A Passion for Elegance | Lot 113
1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III Four-Door Cabriolet by Voll & Ruhrbeck
CHF455,000 | Sold
19 June 2021
- One-off coachwork by one of Berlin’s most renowned shops
- Specially delivered with wheel discs, louvered bonnet, and Marchal lighting
- Fascinating history; former single-family ownership for over four decades
- Attractive older marque specialist restoration
BRITISH ENGINEERING WITH GERMAN CRAFTSMANSHIP
Rolls-Royce Phantom III chassis number 3BT187 is noted on its chassis records as having been off-test on 28 May 1937, and supplied for Cabriolet coachwork to the renowned Berlin shops of Voll & Ruhrbeck. The temperature of the time must be considered; with Germany overtaken by nationalism, it was relatively uncommon for a British chassis to arrive for bodywork—and vice-versa. In this case, however, the Phantom III’s customer was Johannes Albertus George Sandberg of Wassenaar, The Netherlands, reputedly a longstanding Voll & Ruhrbeck client who had remained faithful to his favorite coachbuilder; politics was likely not part of the discussion.
The car nonetheless was of very Germanic design, with heavily skirted and deeply crowned front and rear fenders that created a distinctive and imposing appearance. Rolls-Royce had specially supplied unpainted aluminum wheel discs and the bonnet with distinctive rearward-sloping louvers, decorated with aluminum mouldings. A very well-insulated, magnificently engineered convertible top sheltered an interior that, with its thickly upholstered, sofa-like cushions, would be at home in a custom 540 K or Horch of the period. Metric instruments, including the speedometer, were fitted beside the right-hand steering wheel, along with a special wiring system accommodating the customer’s choice of Marchal lighting.
Rolls-Royce records note the supply of occasional parts for the car until July of 1939, at which point the record ceases. The Phantom III’s wartime life is not definitively known, though it was apparently acquired by German forces at some point during the war; while it has occasionally been reported to have been used by Minister of Foreign Affairs Joachim von Ribbentrop, evidence to that effect is inconclusive. In any case, information in the file indicates that by 1945 it was being driven by a British Army officer who had found it during the advance across Germany. Rolls-Royce’s own records indicate that it was being used in 1950 by General Sir Brian H. Robertson, and then in 1951 by Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick in his service as the British High Commissioner in postwar Germany.
In 1954 the car returned to private hands in the ownership of J. Marshall Dent of Warwickshire. By 1959 it had moved stateside and was in the hands of California enthusiast Nelson A. Howard, next passing by 1963 to Dr. Robert L. Anderson of Oregon and the following year via Tom Barrett to Roger McCormick of Chicago, Illinois.
THE McCORMICK FAMILY CAR
An immensely wealthy heir to both the Deering and McCormick farm implement families, Roger McCormick spent much of his time in Mackinac City in at the northernmost tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, where he was a well-known local philanthropist and built a grand estate, Headlands, known as “the Versailles of the north woods.” Reportedly the Phantom III was kept at Mackinac City and occasionally used when its owner was in residence.
Following Mr. McCormick’s passing in 1968, chassis number 3BT187 was retained by his daughter, Charlotte Deering McCormick, who kept it within her carriage house in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. It was eventually restored for her by D&D Classic Auto Restoration of Covington, Ohio, to its present livery and appearance. Extensive photographs on file document a subsequent rebuild of the notoriously complex V-12 by noted specialists, Dennison-Jayne. Afterward the car was shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2000, and went on to earn First Place in the Phantom III division at the 2008 Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club National Meet. Ms. McCormick finally parted with the Rolls-Royce soon thereafter, after it had been a member of her family for nearly 45 years.
As part of the current collection since 2011, this special, treasured machine has continued to enjoy fine maintenance worth of the magnificent creation that it is—a unique combination of Rolls-Royce’s fabulous engineering and Voll & Ruhrbeck’s solid craftsmanship.