Lot Number

1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Riviera Town Car by Brewster

Sold For $825,000

Inclusive of applicable buyer's fee.

RM | Sotheby's - MONTEREY 18 - 19 AUGUST 2017

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  • “The Gilded Riviera,” an extraordinarily unique and special Phantom I
  • Two-time Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance 1st in Class winner
  • Magnificent original canework and gold-plated exterior trim
  • Formerly owned by Robert McVoy and Roger Morrison
  • History documented by the late Beverly Rae Kimes in The Classic Car
  • A Springfield Phantom I of singular, impressive importance

If a custom coachbuilt automobile is a reflection of the style and taste of its owner, then one can easily assume that Irene Schoelkopf Carman was quite a lady. She married well three times, accumulating a vast fortune from the demise of her second husband, C.P. Hugo Schoellkopf, one of the wealthiest men in Buffalo, New York. Over a year after his passing, she invested approximately $19,500 into this utterly splendid Phantom I, one of 10 produced in this style, the Riviera town car.

In an era of stodgy formal town cars, the Riviera was an exception, with curving front doors, a low windshield, and close-coupled bodywork producing an absolutely striking and, yes, sporting design. None, however, were as dramatic as Irene’s. She specified an intercom for directing the chauffeur; a vanity case fitted with a clock, mirror pad, ashtray, and Dunhill lighter; and a reading light over the rear window. Oh, yes, there was also gold – gold-plated exterior trim, everywhere that the eye could see, complemented by canework (or “sham cane”) decorating the rear quarter panels, and interior garnishments of elaborate walnut and mahogany marquetry on the division and inside rear door panels. (All of which, historian Beverly Rae Kimes would later wryly note, “cost extra.”)

The remarkable Rolls was enjoyed by Mrs. Schoellkopf for about three years. In 1932 it was sold to Philadelphia sportsman and socialite James H.R. Cromwell, next passing through a succession of short-term ownerships before its acquisition in the mid-1950s by G. Willard Blauvelt of Herkimer, New York. Mr. Blauvelt was an early Rolls-Royce Owners Club member and took the car to several of their events.

In the mid-1960s the Rolls was sold to Robert McVoy of Poland, New York, who drove it approximately 20,000 miles in three decades, occasionally with his good friend, Governor of New York and future Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, taking a turn at the wheel! During Mr. McVoy’s ownership, the gilded Riviera remained a favorite of historians and journalists, appearing in John Webb deCampi’s Rolls-Royce in America (plate 226) and Kimes’ The Classic Car (p. 700). In the latter, Mr. McVoy said, “The odometer had 50,000 miles when I bought it. There was no rust or rot, and all the original wood,” testifying that the car was not only well maintained in his ownership, but had been for its entire life.

In 1996, Mr. McVoy finally parted with the Riviera, selling it to the great collector Roger Morrison of Salina, Kansas. Rick Hamlin of Rick’s Automotive in Wellington, Kansas, performed a painstaking restoration, preserving the original canework on the rear body panels, as well as the original gold-plated brightwork and extravagant interior wood inlays. This restoration was judged Best in Class and Most Elegant Closed Car at the 2003 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Most Outstanding Rolls-Royce at the 2004 Amelia Island Concours, and a 100-point winner at the CCCA Michigan Grand Classic. Beverly Rae Kimes again turned her attention to the freshly restored car, documenting its ownership history in a fascinating article in the Summer 2006 issue of The Classic Car, which is recommended reading for all potential buyers.

The Rolls was then acquired by John M. O’Quinn for his legendary collection, from which it was purchased by a respected West Coast collector in 2011. Three years later the car returned to Pebble Beach, where it was again a double award-winner, winning Best in Class, for a second time, and the Lucius Beebe Trophy for Most Elegant Rolls-Royce.

Simply put, few extant Phantom I’s have such spectacular lines, impressive trim, and wonderful provenance as this Riviera, a machine that can be considered one of the most significant examples of its type. It is, like its original owner, bold, flamboyant, and indisputably one of a kind.

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