Records show that this Phantom II chassis, number 55TA was ordered by Gracie Fields through London Rolls Royce dealer H.R. Owen on October 2nd, 1934. The chassis was dispatched to coachbuilder Gurney Nutting on January 10th, 1935, and it took approximately 3 months before the car was complete and ready for delivery. The car’s history has been confirmed through documents supplied by the Rolls Royce archive (they also supplied the original build specification & test sheets, and a factory photo of this car when new).
Dame Gracie Fields was a legendary British actress/singer/comedienne. On February 15th, 1938, she was honored with the “Commander of the Order of the British Empire” medal from King George VI: http://graciefields.org/wordpress/commander-of-the-british-empire/ more Gracie Fields history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gracie_Fields
Gracie only kept the car for one year, after which it was sold to “His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensbury” (the largest private landowner in Europe – 280,000 acres). The car was owned by the Duke’s family from 1936 – 1948 and kept at Drumlanrig Castle in Scotland: http://www.drumlanrigcastle.co.uk/the-castle/the-douglases-and-drumlanrig/ The Duke’s uncle had been the Chairman of Rolls Royce (he commissioned the original “Spirit of Ecstasy”mascot). His cousin was Lord Montagu of Beaulieu who founded the National Motor Museum at his family estate in Hampshire. Here is the Duke’s family tree: http://www.drumlanrigcastle.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Montagu-Douglas-Scotts-Family-Tree-PDF.pdf
The Duke sold the car in 1948 to a Rolls Royce hire service at 21 Cromwell Mews, Kensington, where it was mainly used for weddings and other special occasions. It was eventually exported to the US (circa 1970) and has been here ever since according to the history on file. A well-known classic car collector (and lifetime member of the Rolls Royce Owners Club) named Gordon Dysart bought the car and embarked on a restoration to bring the car back to its fomer glory. At the time, Gracie Fields ran a small hotel and restaurant on Capri catering to celebrities, and Mr. Dysart actually travelled to the island to visit her and ask for information on the car. She supplied him further details on original colors and materials to help add authenticity to the restoration.
A complete frame-off concours restoration was performed, and this “Full Classic” car earned both CCCA & AACA Senior First Place awards. After the restoration, the car was always maintained and properly stored. Although the restoration was performed some time ago, the car is still in quite beautiful condition. It almost appears to be a well-kept original rather than a restored car. Includes the fitted tool set (under the chauffeur’s seat).
Simply put, this is a very impressive and stately car with superb provenance.
Historical Film Footage
Below is a Pathe newsreel clip from 1946. (The chauffeur of Lady Elizabeth Scott, Duchess of Northumberland provided it). It features my same car when it belonged to the Duke of Buccleuch.