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The King's car

RF 14 came into my possession by chance. It was, back in the early 1980’s when I was building a series of Bentley specials which I called the SR 5s and after pooling any monies I could afford I went out and purchased all the Mark VI and R type chassis that I could find.

Whilst buying a chassis from a farmer in Suffolk l saw another chassis amongst a heap of old farm machinery which I recognised as being Rolls- Royce.

 I asked if I could include this chassis in the purchase but he replied -— no, that is the King’s car. He then showed me a crankcase and said that “the rest is around here somewhere”. I took a note of the engine number OM85 and then returned to work.

The following day I looked this up in the Phantom 1 register to discover that OM 85 was the engine that matched RF 14 which was commissioned by the Prince of Wales, later Edward the VIII and that the body was to his own design and had been made by Gurney Nutting. I returned to Suffolk the following day and enquired of the farmer how much more of the car he had, the reply was "all the rolling chassis" he also said that if I had the time I was welcome to stay at the farm and sort out what l wanted and we could then come to a price. I began sorting the parts among Massey Ferguson, Fordson Major and New Holland etc. and was finding parts all the time. The number CM 85 was clearly stamped and engraved on nearly all parts and as it was the only Rolls Royce engine in the heap l was lucky enough to recognise all the parts. l went back and forth from Leigh for almost three

weeks until I could find no further parts.

After I had laid all the parts out across the entire bam the farmer said he was going away for a week and to help myself to anything else I could find but asked me to put all the farm machinery back into one pile. This I agreed to do and while he was away, accompanied by two apprentices, I went through everything again to ensure I had not left any parts.

On his return he rang me and asked whether I had finished collecting, which thought I had. and so it was agreed I would return the same day to pay him [farmers know how to make money]. After payment was complete he asked if l had been into the lower stables to which I replied ‘I haven’t seen any stables’ and then proceeded to follow him as we walked round the farmhouse to another building.

Upon entering I could hardly believe my eyes, all the bright work and instruments together with electrical parts [magneto, dynamo, regulator boxes etc] were in boxes and all looked in good order. Also the radiator, original chassis plate in a folder with pictures of the car at Buckingham

Palace, at this time I was taken back and he could not stop laughing. All the parts came back to Leigh and we began the cleaning and preparing of all components.

Trying to keep all my clients going, building four specials and working on RF 14 became very difficult so was commissioned as a job to be undertaken at a future date. The journalist from our local paper frequently popped into the showrooms and asked if he could do a feature on the car. Photos were taken of RF 14 in the condition we received it. When the paper published the article I had a visit from a gentleman who told me that his father had been the chauffeur to the Prince of Wales and said he would bring in some family photographs showing his father with RF 14. This helped a great deal with ascertaining the dimensions of the body and to see the original 

fitments to the vehicle. This gentleman had many stories from his father and told me that when the car was changed it found a home with a Mrs. Beatrice Fry in Southampton. For many years after its time with Mrs Fry, RF 14 was not heard of.

Work re-commenced in the late 1980’s and all the components were cleaned and measured and then laid out in the engine shop. Surprisingly enough, the engine components although very dirty were in very good condition with only a ten thou cut on the crank required. The bores were good and measured only .0005 to 001 thou ovality. We had in our

possession a set of original pistons of the correct size and all went together very well. The rest of the engine was assembled in the normal manner. Attention then turned to the transmission and although all the gears and final drive parts were in good order this took a considerable time to complete.

The chassis was completely stripped and crack tested and was found to be in exceptionally good condition no anchor brackets loose and all rivets secure and after shot blasting the chassis was painted in our normal way.

Afler overhaul of the front and rear axle these components were mounted to the chassis and the steering, relays etc. made to work satisfactorily.

With the engine and gearbox, axles etc. reassembled a seat was mounted onto the chassis and then road tested incorporating "Autovac" repairs, magneto and dynamo overhauls etc.

The radiator presented us with another challenge because unfortunately we were not able to find the original shutters to go with the radiator, so, as Phantom 1 people are aware, engine temperature via the shutters is essential for the efficient running of the engine. A temporary cover was made for the radiator to allow the chassis to be tested. The purchase of the correct shutters then started {to be achieved five years later}. Having now a rolling chassis, work commenced on building the body. Once again the photographs we had came in extremely useful and the correct dimensions

were achieved as per the 1928 photographs.

The carpenter, after considerable searching, obtained the correct ash timber for the frame and was able to replicate the construction as per the photo showing the Prince of Wales at Gurney Nutting. After a considerable time the frame was panelled and prepared for the Everflex covering.

We were very fortunate to find, via my Association, a pair of 1928 front road wings, these obviously being the wrong shape and not encompassing the side light nacels as depicted in the pictures.

These were made and the wings altered to comply with the photographs. The rear wings were made from scratch and a suitable rack for the trunk.

The headlight dipping mechanism was found once again, via the Association and worked perfectly. Attention to all of the lighting system i.e. the lower scuttle lights and pillar light took some time to secure, especially the pillar light. We were very lucky to locate an original lamp identical to the one in the photos.

Unfortunately the mechanically operated trafficators have not been located so we have very old electrical units installed.

A colossal amount of time was allocated to the trim work incorporating of course, the Ace trims and finally the radiator shutter mechanism.

The vehicle has now covered 300 hundred miles and is behaving satisfactorily.

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