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Hello, our dears! One more legendary automobile today, one more curious story about a unique vehicle. Please, meet the Rolls-Royce Phantom l Jonckheere Aerodynamic Coupe.
The story of the automobile is really fascinating. At first sight, such a striking car should have had an eccentric owner and certainly be born in the Art Deco movement of the 1930s. The Jonckheere Coupe was indeed very much a part of this movement with its stylish modernism and mathematical geometric shapes which were popular at the time. As to the owner it is much more complicated though. But let’s beat the matter out step by step.
The origins of the Jonckheere Coupe stretch around the world, but start in Great Britain at the Rolls-Royce factory. Originally the car was a 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I. Like all other prewar Rolls-Royce motorcars, this Phantom I was delivered new in chassis-only form to a coachbuilder. Hooper & Co. was the chosen body maker and soon, in 1925, the completed vehicle was presented with a convertible body to its first owner, a Mrs. Hugh Dillman from Detroit. However, Mrs. Dillman reportedly didn’t like the car and it appears never to have left England.
Then, the design philosophy caught the attention of the Raja of Nanpara, an Indian regional potentate under British rule. His Great Nanpara Estate had already contained a polished aluminum 40/50HP Silver Ghost when he ordered Rolls-Royce’s latest Phantom. However, the vehicle didn’t stay in it for long with its new holder and was passed on to an unknown number of other owners. By 1932 it was seen in Belgium.
The Rolls-Royce 40/50HP Silver Ghost
Two years later its then owner sent the car to the shop of Jonckheere brothers in Belgium for its new hand-crafted body. They were well known throughout Europe for making bodies on both cars and busses. Some reports suggest the renovated Rolls-Royce was intended as a present for Prince Edward, but all records from the factory were lost in the war and it is not even known who originally penned the fantastic Art Deco body shape.
The Jonckheeres created an extravagant coachwork which has just as much impact 80 years after its construction as it did in 1934. The conventional Hooper cabriolet body was took off and replaced with fashionably aerodynamic coachwork. The body was completely hand fabricated, including twin sunroofs, bespoke luggage and a stabilizing fin at the rear. It was also one of the few Phantoms which featured a modified front grill.
The doors, which were oval, required two half-moon pieces of glass that closed towards each other within a complex winding mechanism. This detail gave a proper nickname to the vehicle: “The Round Door Rolls”. The car was fitted with a 6-cylinder, 7.66L OHV inline six engine and a 4-speed manual transmission. All told, the luxurious automobile was quiet enough to hold a conversation at speed and would easily travel at 161 km/h.
The car was finished in time for the Concours on the French Riviera. Although the design was controversial and not highly regarded by most Rolls-Royce admirers, the car was well received by Concours d’Elegance judges of the day and took a Prix d’Honneur at the August, 1936 Cannes Concours d’Elegance.
The prize winning car then passed through the hands of several other owners, and was observed in Bar Harbor, Maine before World War II being driven by a chauffeur who was so obese, that he couldn’t get out of the car to assist his employer to disembark. The Round Door Rolls was next discovered in the 1950’s, in New Jersey, in a junk yard.
It is not known who rescued the car from being scrapped, but the unusual Rolls-Royce was eventually acquired by East Coast entrepreneur Max Obie. He restored the car in a brilliant hue of metallic gold, painting it with six pounds of gold dust and lacquer, and also refurbished details like the silk headliner and seats that folded into beds. From here, Obie took the automobile to shopping malls and showed it as a sideshow at fairs, making claims that the car had been owned by royalty and charged admission for people to look at it.
After its traveling freak show days were over, the Jonckheere Coupe was stored away for long time. The vehicle disappeared until 1991 when it was resurrected and sold at auction. The description incorrectly listed it as “the 1954 World Motorsport winner in NY” and “built for Prince of Wales”. With just 5000 miles on the odometer, it was purchased by a Japanese collector for $1,500,000 USD who retained the car for about 15 years.
Eventually the car made its back to America and in the hands of the Peterson Automotive Museum in California. Taking possession of the Rolls-Royce Mr. and Mrs. Petersen decided to bring the car back to its concours winning glory.
The automobile arrived in pieces, and they send the remains to Tired Iron Works in California to piece together the entire car. Every component was removed, checked for wear and authenticity, then reconditioned or replaced as needed. A bunch of interesting details were discovered then, such as an extended chassis. The biggest challenge was to finish the body and its squared-off louvers. Finally the Rolls-Royce was restored to its first incarnation of red leather interior and black gloss exterior that highlighted its subtle contours and striking profile.
The original 1934 red leather interior restored
Peterson debuted the stunning Rolls at the 2005 Pebble Beach Concours where its questionable providence got in the way of its unquestionable elegance. The automobile got only a consolidation prize then, the Lucius Beebe Trophy for the finest Rolls-Royce. Nevertheless the Jonckheere Coupe became a favorite of many at the show. Nowadays the vehicle is a popular attraction and has since been seen at various other classic car Concours events such as Meadowbrook and Ameila Island. But in a cruel twist of fate the car is unfortunately not eligible for the top prizes at these gatherings as the original records are lost.
The story seemed to be over, but, in 2012, a modern interpretation of the Rolls Royce Jonckheere Aerodynamic Coupe was revealed. Jonckheere, the original coachbuilders, have commissioned Turkish automotive designer Ugur Sahin to create a modern interpretation of the original hand-built one-off.
The result is an impressive Gotham-like design of a classic. It has retained its timeless lines but infused movement and some of the 21st century’s bells and whistles like: LED lighting, streamlined the bodywork, and minimized extraneous trim. There are hopes that this concept car will be turned into reality. The “Round Door Rolls” continues to live on!
The new Rolls-Royce Jonckheere Aerodynamic Coupe ll concept by Ugur Sahin Design
There are few vehicles that have as dramatic and mysterious story as the Jonckheere Coupe. Its impressive length and curves as well as oversize grill make most other pre-war cars look boring. And it certainly makes most other Rolls-Royces look staid by comparison.
So, we are glad to offer you the 3D model of, maybe, the most memorable Rolls-Royce, Phantom l Jonckheere Coupe.
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