(Not The Actual Vin Number)
1926 Rolls-Royce Phantom I All-Weather Cabriolet by Barker
This beautiful Phantom I represents a brilliant statement of what the collaboration of an automobile builder, a styling house and its client could achieve, particularly when money was no object. In this case that was certainly true, the client being an extremely interesting character, Alfred Loewenstein, a financier of Belgian origins who made his fortune with pioneering investments including in electric power and faux silk manufacturing. Sources state that he was the third wealthiest man in the world in this era. Loewenstein's Barker Rolls-Royce is one of their brilliant fully convertible all-seasons cars, which as for carriages were termed Cabriolets. Technically quite complicated and yet beautifully engineered it provided its owner with a series of configurations, be it fully enclosed with wind up windows, an open Sedanca de Ville option with the chauffeur publicly on display and the passengers hidden, or to take advantage of sunny days, perhaps at the horse races, the entire top collapses opening all passengers to the day.
When Mr. Loewenstein took delivery of the car in 1926 he would have been at the height of his success, and yet he had his detractors also, such that when he died in what can be termed as an aircraft accident, many would call foul play. The morning after Independence Day 1928, readers of The New York Times would learn of his bizarre passing in this way - "Capt. A.Lowenstein falls from plane; drowning in sea; Belgian Financier Was Crossing the English Channel on his Way to Brussels. Opened the wrong door. Accident Is Not Discovered Till the Aircraft Nearly Reaches Its Destination. Known as 'Mystery Man'. Offered $50,000,000 Loan to His Country Without Interest --Narrowly Escaped Death Here. Made Big Fortune Swiftly. Planned to Return Here in Fall." The somewhat odd circumstances were that he disappeared while crossing the modest void of the English Channel in his own private Fokker trimotor plane, with rumors ranging from an absent-minded incident of his opening the wrong door when attempting to find the bathroom and plunging to his death (!), to someone ensuring that he vacated the plane under duress. The perpetrators are suggested as mobsters or even members of his family. Whatever the cause, the result was that his news of his passing spooked the markets for his various ventures immediately.
Lowenstein's Rolls survives some 95 years later owing to its careful preservation and sensitive restoration in a series of sympathetic ownerships. It arrived in the USA in the 1960s, spending a long time with Californian owners, including time with a Dick Lyon of Balboa. Mr Lyon knew the immediate former owner Charles Gillet very well having served in the Navy with him, and Gillet had long admired the car. Ultimately, he was able to make a takeover bid for it in the late 1980s.
The Rolls moved East into Gillet's collection and would be restored early on in his ownership, returning briefly to California for the work to be carried out by White Post Restorations. On its completion it was shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in 1991, a big year for the marque, with their National taking place on the Peninsula. There on the 18th Fairway it secured the Lucius Beebe Trophy and would follow this up with AACA Grand National First Prize and CCCA Premier Awards. Even to this day as a 30 plus year old restoration it continues to display well. The previous owner acquired the car from Mr. Gillet's estate a few years ago, joining a diverse stable of collectors' cars.