Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, luxury car enthusiasts became obsessed with custom vehicles. Perhaps one of the most iconic vehicles from this period was the Rolls-Royce Phantom I Jonckheere Coupe, also known as the “Round Door Rolls.” The car’s alternative name comes from the distinct oval doors on the vehicle installed by Jonckheere Carrossiers.
This one-of-a-kind vehicle currently resides in the Petersen Automotive Museum. With its rich history and classic engine, the Round Door Rolls offers a glimpse of vintage luxury and top-of-the-line customization.
The History of the Rolls-Royce Phantom I Jonckheere Coupe
Rolls-Royce originally debuted the Phantom I, also known as the “New Phantom,” in 1925. They released it in order to compete with the automotive companies Hispano-Suiza and Isotta-Fraschini, both of which offered more powerful vehicles at the time. Rolls-Royce produced the Phantom I from 1925 to 1929 when it was replaced by the Phantom II. To this day, Rolls-Royce continues releasing iterations of the Phantom with the most recent being Phantom VIII.
The model of Rolls-Royce that would eventually become the Round Door Rolls was passed around from different owners until it ended up in Belgium in 1932. The car ended up in the hands of the Belgian carriage company, Jonckheere Carrossiers. Someone commissioned a custom vehicle to be made out of the Rolls-Royce Phantom, so Jonckheere Carrosiers got to work designing a custom beauty. Unfortunately, we don’t know who commissioned the custom vehicle because Jonckheer Carrosiers lost their vehicle records in a fire a few years after they customized the Phantom.
Jonckheer Carrosiers gave the Phantom I a new sporty and luxurious style with bullet-shaped headlights and oval doors that only contained two hinges. The custom vehicle was met with acclaim from vehicle enthusiasts, and it won the Prix d’Honneur at Cannes Concours d’Elegance in 1936.
The vehicle changed hands numerous times until it was bought by Max Obie in 1950. Obie added a golden paint that contained real gold to the vehicle, and he made up a wild tale about it being owned by King Edward VIII.
The now golden Round Door Rolls was bought and sold again by numerous owners until it was purchased by a Japanese car collector in 1991 for $1.5 million. In 2001, it was purchased by the Petersen Automotive Museum, which then restored the vehicle.
Since the Phantom’s restoration, it’s been displayed at Pebble Beach and Meadowbrook Concours d’Elegance. Although it wasn’t eligible for prizes because of its missing records, the Round Door Rolls received the People’s Choice Award at Meadowbrook and the Lucius Beebe Trophy at Pebble Beach for being the finest Rolls-Royce ever created. It was also shown at Keels & Wheels in Houston, where it won Best of Show European.
To this day, car lovers can still view the Rolls-Royce Phantom I Jonckheere Coupe at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
The Round Doors Rolls Specs
Rolls-Royce released the Phantom I with a 7.6-liter straight-6 engine with 40 horsepower, and it came with a four-speed manual transmission. The engine has a displacement of 7668cc and has overhead valves rather than side valves. The overhead valves resulted in a stylish and taller hood.
The Phantom I is 20 feet long, six feet tall, and weighs just under three tons. The customized Round Door Rolls features a large sloping grill shell that obscures the original grill. It also has a high seating arrangement, which gives the driver and front-seat passenger a great view of the road. The car also features two independently operated sunroofs for the driver and front-seat passenger.
The Round Doors Rolls offers a distinct style with its small dorsal fin that bears similarities to the Tatra 77, 87, 97, and 600 Tatraplan. The Petersen Automotive Museum restored the vehicle with a sleek black exterior and red interior.
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