This Royal Rolls-Royce Phantom hides a dark Communist past
Ordered by Communist Dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu before Moscow stripped the car from his custody, this Phantom V found a home in America and was used by Princess Grace of Monaco and Queen Elizabeth II
Content with making the lives of humble Romanians truly difficult, Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu decided to treat himself. Whereas this would normally produce a fresh blood sport or mass execution, Nicolae instead went car shopping for a custom Rolls-Royce. Placing an order for his 1966 Phantom V State Landaulet by Mulliner Park Ward, he returned home with the news. But it did not go down well with his Russian handlers.
Showcasing a convertible top, opening from the division window backward, alongside a Perspex panel over the driver’s compartment, only five examples of such a Rolls-Royce were crafted by the British marque. Better yet, Ceaușescu's is to be sold during RM Sotheby's Arizona 2019 sale.
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Nearly every option on Ceaușescu’s example was specified, including a rear seat that raised and lowered to suit the height of each passenger, a combination cocktail bar and entertainment cabinet with a television, dual air conditioners for front and rear compartments, fluorescent overhead lighting for nighttime parades, and a refrigerated wine cooler. Costing a cool £20,000 back in 1966 (£354,200/€400,000/$455,800), this was the costliest Phantom V ever delivered.
As such, the result was a decidedly capitalistic automobile sporting the most decadent of mantras. The vehicle featured luxury far beyond the reach of any Romanian citizen, oozing expense from every angle. While Ceaușescu didn’t give a hoot about the cost, his minders in Moscow certainly did.
It is rumoured that General Secretary of the Communist Party, Leonid Brezhnev, complained about Nicolae owning such a lavish Western limousine. After a strict dressing down and copious amounts of tension, the Rolls-Royce was never used. Gathering dust for a year, it was shipped back to England when a compromise was sought – Ceaușescu received a ‘more suitable’ Silver Shadow.
Left without a buyer, it didn’t take long for the striking machine to find custody with Dr. Erle M. Heath and his wife, Bonnie, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Visiting London to have Mrs. Heath’s Silver Shadow serviced (as you do), negotiations concluded in 1968 and the car, delayed by a dock strike and transportation difficulties, arrived in Steeltown a year later. It was the only Phantom V State Landaulet delivered to a private owner.
Using the Rolls-Royce on an almost daily basis, the Heaths were contacted in 1975 by the government of Bermuda, who were expecting a State Visit by Her Majesty The Queen.
Lacking a suitable car for her transportation about the island, Bermuda wanted to borrow the Heaths’ State Landaulet – and to fly the owners out as honoured guests for the festivities. The Heaths naturally accepted. The same request arrived in 1983, with Elizabeth II slipping into the back seats for a second time. It was also used to chauffeur Princess Grace of Monaco when she visited Pittsburgh, as a guest of the International Poetry Forum, in early 1978.
While the Phantom V is unquestionably original, unrestored and beautifully maintained, accompanied by a report from Rolls-Royce historian Diane Brandon and exhaustive history files including home movies from its Royal travels, the car’s true appeal remains a unique and somewhat unusual history – peppered with famous names. Simply put, this could be the ultimate Phantom V in every regard.
Get a closer look at the Rolls-Royce here.
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