This October, Great Gatsby devotees can not only see the “green light” but can also drive through plenty of them, too. After changing several noteworthy hands and undergoing a painstaking $1.2 million restoration, the creamy yellow Rolls-Royce that was featured in the star-studded 1974 adaption of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is coming to auction via Classic Promenade. “It is breathtakingly stunning,” Harry Clark, the Phoenix-based agency’s owner and founder, tells Galerie about the 1928 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Phantom I Ascot Dual Cowl Sport Phaeton. “The design of the body is very sporty, but you have this mix of elegance and a touch of ostentation” —just as Jay Gatsby himself could be described.
Besides the car’s Hollywood pedigree (not to mention Newsweek and GQ covers), Clark assures that the vehicle is a mechanical feat in its own right, perhaps justifying the presale estimate of $1.5 to $2 million. Should it achieve that price, it would be the most valuable car Classic Promenade has ever sold and its sale would continue to fuel America’s rich automotive heritage. Proceeds from the sale will benefit the Chamberlain Foundation, an organization that promotes restoration and preservation within the manufacturing and machining sectors by encouraging, training, and providing robust employment opportunities for tradesmen. For this reason, certain tax advantages may be available to the winning bidder.
“Sitting down behind many layers of glass in a sort of green leather conservatory, we started to town”F. Scott Fitzgerald, ‘The Great Gatsby’
The Gatsby Rolls also reflects a lesser-known part of Rolls-Royce history: when cars were manufactured in America. Desirable for their left-hand drive and top-of-the-line technology, those models made in Springfield, Massachusetts, like this 1928 Phantom I Ascot, are especially hard to come by today. This car is also believed to be the only Ascot Sport Phaeton built with a dual cowl, separating the rear passengers from the driver and the front passengers.
In the 1970s, when the right Rolls-Royce to match Fitzgerald’s vivid description was being scouted, this model, much like any actor, had to undergo a speedy makeover to look the part. Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby:
“He saw me looking with admiration at his car. ‘It’s pretty, isn’t it, old sport!’ He jumped off to give me a better view. ‘Haven’t you ever seen it before?’ I’d seen it. Everybody had seen it. It was a rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hat-boxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of wind-shields that mirrored a dozen suns. Sitting down behind many layers of glass in a sort of green leather conservatory, we started to town.”
The current owner—a Texas-based Rolls-Royce enthusiast—acquired the car in 2011 and spearheaded an eight-year restoration by some of the top automotive talents in the world, bringing the car once again up to Fitzgerald’s standards (green leather, canary-colored wheel spokes, chrome accents, polished wood dashboard, and tan, convertible, canvas top, and all) and modernizing its mechanics. Now in pristine condition and poised for long-distancing touring, the Rolls-Royce was even invited to exhibit at the revered Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
While Classic Promenade has been consigning and selling cars since 2002, the arrival of the Gatsby Rolls marks the boutique agency’s first foray into the online auction realm, a decision largely based upon how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the marketplace. Starting after Labor Day, Classic Promenade will debut about 12 cars a week, each available for bidding between one and two weeks. It also offers a new competitive advantage: Third-party inspection reports for every car going forward will be published on its site. “No one has ever done that in the car world. It’s always been ‘buyer beware!’” says Clark, who, as a collector himself, has experienced this frustration time and time again. “We are trying to make it the ideal experience for collectors.”
The Gatsby Rolls will be open for bidding from October 12 to 25. Read more about its fascinating ownership and restoration at ClassicPromenade.com.