Although he was nicknamed “the Spartan General” due to his strict military bearing and ascetic lifestyle, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery greatly appreciated mechanically efficient and powerful vehicles for his own personal transportation, for that, he demanded the best car. Inevitably, the selection criteria for engine power, stately countenance and endurance fell to the makers of the best car of known to man – Rolls Royce.
A veteran of both World Wars, the British Field Marshal had the use of three Rolls-Royce Phantom IIIs. As a consequence of a deeply historic car combined with a fabled owner, Bernard Montgomery’s three Rolls-Royce Phantom IIIs will be appearing in a gathering of the greatest Phantoms from the last 92 years in Mayfair, London.
Dubbed “The Great Eight Phantoms”, a Rolls-Royce Exhibition slated for the end of July, Monty’s Triple joins the lead up to the opening of the fair as Rolls-Royce Phantoms from all over the world journey to London to share their legendary histories and stand witness to the arrival of the next generation of the world’s most recognisable and celebrated luxury car, the eighth generation of the Phantom.
A gifted military tactician, Montgomery was notorious for his lack of tact and diplomacy. So much so that mentors and friends would make remarks on his “lack of tact and egotistical outlook which prevented him from appreciating other people’s feelings”. Thus, it is historical irony that this keen believer in the power of image would cultivate such a prickly demeanour and yet choose to use a symbol of elegance and stateliness like the Rolls-Royce Phantom to convey his preferred attributes of permanence, solidity and reliability. To Monty, the Rolls-Royce Phantom III was a bulwark of strength and visual representation of endurance.
“In defeat, unbeatable; in victory, unbearable.” – Winston Churchill on Montgomery
The first of Monty’s Triple Phantoms, a 1936 model coachbuilt by Freestone & Webb, was owned by the head of English Talbot Motor Company, Frederick Wilcock. Then, as declarations of war were being made against Nazi aggression, the Ministry of War Transport Section requisitioned the Rolls-Royce Phantom for use as Montgomery’s personal transport where he ferried Winston Churchill, General Eisenhower and King George VI to D-Day planning sessions at his base in Southwick House, Hampshire. Where luxury car meets legendary leaders and great historical events, the provenance which accrues is simply awe-inspiring. Yet, of the trio of Monty’s Triple, it is his ‘Butler’ Phantom III which is Montgomery’s most beloved.
Present at the July “The Great Eight Phantoms” Rolls-Royce Exhibition, Montgomery’s Rolls Royce ‘Butler’ Phantom III was originally commissioned for Alan Samuel Butler, Chairman of the De Havilland Aircraft Company, with bodywork by HJ Mulliner of Chiswick, the ‘Butler’ Phantom III featured a signature front-sloping windscreen that made the car 15 per cent more aerodynamically efficient than the standard configuration, further enhanced by the enclosed spare tyre and swept tail design in the rear.
The Rolls-Royce ‘Butler’ Phantom III served Montgomery, plying the streets of London to eminent addresses as 10 Downing Street, the War Office on Whitehall, the British Prime Minister’s country residence Chequers, and military operations centres such as Northwood in Hertfordshire and eventually, as World War II came to a close, the NATO Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers-Europe in Rocquencourt, near Versailles, France.
It is not clear how the ‘Butler’ Phantom became personally owned by Monty but the Field Marshal retained use of it after the war, carrying other luminaries of the era like the Prime Ministers of Canada, Australia and New Zealand till his retirement from the position of Deputy Supreme Commander of NATO in Europe in 1958, thereafter, he used the Rolls-Royce ‘Butler’ Phantom III till 1962 as a civilian.
In preparation for ‘The Great Eight Phantoms’ Exhibition, the ‘Butler’ Phantom III underwent extensive refurbishment at Rolls-Royce specialist P&A Wood in Essex, England.
‘The Great Eight Phantoms’ Rolls-Royce Exhibition, will take place in Mayfair, London, at the end of July 2017 and it would the first and only opportunity for members of the public to see this legend before it attends the “invite only” Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in the United States in August, after which it will return to its current owner’s private collection.
If you want to own one of Monty’s Triple, a 1936 Rolls-Royce Phantom III owned by the Field Marshall and used to drive King George VI, General Eisenhower and Winston Churchill to secret D-Day meetings, is on sale with Cheshire Classic Cars for £199,995