Rolls-Royce with an interior inspired by Versailles to be auctioned
Today, Britain’s most vulgar people – James Stunt and Elton John – travel in pretentious convoys but in 1926, a wealthy heiress named Maude Gasque was gifted a car that can only be described as utterly extravagant by her husband, Claude. That vehicle, a Rolls-Royce Phantom I by Brougham De Ville, is now for sale.
Offered with an estimate of £500,000 to £700,000 ($612,000 to $856 or €562,000 to €787,000 by Bonhams in London on 4th December, ‘The Phantom of Love’ was constructed on a chassis and drivetrain purchased by Mr Gasque, a London-based American, for £1,600 (the equivalent of £88,000 or $108,000 or €99,000 today). It was subsequently delivered to a Wolverhampton coachbuilder named Charles Clark and his instructions were to create a car “grander and more lavish than the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost made for [Mr Gasque’s] Woolworth colleague, Surefire Snow.”
The result was, indeed, spectacular and with a budget of £4,500 (the equivalent of £248,000 or $303,000 or €279,000 today), the result was auctioneers Bonhams describe as “a spectacular confection more resembling the throne room at Versailles than the inside of a car”.
It took nine months for the carpet makers Abusson to create the tapestry that makes up the rear seats whilst the painted scenes of naked cherubs on the ceiling took hundreds of hours also. As well as a gilded cornice, there is a bow-fronted antique commode style drinks cabinet, a French ormulu clock and two French porcelain vases containing gilded metal and enamel flowers. A fake faux coat of arms was also applied to the rear door.
Claude Gasque died in 1928 and his wife put the car into storage in 1937. She spent the remainder of her life promoting animal welfare and vegetarianism and then, prior to her death in 1959, sold ‘The Phantom of Love’ in 1952 to the Rolls-Royce collector Stanley Sears.
The “palace on wheels” was subsequently sold to a Japanese collector for £1 million in 1986 (the equivalent of £2.6 million or $3.2 million or €2.9 million today) and then allegedly achieved double that figure later that decade. It then resurfaced in the USA in 2002 and was brought back to the UK shortly thereafter.
Of the car, Rob Hubbard of Bonhams remarked:
“It is probably the most expensive Rolls-Royce ever made. In the old car world, the Rolls-Royce is very well known and it has one of the most magnificent interiors that has ever been produced”.
“Inside, the rear of the car is a work of art and a piece of history. It is like stepping inside a very fine Georgian manor house.”
“Clarence Gasque had a French link which is why the car has a French influence. The tapestry was made to order and then trimmed to the seats”.
“The value is a little unknown…. It has always been a highly prized car”.