One-off 1971 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI cabriolet to be auctioned; originally commissioned by a British playboy turned jailbird with connections to Princess Margaret but only actually completed in 1993
A 1971 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI all-weather cabriolet with bodywork by the renowned Italian automotive stylist Frua is to be auctioned this month.
Offered with an estimate of £308,000 to £462,000 ($400,000 to $600,000, €340,000 to €511,000 or درهم1.5 million to درهم2.2 million), this truly unique, one-of-one design was amazingly the final Rolls-Royce Phantom VI completed in spite of the model remaining in production until 1991. This mammoth beast of a car, surprisingly, however, has just 72 miles on its clock and is thus described as “as brand new.”
The car’s first owner, Robert ‘Bobby’ Buchanan-Michaelson, was a bit of a playboy but sadly he never got to actually drive or be driven in it. A “member of Princess Margaret’s inner circle of friends,” this Cambridge graduate was a member of the “Mayfair mammas’ lists of the season’s most eligible bachelors” until “exchanging his Edwardian hacking jacket for prison grey” in 1954 after being jailed for 12 months for an import/export fraud according to a report in Sydney’s World’s News in August that year.
Some years after being freed, ex-con Buchanan-Michaelson took part in the 10,000 mile 1968 London to Sydney Marathon in a Mercedes-Benz 280SE. In a book about the adventure he was described as both a “successful and wealthy businessman, employing a cook, a butler, a maid and a chauffeur” and as an “accomplished sportsman.” Also listed as a lavish spender, Buchannan-Michaelson was later bankrupted in November 1977 – though at the time he lived in grandeur at both at Churchbury Manor at Fairford, Gloucestershire and 26 The Vale, in Chelsea, London, SW3.
In 1970, in the period between the international car race and his bankruptcy, Buchanan-Michaelson commissioned Rolls-Royce to build him a Phantom VI. After delivery to Jack Barclay Ltd. In June 1971, the vehicle’s chassis was sent to Frua of Torino, Italy to have bodywork fitted but for some reason work stopped and it was not until 1977 – and by now with a new American owner, James Leake, and new drawings of its eventual form – that the project continued.
With Pietro Frua (1913 – 1983) retiring soon thereafter and Mr Leake’s death in 1983, the chassis passed to new ownership and it was only eventually completed as a finished motor vehicle in 1993.
That year, the four-door ‘state cabriolet’ was displayed at the Geneva Motor Show and its boxy look must have surely either have wowed or horrified visitors. It is described as having “an elaborate multi-position convertible top allows the car to be configured as a sedanca de ville, landaulet or fully open convertible.” The interior is trimmed in burled walnut with sterling silver inlays and amongst other luxuries are front and rear heating, air-conditioning, fresh-air ventilation systems, a television, a video player, a radio and a cocktail cabinet. Underneath the seats is a portable Davidoff cigar humidor and even a matching silk-lined ladies’ vanity case. What more could anyone ever need?
RM Sotheby’s will sell the Frua Phantom VI at their Monterey sale in California on 19th August and term it: “The last word in modern opulence.”