Amelia Island

10-11 March 2017

A Gentleman's Collection: The Pride & Passion of Orin Smith

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Lot 112

1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Henley Roadster by Brewster

  • Chassis no. S303LR
  • Engine no. 21039
  • Body no. 6003

Sold for $682,000


40/50 hp, 468 cu. in. OHV inline six-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, solid front axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs, live rear axle with cantilever leaf-spring platform suspension, and four-wheel servo-assisted drum brakes. Wheelbase: 146.5 in.

  • The 250 GTO of the Springfield Rolls-Royce world
  • One of just two original examples built on Phantom I chassis
  • Formerly owned by Dr. George Bitgood and Prestley Blake
  • The only Henley Roadster known presently available for sale
  • A remarkable opportunity to acquire a crown jewel


THE HENLEY ROADSTER

With “Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Work” cataloguing numerous attractive styles for the American Rolls-Royce chassis, arguments over which is the most beautiful has become something of a pastime for enthusiasts. It usually comes down, however, to the Henley Roadster, with its distinctive “dipped” door lines, low vee’d windshield, and svelte tail, concealing a rumble seat that has its own pair of tiny doors. The Henley was that rare design where the designer struck a home run on every point; there is, quite simply, not a bad view or angle to the entire car. It managed to make a large Phantom I or Phantom II look positively racy.

Brewster built 11 copies of the Henley Roadster between 1929 and 1933, for a client list that read like a society “who’s who.” Of the 11 original cars built, 10 have survived, and these have, fittingly and justifiably, become priceless. Occupying the same rarefied position in their niche as the ne plus ultra and ultimate examples of their type, they can safely be considered the 250 GTO of the American Rolls-Royce world, as the whereabouts of all are known, and they are all part of significant private collections. They seldom become available for sale, especially at public auction, and when they do, it is a significant occasion. Indeed, the car offered here, from the collection of Orin Smith, is the only original Henley Roadster likely to become available in the foreseeable future.

CHASSIS NUMBER S303LR

The Henley Roadster was designed and intended for the Phantom II chassis, but that did not stop a pair of owners from ordering the sexy new style mounted to their Phantom Is. One of the two Henley Roadsters built for Phantom Is was this body, number 6003, which was originally mounted to chassis number S140FR for New York jeweler A.V. Frost. It was subsequently moved in July of 1940 to this chassis, number S303LR, for M.D. Whalen, as is documented in the Rolls-Royce of America records, copies of which are on file.

The car passed in the summer of 1944 to Dr. George E. Bitgood, the Connecticut veterinarian famous for his collection of Mercedes-Benz 540Ks; it undoubtedly looked right at home alongside his pair of Special Roadsters. It next passed to a Mrs. Maria Shrady, who traded it back to New York Rolls-Royce dealer J.S. Inskip; the car was then sold by Inskip to Henry McNevin Jones of New York City, later in 1949.

According to the research of Rolls-Royce historian, André Blaize, the car was subsequently acquired in 1957 by James M. Wareham of New York. Its next known owner, in the early 1980s, was William Mayberry of Connecticut, who sold the car in 1982 to S. Prestley Blake. Co-founder of the famous Friendly’s chain of ice cream parlors with his brother, Curtis. “Pres” Blake has been a member of the Rolls-Royce Owners Club since its earliest days and has for decades been one of the most avid American collectors of the company’s automobiles. The Henley Roadster became one of the most famous cars in his fleet, and it remained in his ownership until 1999.

The Rolls was later acquired in 2003 by Wayne Kay of Mississauga, Ontario, who sold it several years later to a prominent Western collection. In 2010 it joined the well-known Off Brothers Collection in Richland, Michigan, where it was exhibited proudly for several years before its addition to the Orin Smith stable.

Because of its beautiful lines, great rarity, and subtly elegant color scheme, the Henley Roadster was one of the Smith’s favorite cars in their collection; it was given a place of prominence in their museum, and the livery inspired similar finishes on their Phantom I Ascot Tourer. They maintained the car to the same high standard in which it had been preserved by previous owners, and today, while both paint and interior are older, both remain solid and largely unmarred, although the top shows considerable age. Panel fit is very good throughout, with the exception of the right-hand door, which is “proud” slightly at the bottom edge. Importantly, the original body number is still stamped into the wooden floorboards.

The dashboard is correct late Phantom I, with a “cubby box” on either side. The wheels are dressed with polished wheel discs and whitewall tires, while the body is accessorized with dual spotlights, correct double flat bar bumpers, and a correct Trilin tail lamp. Under the hood, all is tidy, with very nice finishes aside from some unusual aftermarket radiator hose fittings.

An interesting and most charming feature is that the car retains its original set of keys, which will accompany it to a new owner. The keys are hung on a modern loop with two original “fobs,” both brass, one of which is stamped “S303LR Hen,” and the other bearing the legend “Rolls-Royce of America Chassis No. S303LR.”

Lovely to behold and a pleasure to drive, this Henley Roadster represents more than just an exciting opportunity. It marks a rare occasion to acquire an instant centerpiece and immediate bragging rights to one of the scarcest “Springfield” Phantoms, and to join a roster of great names that have been fortunate to possess S303LR over the last 80 years.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 9... read more

Cameron Smyth

csmyth@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Cameron Smyth joined RM Sotheby’s as a Car Specialist in 2015, working out of our corporate office and providing assistance on c... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Ian Kelleher

ikelleher@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Politica... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. He att... read more

Peter Wallman

pwallman@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007 following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, where he was based out ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more