The 1925-34 ‘Round Door’ Rolls-Royce Phantom I Jonckheere Coupe is, without doubt, the coolest and most ostentatious Roller you’re ever likely to catch a glimpse of. Ever.
The ‘one of one’ Rolls-Royce measures over 20 feet long, 6 feet tall, and tips the scales at a sniff under 3-ton, making the incredible Art Deco Jonckheere Coupe one of the most high profile cars in existence. The ‘Aerodynamic Coupe’ began its life as a 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I chassis which was then sent to British coachbuilders, Hooper & Company, a specialist British coachbuilding firm based in Westminster London who, from 1805 to 1959 designed and built luxury carriages.
Hooper & Co proceeded to upgrade it to one of their Cabriolet bodies which unfortunately the prospective owner at the time, Mrs. Hugh Dillman of Detroit, wasn’t too pleased about and refused to accept the car, describing it in her words as as “the ugliest thing she’d set eyes on“. Strange, but remember this was back in the day when money allowed you to throw away an entire body and replace it with another more fanciable one.
All was not completely lost… the extraordinary Rolls-Royce returned to the market and was subsequently bought by luxury automotive enthusiast Raja of Nanpara who was already the proud custodian of 40/50HP Silver Ghost.
Fast forward 12 months and the curse of the Hooper Cabriolet struck once again as the car found itself in Belgium without an owner and back to a rolling chassis.
As luck would have it, in 1934, Belgian coachbuilders, Henri Jonckheere and his son Joseph Jonckheere got their hands on it and proceeded to create what can only be described as the most extravagant looking body ever produced for a luxury motor car, which to this day continues to astound anyone that’s lucky enough to see it. Following various successful Concours outings, the car fell into the hands of an entrepreneur, Max Obie who went on to exploit its worth at theatres and large meetings where he would charge a dollar to anyone wishing to view the Rolls-Royce in all its glory.
After changing hands through various collectors, the car finally ended up in Japan after being sold at auction for $1,500,000 USD and remained there for the next two decades until ‘the’ Mr. Petersen made the remarkable discovery and subsequently purchased the car. Whilst the car had fallen into disrepair, it remained intact and ‘all there’, albeit in various shades of patina.
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True to his word, Mr Petersen fully restored the car to absolute perfection and although unsuccessful in convincing the 2005 Pebble Beach Concours judges of its integrity due to the chassis being 1925 and the body some 9 years younger, the amazing Jonckheere Coupe did win the coveted Lucius Beebe Trophy for the finest Rolls-Royce.
Whilst its nickname is a ‘Round Door’ Rolls-Royce, the doors are actually slightly oval and hinged in only two places, opening only a small amount. Incredibly, the windows are in two ‘half-moon’ segments which open from the centre and downwards into the body via an intricate window mechanism that gives the impression a fan is dramatically opening and closing. The car also has an enormous ‘sloping grille shell’ that covers the original grille which is safely hidden away.
Like many 1930s luxury cars, the Jonckheere Coupe sports a dorsal fin much like the Tatra 77, 87, 97, and 600 Tatraplan, albeit smaller and beginning slightly further down and just below open louvres in front of the rear window. Two sun-roofs are also located above passenger and driver, both of which operate independently.
The car remains on continuous display at the world-famous Petersen Museum on Wilshire Boulevard along Museum Row in the Miracle Mile neighbourhood of Los Angeles.
Video and images courtesy of Petersen Museum