Automotive

Fred Astaire’s Roller kicks-off Phantom VIII launch celebrations

Fred Astaire’s Roller kicks-of...
The Phantom I, as owned by Fred Astaire
The Phantom I, as owned by Fred Astaire
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These art-deco indicators were added in the mid-1930s
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These art-deco indicators were added in the mid-1930s
Fred Astaire had some beautiful custom features added to his Phantom I
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Fred Astaire had some beautiful custom features added to his Phantom I
The classic Rolls-Royce grille has been carried into modern Phantoms 
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The classic Rolls-Royce grille has been carried into modern Phantoms 
Details on the Phantom I owned by Fred Astaire
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Details on the Phantom I owned by Fred Astaire
The drivers' quarters are trimmed in hard-wearing leather in Astaire's Rolls-Royce
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The drivers' quarters are trimmed in hard-wearing leather in Astaire's Rolls-Royce
Wind down windows might have been replaced by electric motors today, but they were a chance for beautiful detailing in Astaire's day
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Wind down windows might have been replaced by electric motors today, but they were a chance for beautiful detailing in Astaire's day
This Louis Vuitton case is home to all manner of sporting and dancing equipment in Astaire's Phantom 
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This Louis Vuitton case is home to all manner of sporting and dancing equipment in Astaire's Phantom 
Astaire had a chauffeur, so wouldn't have spent much time up here 
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Astaire had a chauffeur, so wouldn't have spent much time up here 
The leather used for the drivers' quarters is hard wearing, and wasn't considered a luxury material when the Phantom I was built 
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The leather used for the drivers' quarters is hard wearing, and wasn't considered a luxury material when the Phantom I was built 
The Rolls-Royce Phantom I was built with a straight engine
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The Rolls-Royce Phantom I was built with a straight engine
Fred Astaire was known for his on (and off) screen partnership with famous actresses like Ginger Rogers 
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Fred Astaire was known for his on (and off) screen partnership with famous actresses like Ginger Rogers 
The contents of the Louis Vuitton motoring trunk on the Phantom I
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The contents of the Louis Vuitton motoring trunk on the Phantom I
A look into the rear quarters of Astaire's Rolls-Royce
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A look into the rear quarters of Astaire's Rolls-Royce
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The Phantom I was a symbol of high society 
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The Phantom I was a symbol of high society 
The drivers' quarters of the Phantom I were exposed, but the passengers stay dry under the roof
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The drivers' quarters of the Phantom I were exposed, but the passengers stay dry under the roof
This Phantom I was given a makeover by a coachbuilder in the 1930s
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This Phantom I was given a makeover by a coachbuilder in the 1930s
The bluff Rolls-Royce nose has carried through seven generations 
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The bluff Rolls-Royce nose has carried through seven generations 
The Phantom I, as owned by Fred Astaire
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The Phantom I, as owned by Fred Astaire
The rear quarters of the Phantom I are more like a cosy living room than a car
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The rear quarters of the Phantom I are more like a cosy living room than a car
The body of the Phantom I you see here was initially developed by Hooper
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The body of the Phantom I you see here was initially developed by Hooper
Car controls have changed a lot since the 1930s – we wouldn't have wanted to deal with the Phantom I's layout 
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Car controls have changed a lot since the 1930s – we wouldn't have wanted to deal with the Phantom I's layout 
The hard wearing seats in the front of Astaire's Phantom I
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The hard wearing seats in the front of Astaire's Phantom I
The stunning details on the Phantom I 
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The stunning details on the Phantom I 
Fred Astaire took steps to make this Phantom I his own 
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Fred Astaire took steps to make this Phantom I his own 
The contents of the Louis Vuitton trunk on the back of Fred Astaire's Phantom I 
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The contents of the Louis Vuitton trunk on the back of Fred Astaire's Phantom I 
Fred Astaire's Phantom I will be part of a larger exhibition in London 
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Fred Astaire's Phantom I will be part of a larger exhibition in London 
The big, bold nature of the Phantom I has been carried through seven generations so far 
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The big, bold nature of the Phantom I has been carried through seven generations so far 
The trunk on the rear of the Phantom I is home to dancing clothes and sports gear 
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The trunk on the rear of the Phantom I is home to dancing clothes and sports gear 
The nose of Fred Astaire's Phantom I 
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The nose of Fred Astaire's Phantom I 
The difference between the chauffeur's area and the passenger quarters in Astaire's Phantom I is stark 
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The difference between the chauffeur's area and the passenger quarters in Astaire's Phantom I is stark 
Behind the wheel of Fred Astaire's Rolls-Royce Phantom I 
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Behind the wheel of Fred Astaire's Rolls-Royce Phantom I 
The cosy rear quarters of Fred Astaire's Phantom I 
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The cosy rear quarters of Fred Astaire's Phantom I 
Generations of the Rolls-Royce Phantom 
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Generations of the Rolls-Royce Phantom 
View gallery - 35 images

Rolls-Royce is preparing to launch the eighth generation Phantom later this year, and has some big plans for the celebration. The storied marque will be displaying famous examples of its flagships in Mayfair, London. The first will be a Phantom I owned by actor, singer and actor Fred Astaire.

Launched in 1925, the Phantom I was boldly billed as the "Best Car in the World." Power came from a straight eight engine, and stood out as a symbol of high society around the world. Astaire's car was a cabriolet town car, with Hooper bodywork finished in Brewster Green with black wheel arches and a black leather roof. In keeping with the air of prestige, Astaire was ferried around by a chauffeur at all times.

As was convention at the time, leather was only used for the chauffeur's quarters up front. Astaire's section of the car was distinguished from the workers' quarters with its delicate fabric trim, a touch described as the "rolling embodiment of the 'upstairs, downstairs' distinction prevalent at the time" by Leslie Kendall, Chief Curator of the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles.

The contents of the Louis Vuitton motoring trunk on the Phantom I
The contents of the Louis Vuitton motoring trunk on the Phantom I

Owners would often have their cars upgraded to match the fashions of the day. Having initially ordered his Phantom I in 1928, Astaire sent the car to Inskip in New York for a rework. The changes were subtle: scalloped door trims, valance panels on both sides of the car and art-deco indicators were added to the existing shape.

Along with its coach built good looks, the Phantom I to be shown in Mayfair includes some unique accessories, including a Louis Vuitton motoring suitcase housing a top hat, white bow tie, cuff and collar boxes, a silk scarf, picnic set and dancing/tap shoes. The trunk also holds a tennis racquet, cricket bat and shooting sticks, while a hidden locker holds a full set of golf clubs. Luxury motoring was a very different game in the '30s.

Astaire reportedly kept the car until the 1950s, by which point he was part of the furniture in Hollywood. He was known for his charm on (and off) screen, and partnered with starlets like Audrey Hepburn and Ginger Rogers in his many movie and musical roles. Reports also suggest they, er, partnered off the screen, but we'll leave those rumors alone.

Fred Astaire's Phantom I will be on show at "The Great Eight Phantoms" exhibition, starting on July 27 this year. The exhibition will be held in Mayfair, London.

Source: Rolls-Royce

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