1937 Rolls Royce Phantom III (3AX79- “Monty’s Rolls”)
1937 Rolls Royce Phantom III (3AX79- “Monty’s Rolls”)
The famous “Monty’s Rolls”- Stunning, unique and innovative design by deHavilland Aircraft, built by HJ Mulliner. One of the most important historical motorcars. The King, Eisenhower, Churchill and others were regularly chauffeured in this motorcar during the War. General Bernard Montgomery owned it until 1963, then Jimmy Leake.
Hundreds of amazing documents, videos, books and movies prove its unique provenance. All original, shown at Pebble Beach and CCCA Best Original. Consistent award winner. Mechanically rebuilt by Rolls Royce circa 1963.
There are a number of cars that are very much associated with one or more of their owners. 3AX79 is one of those cars, because it was for twenty years owned by Field-Marshall Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, but this is getting ahead of our story.
In late 1936 John Croall & Sons ordered one of the new Phantom III chassis for their customer Mr. Alan Samuel Butler, Chairman of de Havilland aircraft. The chassis was duly constructed (with Works No. 5940), fitted with engine E98W, rackish F type steering and was set up for touring in the UK and in Europe. It went off test at Derby on 16 November, and was delivered from Lillie Hall in London to H J Mulliner in Chiswick four days later.
As recorded from the HJ Mulliner build sheet dated October 29, 1936: “Body: 4 door 4 light saloon with special VEE front sloped windscreen and swept tail. Fade away ridge along roof.” Also ordered were the Smith Aneroid altimeter mounted on the aircraft themed fasciaboard and the spare wheel and tire mounted in a flush manner in the rear boot door. 3AX79 still bears its original black paintwork, brown leather upholstery and fawn carpets and headliner.
A lot has been said about the most unusual design of body built by H J Mulliner on this chassis; Mr. Butler had tested many windshield designs at the de Havilland wind tunnel and found the forward sloping vee design reduced wind resistance by about 15 percent. It also helped reduce dazzle from oncoming traffic at night and rain was quickly removed from the windscreen during foul weather.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-9vcQAYBj0[/youtube]The description of an H J Mulliner 4-light saloon with division does not do justice to a car that by its design must have caused many a head to turn when it hit the road in early 1937. The most obvious thing is that famous reverse-rake V-windscreen (one rumour has it that Montgomery designed it that way so that the glare from the sand in the desert would not be a problem! The car was never in the desert with Montgomery). In addition, unusual features were the rounded tail and the absence of an external spare wheel – almost unheard of at the time (it is held tight inside the boot (trunk) lid). As well, the flashes of chrome (long lightening bolt shapes) on the rear wheel spats and just ahead of the A pillar give it an Art Deco look. The car was finished in black (it doesn’t appear to have ever been repainted) and had light brown leather throughout. There are a winding division, no occasional seats, and heaters to both front and rear compartments. There are twin smokers companions in the rear, and the woodwork is in mahogany with German silver stringing. All up the body cost 970 pounds, adding to the chassis price of 1,665 pounds.
The car was delivered to Butler on 8 February 1937; two weeks before that his chauffeur of 15 years, A H Qantrell, graduated from the RR School of Instruction (a new chauffeur, S W Bragg, graduated from there in May 1937). The car provided service for Butler until 1940, when he gave it to the British Army to be used by the Chiefs of the Imperial General Staff. There were three conditions that de Havilland placed on the War Department: that the car must be driven and cared for by a Rolls Royce qualified man, that the car was not to be sent abroad and that Messrs. Rolls Royce were to carry out all service inspections and, if necessary, all repairs.
A file from the Army reveals that the car was allocated first to General Sir William Ironside, then in 1942 to General Sir Alan Brook; a year or so later it would be used by Field Marshal Viscount Gort, who was Commander-in-Chief of the UK Home Forces.
But it was (apparently) just before D-Day that it was allocated to General Bernard Montgomery; but it was his Wraith WMB40 that carried him from the beach at Normandy. There are some reports that the Phantom III carried him into Berlin, however, and was reportedly the second British car into the city.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZu2BFRCRbo[/youtube]3AX79 is frequently shown in documentary films displayed on the Military and History Channels, as the motorcar has transported such dignitaries as King George VI, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Sir Winston Churchill. The Motorcar has also carried the Prime Ministers of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The chauffer for over twenty years, Sergeant Cedric Parker, has published numerous articles and has documented many excursions with these special passengers. The cars history is supported by literally hundreds of letters, articles, photos, movies and inclusion in nearly half the books concerning Rolls-Royce.
Documented often in the motorcars history file is an accounting of one such event: Sargeant Parker was taking Eisenhower to a Chief of Staff meeting with Churchill one day, and they were a little bit late. As there was no traffic on the London streets in those days, he “put his foot down” and swept down Whitehall in the Rolls at a goodly pace, only to be stopped by a policeman who told him he was exceeding the speed limit. With an important passenger on-board, he had his gun at the ready but before he could explain the situation, Eisenhower leant forward from the backseat and said: “say, Buddy, no war was ever won at 30 miles per hour!” Whereupon they were waived on their way.
Monty used the motorcar as his official car until the end of the War. Following the armistice, the unusual and important car was considered surplus and Monty persuaded the authorities to allow him to buy the car personally. Monty retained use of the motorcar until the death of the cars long-time chauffer, Sergeant Parker, in 1962.
3AX79 was exported by Comptons to the US, to be owned as one of the late Jim Leake’s first collector classics. Mr. Leake proudly exhibited the car in his museum for over ten years. Mr. Leake sold the car to the late Herbert Dorner in Northfield, Illinois and, since early 1997, by Harry Clark.
By 1963 the car had covered 340,000 miles being fastidiously maintained by Rolls Royce mechanics and the cars chauffer, Sergeant Parker. In the early 1960’s the drivetrain was fully rebuilt and during the last thirty years less than 30,000 have been put on it.
3AX79 has consistently been said to be the finest running original Phantom III in existence and was often used to tour participants in the Rolls Royce Owners Club Annual National Meeting and the Phantom III Technical Society. The quality of its present mechanical performance has been attributed by the late PIIITS Chairman to two factors: first, that through the war times the car was used and serviced and secondly all service was performed to the highest levels by Messrs. Rolls Royce and qualified technicians. Many PIII’s were stored through the war and lacked proper service and anti-freeze, causing severe corrosion. 3AX79 escaped this fate.
3AX79 has a distinguished record of exhibiting at recent concours events. In 2001 3AX79 participated in the first ever Preservation Class and Tour d’Elegance at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Also in 2001, 3AX79 had also received the Best Original at the CCCA Annual Meeting in Coronado, CA. Other notable concours events where this important motorcar has been exhibited and often awarded include: Palos Verdes Concours, Newport Beach Concours, Los Angeles Concours, Ironstone Concours, Rolls Royce Owners Club National Annual Meeting, numerous CCCA Grand Classics, special exhibitions for the Peterson Automotive and San Diego Automotive Museums.
The car was more recently filmed in the George Clooney movie, The Good German and the Discovery Channel show “Automaniacs”. It was also featured in MSN Autos as one of the Top 10 Cars from Gooding & Company.
- RREC Copies, HJ Mulliner Build Sheets and History
- Motor Sport Magazine 1975 Ironside Article and Letters to the Editor
- WWII History and Misc
- WWII Historical Documents, The King, etc…
- PIII World War II History Manuscript by Jewels
- Mulliner Build Sheet
- Motoring and the Mighty excerpt by R. Garrett
- Letters from Montgomery and Kadoorie
- Goodrich Display Brochure RROC and Windshield Design