1938 Rolls-Royce Phantom III 'Parallel Door' Saloon Coupe by James Young

Offered without reserve

RM | Sotheby's - THE GUYTON COLLECTION 4 - 5 MAY 2019

Chassis No.
Engine No.
  • The 1938 Earls Court Motor Show car
  • Perhaps the ultimate Phantom III: a car of exceptional beauty and importance
  • Best in Class, 2004 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
  • One of two produced with James Young’s famous “parallel doors”
  • Long-term ownership by beloved enthusiast Norris H. Allen
  • Featured in many books, including Steve Stuckey’s The Spectre Arises
  • Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classic


Chassis 3DL86 was one of just two Phantom IIIs delivered with this body, a handsome saloon coupe. James Young produced bodies of this basic line on several different chassis of the era, including the Wraith also in the Guyton Collection, but the two Phantom IIIs were distinguished by their innovative “parallel doors.” Turn and pull on a door handle and the entire door slides out vertically, several inches from the car, then moves back parallel to the body, in much the fashion of a modern minivan door. It is a wonderful trick and fascinating to watch in operation. More importantly, in any era when these cars were in regular use, it allowed a large two-door car to have well-proportioned doors that did not have to open, dangerously, into traffic.

This car was used extensively in advertising and was chosen for exhibition by Jack Barclay at the 1938 Earls Court Motor Show. Copies of its highly detailed James Young and Rolls-Royce build documentation, in the file, spell out its specifications; it was ordered to the latest possible engineering design, with bodywork in Belco Navy Blue with dark pigskin upholstery, Circassian walnut trim, matching luggage, cocktail cabinets, and sliding smoked “purdah” glass visors in the rear windows. A two-piece “sunshine roof” featured an electrically operated upper panel and a sliding glass inner panel, so that the sun’s rays could be let in with drafts on cooler British days.

Reportedly, the car sold by 11:00 a.m. on the day of the Motor Show’s opening to original owner, Robert Constantine Graseby, a prominent British electrical engineer, in whose ownership it remained until after World War II. It was sold via a Scottish dealer in 1955 to Norris H. Allen, and was shipped to Boston, collected dockside by its new owner, and driven to New York, so that J.S. Inskip could mount sealed-beam headlamps, then onward west to St. Louis.


Mr. Allen was a raconteur, an early enthusiast of great automobiles, and a skilled engineer, who owned most every great car of the Classic Era back in the early halcyon days of the hobby. Fred Guyton admired him tremendously, and actually bought his house because it was, literally, just down the block from the man he revered as something of a car-collecting hero. Over several decades the pair of devoted enthusiasts became dear friends, and some of the most significant automobiles in the Guyton Collection bore Mr. Allen’s ownership as treasured provenance. None were treasured as much as this car, Phantom III no. 3DL86, which in his ownership was featured in Lawrence Dalton’s Those Elegant Rolls-Royce and Coachwork on Rolls-Royce.

Mr. Allen lovingly maintained the Phantom III for the remainder of his long life, installing an excellent overdrive unit of his own professional design, and using it regularly. After his passing in 1990, it was literally given to his good and faithful friend, Fred Guyton, to ensure its continued maintenance and use. Accordingly, Mr. Guyton ensured that the car would be exquisitely restored to exactly its original appearance by D&D Automobile Restoration of Covington, Ohio, and then showed it extensively, winning Best in Class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2004, among other significant laurels.

The car remains in thoroughly crisp, fresh, and show-worthy condition, with the exception of the engine, which was in the process of being rebuilt at the time of Mr. Guyton’s passing; see an RM Sotheby’s representative for further details. Accompanying the car is a thoroughly impressive history file, show-quality tool kit, and an attractive three-piece luggage set.

One could go into all manner of superlatives regarding this car, but it is appropriate to end with the exclamations of Norris Allen, upon his acquisition. “If there is another Rolls-Royce in the United States to compare with this one I haven’t seen it, and I will go so far as to say I have never seen an automobile in Europe or the United States that I think compares with this car. It is the most fabulous automobile I have ever heard about.”

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