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Barbara's Rolls-Royce links to all the cars that matter

Barbaras Rolls-Royce and all those other cars involved
You will know by now that we have a soft spot for cars with a bit of drama attached to them, and so when regular Uffe Mortensen sent in a picture of his 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II we nearly melted. Not just because of the car – a truly great design, oh yes, and in a marvellous shape and colour combination, no doubt. But it’s the history-bit that got us really enthusiastic here, as this car has been linked sometime, somehow, somewhere, to a multitude of car-crazy people and their vehicles. Take a deep breathe for a short overview.

When new, the drophead Phantom was commissioned by Georgian prince Alexis M’divani who had just taken delivery of a unique Duesenberg SJ Roadster. He bought the Rolls-Royce for his newly-wed Barbara Hutton, a then 21-year old heir to the Woolworth fortune who’d just inherited $50 million. It wouldn’t be Barbara’s only marriage. M’divani died not long later of a fall from a polo horse (although some sources say he crashed the Phantom) and Barbara started a whole string of weddings and divorces to the rich and famous. Amongst others to Cary Grant, who drove anything from Cord special to Isetta; Igor Troubetzkoy, who became the first driver ever to drive a Grand Prix for Ferrari in 1948 and who later won the Targa Florio for them. Also Porfirio Rubirosa, who owned a multitude of sports cars, also raced for Ferrari and was killed in one when he crashed it into a tree in Paris. A similar thing happened to her next husband, tennis player Baron Gottfried von Cramm, who blew out his mind in a car crash in Cairo, Egypt. Another marriage was to Count Court Haugwitz-Reventlow who gave Barbara her only child: Lawrence ‘Lance’ Reventlow who became racing driver for Cooper, Maserati and Mercedes and later set up his own racing car marque in the US: Scarab. Meanwhile, Barbara hadn’t enjoyed the Phantom for too long, and had also become attached to Ferraris later in her life. She had a silver grey 250 Pininfarina cabriolet and a 365 GTC in an unusual shade of pink!

That’s an incredible amount of exotic cars attached to one life. Barbara died, bankrupt according to some, in 1979 aged 66. After the supposed crash the Rolls-Royce is said to have been restored by Thrupp & Maberly in 1935 and was offered for sale not too long ago for over a million dollars. It didn’t sell, but now that it’s in Uffe’s hands it may be seen in public again. What a car, what a story!

(picture courtesy Uffe Mortensen)
Tuesday, 21 October 2014 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

Another mystery hailing from India (update: Standard Avon)

Another mystery hailing from India
You may remember we had a rather hard time identifying the (alleged) 1905 l’Elégante some weeks ago, believing the mystery car, shot in India, was a Rover. But you knew better, and right you were! Want more of that? You get more, as we’ve had another message from our friend Karl. And once again, he attached a picture of an old car photographed in India a long time ago. Karl wrote: “Hello once again. Firstly thank you for identifying the 1905 l'Elegante in Bombay that I shared the picture of recently. I have another one to identify."

"A friend saw this photograph hanging on the wall in an old garage in Nasik, India, amongst other pictures. All others were easy to identify except this sporty looking possibly European car. The registration number tallies to Poona (now Pune), at around the 1940s (all cars in the region were assigned new numbers in 1939). I hope you can help me identify the car.” Now, it looks English to us, but we wouldn’t dare giving it a go this time. So let's leave it over to you, our readers. You surely may help us - and Karl - out once more.

Monday, 20 October 2014 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

Back shed bike to rich and famous Packards

Back shed bike to rich and famous Packards.

If you are in Melbourne on October 25th then head over to Theodore Bruce for their Motorclassica Collector Car Auction. Sixty lots of automobilia will go under the hammer at 6pm and 34 vehicles start at 7pm.

Lot 7 is a 1914 Victor, the last and only surviving motorcycle from a series of five built over many years by Mr. Edward Victor Bowen in a shed at the back of his bike shop. As each one was completed, the previous one was sold so we can surmise that this must have been Bowen’s ideal machine with 1000cc JAP V Twin engine, TT 3-speed Armstrong gears within the rear hub and locally made sidecar attached to the frame using parts from the Chater Lea catalogue. The auction catalogue shows how it is entirely possible to carry out a thorough refurbishment and still retain the original finish and patina. Full marks!

The 1923 Alvis 12/40 "Ducksback" Tourer is a firm favourite amongst so many sporting vintage drivers being made by a company with a good reputation for reliable, quality hand built cars with impressive performance and stylish bodywork from the best coachbuilders of the time, Cross & Ellis and Carbodies. The pictures show a meticulous restoration and the new owner can look forward to a lifetime’s happy motoring in this vintage gem.

Three RHD Packards from Detroit are offered with their legendary straight eight engines, luxurious coachwork and the car of choice for the rich and famous the world over. I like the story behind the 1925 Packard Holbrook Coupe bought by music magnate Mr. Frank Albert and delivered to Sydney aboard the RMS Niagara which was subsequently sunk in 1940 by a German U-Boat whilst carrying US $8 million worth of gold. However, the 1937 Packard 120 Straight 8 Rumble-Seat Convertible Coupé is my favourite and the same can be said of the acting Governor of Hawaii when he saw the car on the ship taking it to Melbourne on a stopover in Honolulu, although I don’t believe the reason he wanted a RHD car.

The description of the 1936 Cord 810 Sportsman's Convertible Coupé makes the car very tempting….” On account of its rarity and aesthetic appeal, the Cord Sportsman is one of the most highly collectable of American motor cars. Its unconventional bonnet and radiator conceal a V-8 engine coupled to front wheel drive and a pre-selection gear-change with electrically operated box. Remarkably quick acceleration, the Sportsman's Convertible Coupé cruised at 75 mph and had a top speed of over 92 mph..” and is in “ absolutely tip-top condition throughout.” But you’ll need deep pockets.

There are two 1929 Marmons with much lower estimates but the car I would most like to take home from the pre-war cars is the 1937 BMW 327 Convertible. Look at the sheer beauty of the streamlined body (designed in conjunction with the Karosseriebauer Autenrieth of Darmstadt) and beneath the bonnet sits the straight six OHV M78 engine of 2 litres - BMW’s first straight-6 and designed by Fritz Fiedler. Transmission is via a ZF 4-speed gearbox with freewheel facility in first and second gears. “The much sought after 327 convertible is one of the most exclusive of all BMW classic cars.”

(Text Robin Batchelor, pictures courtesy Theodore Bruce Auctions)

Sunday, 19 October 2014 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

What is it? Quiz #381

What is it? Quiz #381

It's a pickup, obviously, but what pickup? We've obscured a few identifying features, but we can tell you that it was sold by a company that normally did not build pickups. It was built for a few years only, and was produced in conjunction with another company that had roots in a General Motors brand.

You just have to tell us the make, year and model. Many of you may find it easy, so to win you might tell us some of its history. As a tie breaker, you could offer the name of the model that succeeded it. Just read the Rules under Read More and start looking, looking, looking. This may finally be your chance to win the coveted PreWarCar T-shirt. Results will be published next Saturday, October 25.

Saturday, 18 October 2014 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

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1977 Simca Simca 1000 Rallye 2
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