11 January 2012

Horsepower: Sufficient

The engine in the Phantom I, launched in 1925, this one nestling in its Cambridge garage, gives physical expression to the traditional response of Rolls-Royce to questions about horsepower: "Sufficient." With pushrod overhead valves, and two banks of three cylinders each, this giant straight-six 7.7 litre drives through a rubberised fabric coupling to the clutch, monumental four speed crash gearbox, and hefty torque tube.

Uphill in particular, it is quite capable of outpacing many a modern car, not least because one can, from the driver's seat, manually adjust the richness of the fuel mixture. A governor provides an early form of cruise-control. It apparently stops well, with servo-assisted brakes all round, and drives beautifully, semi-elliptic springs to the front and cantilever springs to the rear. This car, chassis 63AL, restored over the last 20 years, originally belonged to Sir Ernest Wills, the tobacco magnate.

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