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Rolls-Royce Phantom in the driving report: 6.5 meter convertible from Frua

Dino Eisele
Rolls-Royce Phantom in the driving report
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D he whistles completely unexpected contrast around the bend the Bernina and looks like a Caterham Super 7. It's one. His driver hits the brakes with courageous vigor and spontaneously pulls into that niche between the walls of snow, in which a classic with the dimensions of a still manageable landscape made of lime green sheet metal, gleaming chrome and champagne-colored leather is parked.

Unexpected reunion on Gletscherstraße

The full family name of this unique item does not fit into a standard garage, nor does the two-door folding roof body: Rolls-Royce Phantom VI (PRX 4705) Frua Drophead Coupé Disegno 869, later 870. The Caterham driver swiftly springs out of his seat just above the asphalt, walks towards the Rolls and reverently utters the memorable sentence: 'So you still live here.'

To explain, he then turns to the perplexed Wolfgang Mehne, who had the XXXL convertible from the inventory of the old-timer house Volante in Samedan near St. Moritz wrestled from his hands for a driving report: 'I have This car was maintained 20 years ago at Schmohl in Zurich, my former employer. Consul van Kempen was a customer of ours, and every year he needed new brake pads, new shock absorbers and so on and so on. ' This is how the first meeting with Markus Schatzmann came about, who last year opened the Classic Car Atelier in Brüttisellen with partners. He remembers the Frua phantom very well: 'The mechanical servo brake was great when it was optimally adjusted, but it never stayed that way for long. That is why a double vacuum servo came on board. First the car with the 6, 3-liter V8, then the new 6.75-liter was installed later. ' With the new engine, the power did not increase drastically: Instead of 178 hp, the bonnet, which was split lengthways in the middle, now covered 200; the maximum torque remained more or less constant at around 510 Newton meters at 1750 rpm.

With that, the Frua creation hissed May blossom in its youth with a good 180 things on the Swiss highways, which had not yet been castrated to 120 km /h. Even today she wants to increase to 170, as a test gallop in Germany shows. We'll let it go; the 8.90-15 tires are no longer brand new, and cars of this size can hide a little secret.

The servo-assisted worm-roller steering goes well with the dignified sedateness that the Italo-Brit conveys on the mountain roads of Graubünden. The driver is allowed to crank properly, the audience is also given something for the eye, and the whole thing is not difficult to operate. The servo pump, however, is necessary: ​​'Maneuver only with the engine running,' warns the manual hand-typed by Rolls-Royce, 'otherwise please use a jack.' The forces to which the steering components are exposed without power assistance could otherwise even crumble steel.

As long as the three-ton truck is not moved like in a hill climb, the drum brakes are actually sufficient. After the third downhill bend, which has been approached a little too quickly, the toppings signal with their typically pungent smell that the cast-iron brake bowls will soon reach fondue temperature. Command the four-speed automatic from D to second with the delicate steering wheel lever and let the Frua roll comfortably downhill to cool your feet - which is a sign of a high quality of life anyway: people in such a car have time.

Money does not matter - this is the only way to create the monumental convertible

Anyone with an Italian special body on the chassis of a Rolls-Royce Phantom VI can document his prosperity no longer needs to chase him. In 1971, this was the case for the consul of Monaco living in Switzerland, Mr. Simon van Kempen. Still recognizable from the initials in the middle of the steering wheel - a good name surpasses any airbag - van Kempen chose the longest, largest and heaviest series Rolls that the factory in Crewe built in 1971: the Phantom VI.

The wheelbase is 3.68 meters and the length of the seven-seater sedan is more than six meters. The box frame with the cross bracing carries front wheels with coil springs, individually suspended on triangular wishbones, at the rear a veritable rigid axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs and electrically adjustable piston shock absorbers.

No less a person than Pietro Frua should reflect on this fundamental commitment to traditional chassis construction from Moncalieri near Turin anchoring a convertible body. The Garage de l’Athenée in the Geneva municipality of Cointrin procured a rolling Phantom VI chassis from the Rolls-Royce bodybuilder Mulliner Park Ward, and the trouble began. Sold as a chassis with chassis number 4705, which was changed by hand in the papers, the freight documents still said 4704 - which fortunately Swiss customs overlooked.

Communication, however, was much more difficult: while nobody at Frua spoke English, they were missing Crewe engineers who spoke Italian. The first test molds from Frua turned out to be dramatically too small - the mold makers had centimeters instead of the specified inchesused as a measure. When ordering the add-on parts, Rolls-Royce was too precise: Instead of a set of windshield wipers, only one was supplied - 'one wiper', as it was on the parts list. -headline v-A_-headline__article - beta '> The project is about to burst

The customer insisted on a hood line sloping forward to improve visibility. The radiator shouldn't be shortened, so the front bumper was split. Ground clearance, however, had to be restored, and when the open Phantom finally got the right position, the 15-inch wheels suddenly didn't fit anymore - too small. Frua made do with chrome covers for the wheel arches to reduce the distance between the body and the tires.

The matter dragged on. The chassis reached Switzerland on November 24, 1971; On August 8th of the following year, a Brandtelex came from England: It was feared that the entire project would collapse, because Frua would suspend work on the car for lack of the requested design documents. And shattered deals were exactly what the Rolls-Royce Group, which was already ailing at the time, needed the least.

However, Van Kempen paid the required 6,265 pounds and received his tailor-made one-off on September 5, 1973 - and on December 10 even all the warranty documents for the chassis. Today the Italian-British co-production still looks solid like an indestructible castle made of granite.

Nothing rattles, the machine is fresh to the point like a new building, and only the price of 500,000 euros called by Volante hurts the bourgeois Wallet a little. However, F. H. Royce has always known how to console his customers: 'The quality remains when the price has long been forgotten.'


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