This original cost of this is mind blowing
An art-filled Rolls-Royce regarded as a palace on wheels and one of the finest British cars ever made is expected to sell for £700,000 at auction.
The one-of-a-kind Phantom I was commissioned in 1926 by Woolworths’ financial director Clarence Gasque as a surprise gift for his wife, Maude.
To ensure she was suitably impressed, Mr Gasque set out on a no-expense-spared project which resulted in the rear seats costing more than the average home.
The ten-month project resulted in a car described by experts as being ‘nothing less than magnificently palatial’.
Mr Gasque, a London-based American, bought the chassis and drivetrain from Rolls-Royce for £1,600. He gave it to Wolverhampton coachbuilder Charles Clark of Wolverhampton, headed up at the time by a Mr Barnett, with the demand the car’s design must be French.
While struggling for inspiration, Mr Barnett visited London’s Victoria and Albert Museum where he came across a sedan chair which once belonged to Marie Antoinette.
This created the spark which saw Barnett commission craftsmen from Aubusson, France, to spend nine months working on a the tapestry for the rear seats, costing £500 at the time.
As passengers sit on the bench, which has scenes depicting the Rococo / late Baroque period, they could gaze upwards at the cherubs painted on the ceiling.
To relax on their chauffeur-driven journeys Mr and Mrs Gasque could make use of the drinks cabinet.
There is a makeup cabinet, lavish interior lights, hideaway seats, a French ormolu clock and satinwood veneer panelling.
Other luxurious features included gilt bronze mounts hand cast by Birmingham-based silver manufacturer Elkington.
In honour of the Gasque family’s French origins, Barnett devised a faux coat of arms at his request, which was applied to the rear doors.
The £6,500 car, known as The Phantom of Love, took ten months to complete being three times the normal period for a Rolls-Royce and was delivered to the London-based couple in April 1927.
During the build period, Mr Gasque told staff at Charles Clarke he didn’t want to see the car or hear about it, despite it being the most expensive Rolls-Royce ever ordered.
The happy couple enjoyed it for 18 months until Mr Gasque passed away at the age of 54.
Mrs Gasque, a Woolworth heiress, then used the car until 1937 when it was placed in storage.
The car remained locked away until 1952 when it was sold to Stanley Sears, a Rolls-Royce collector and father of British racing driver Jack.
During the mid-1980s, the car was sold to a Japanese collector for £1million, another staggering figure for the time and there are rumours it was then sold for double this figure to another Japanese gentleman who later had financial problems.
The car resurfaced in the USA in 2002 and was then brought back to England where it has remained since.
Bonhams has described the vehicle as like the throne room in Versailles
and it will be on sale on December 4th with a guide price of £500,000 to £700,000.
Rob Hubbard, senior motor car specialist and auctioneer at Bonhams, said: ‘It is probably the most expensive Rolls-Royce ever made, costing £6,500 in 1926.
‘In the old car world, the Rolls-Royce is very well known and it has one of the most magnificent interiors that has ever been produced.
‘Inside, the rear of the car is a work of art and a piece of history. It is like stepping inside a very fine Georgian manor house.
‘Clarence Gasque had a French link which is why the car has a French influence. The tapestry was made to order and then trimmed to the seats.
‘The value is a little unknown. It was sold ten years ago and was rumoured to have made a million. It was also sold for around £1 million in 1986 so it has always been a highly prized car.’