunning Phantom III, built on chassis no. 3CP144, special-ordered with such unique features as a speedometer calibrated in kilometers, a petrol gauge in liters, and a pulley drive-type Smiths tachometer – the latter only one fitted to a Phantom III by the factory. Inspired by the French stylings of Letourneur et Marchand, the body was a two-door saloon or sedan with no center B-pillar; instead, the roofline and windows move in a smooth, uninterrupted, comet-like curve from front to rear, accentuated by an aluminum molding that runs to just above the rear wheel arches. The hood was extended to the firewall by means of additional louvers, visually lengthening an already powerful nose. Special rear bumpers and six Ace Deluxe wheel discs balanced the design.
The car was exhibited on Vesters et Neirinck’s stand at the Brussels Motor Show of 1938. Afterward, it was delivered on 7 May 1938 to its first owner, Jean Francqui.
Longstanding rumor places the Phantom III at the wartime disposal of both the King of Belgium and British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery; in any case, it was certainly acquired by occupational forces, the British Army of the Rhine, in 1945, and used by General Sir Charles F. Keightley. In 1958 it was sold to a German civilian, a Mr. Derriks, then made its way to the U.S. in the late 1960s and enjoyed several enthusiast owners on both coasts.
The car’s more recent ownership history is no less fascinating. In the mid-1980s, it was purchased by Watergate burglar turned political commentator, G. Gordon Liddy, who licensed it in Arizona as “H20 GATE” – “just my way of saying ‘Hi’ to the liberals,” as he commented to People magazine. In what must have been a fascinating transaction to behold, Mr. Liddy eventually sold the car late in the decade to Charles Nelson Reilly, the popular American comedic actor, known for his ubiquitous game and talk show appearances in the 1970s.
Having remained largely original and remarkably complete, the Phantom III was restored for its next owner, Douglas McCorkindale, by marque specialists between 1992 and 1994, and at that time was finished in its beautiful Prussian Blue and medium blue color scheme, with a handsome grey leather interior accentuated by polished walnut veneers. It was shown at some of the most prestigious concours events in the U.S., winning 1st in Class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and the Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club National Meet, both in 1995.
Part of its current owner’s collection for two decades, this striking Phantom III is offered today with its original sets of road and hand tools, as well as the aforementioned Rolls-Royce build documentation. Inarguably one of the sportiest designs ever produced on this robust and powerful chassis, it awaits future concours appearances and will most certainly draw a crowd wherever it goes. That was Monsieur Pisart’s intention, after all.