One of the highlights of the Windsor Concurs d’Elegance that we featured here a few months ago was the extraordinary 1924/35 Rolls Royce Jonckheere Aerodynamic Coupe, now owned by the Petersen Museum in California. Jonckheere, the original coachbuilders, are still in business. Although they now specialize in bus and coach bodies, they have commissioned Turkish designer Ugur Sahin to create a modern interpretation of the original hand-built one-off. The “Round Door Rolls” might live again.
“For us, the original car represents the timeless aspects of automotive art and its impact it can have on a person even after 77 years. The new design was carefully put together with a very crucial thing in mind; 'Respect,'” Ugar Sahin said. “It is challenging to re-interpret something from that past which has a very imposing and impressive character like the original car, into a modern shape without losing its core essence. Many things like the proportions and lines, the impression some shapes give, are very essential to re-capture in the new design. While keeping the past DNA, injecting modern design elements which are in coherence with the past, is always a challenging task for every designer.”
The story of the original car is fascinating. The 1924 Rolls Royce Phantom l with a convertible body by Hooper was commissioned by an American lady from Detroit. The car never got to the States however, and was subsequently purchased by the Raja of Nanpara, an Indian regional potentate under British rule. It’s at this point that the vehicle was sent to the Jonckheere brothers in Belgium for its new hand-crafted body. Some reports suggest it was intended as a present for Prince Edward, but all records from the factory were lost in the war and it is not even known who originally penned the fantastic Art Deco body shape.
The car was fitted with a 6-cylinder, 7.66L OHV inline six engine and a 4-speed manual transmission. The body was completely hand fabricated to include round doors, split-opening half-moon windows, twin sunroofs, bespoke luggage and a stabilizing fin at the rear. All told, the luxurious automobile was quiet enough to hold a conversation at speed and would easily travel at 100 mph (161 km/h).
The vehicle changed hands many times in the 40s and 50s until it ended up with American Max Opie, who restored it and painted it with six pounds of gold dust and lacquer. After life as a traveling sideshow, it disappeared until 1991 when it was purchased by a Japanese gentleman for US$1.5 million. In 2004 it was purchased by the Petersen Museum and restored to its first incarnation of black gloss exterior and red leather interior. The vehicle is a popular attraction at Palm Beach and other classic car concours events, but in a cruel twist is unfortunately not eligible for the top prizes at these gatherings as the original records are lost.
“We set out to design a car that reflects a complex character which impresses its surroundings without having to depend on too complicated elements and unnecessary additions,” Ugar concludes. “In some way this certain quality might reflect its owner as well.”