Live Auctions

Celebrity Owned: 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom II

We cover a large variety of vehicle types here on Barn Finds, there is usually something for everyone. But finding a vehicle that is a bit beyond the norm is always exciting and here’s an example to consider. It is a former celebrity owned, one of only 1,681 produced, a 1930 Rolls Royce Phantom II 40-50, located in Portland Oregon and available here on eBay for a current bid of $30,100, reserve not yet met.

This Rolls Royce was originally owned by pianist, singer and songwriter Turner Layton. While you may not recognize his name, you may be familiar with some of his songs such as, “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” and “Dear Old Southland”. Layton, who retired in 1946, owned this Rolls in the 1930’s and 1940’s and sold it in the 1950’s to a British automobile broker. In a twist of irony, Layton ordered this car on October 29, 1929, the day of the American stock market crash which kicked off the Great Depression, adversely affecting not only the economy of the U.S. but spreading way beyond America shores. Layton took delivery of this Phantom II on March 30, 1930.

Rolls Royce’s, in this era, were chassis, suspensions and power train components sitting under custom coach work, in this case, the work of the Carlton Carriage Company of London. For power, Rolls provided a huge 7.7 liter, in-line, six-cylinder engine which provided about 120 gross horsepower. This Rolls Royce, according to the seller, runs, starts, drives and stops excellently as you would expect a car of this nature and provenance to run. Located here, you will find a video with an explanation of the car’s history along with clips of it in operation. The transmission is a four-speed manual which is referenced as “shifting smoothly.”

By any measure, this is a stately, beautiful work of art on wheels. It has had several owners since Layton passed it on and the commonality appears to be the care that has been provided by each owner. Clearly, they knew what they had and gave this Phantom II the deference that it deserved. It has in fact, according to the seller, been shown in concurs events. The seller adds that the only signs of wear on this 69,500-mile example are what would normally be expected. Hard as it is to believe, this Rolls Royce is 90 years old, closing in on a century. It’s a bit hard to wrap your head around that concept when not that many years ago, a premium car was generally considered to be “shot” by twelve to fifteen years of age.

The interior of this Phantom II features black leather upholstery in the driver’s compartment and a lighter hue of ostrich leather, trimmed with fine woodwork, in the passenger compartment, both existing in meticulous condition. Also included in the passenger compartment is a wet bar though I imagine it was for use in genteel settings as opposed to an out-and-out booze cruise. The seller makes a point of reminding viewers that Prohibition, while the constitutional law of the land in the U.S. in 1930, was not the case in the U.K. In searching about, I was able to find images of this vintage Rolls-Royce with left-hand drive but most are featured with proper British right-hand drive like this example.

This Rolls Royce Phantom II sold for about $12,000 in 1930, a princely sum especially considering that it occurred at the beginning of the economic depression. The seller equates $12,000 in 1930 with $130,000 in today’s dollars. There is a very complete assemblage of documentation and images that accompany this listing, take your time and review them and the video, in their entirety. Cars like this, with an interesting, documented backstory don’t see the light of day very often and this Rolls is nothing short of magnificent.

So now, the thing to ponder, is what would you do with it besides hire a Jeeves or a James or a Rochester to drive it for you? It has a 150” wheelbase and an overall length of about 20 feet so parking/storing may require some extra planning. It would probably be best served as a new member of a collection but then I’m all for seeing an automotive creation of such nature out and about and being used as intended. So, if this Phantom II some how fell into your lap, what would you do with it? (Resto-modding is not an acceptable answer.)





  1. Weasel

    It looks like the full size version of the toy car a lot of us had in the back yard sandbox.

    Like 6
  2. Fred W

    Already up to 52K. This is similar to a ’26 RR Phaeton picked up on a recent episode of “Pickers”. Unlike this one, it was in rough BF condition, but their salty old mechanic friend had it running in a few days.

    Like 4
  3. DRV

    The body style and interior condition are exceptional. Not having running boards and using shorty fenders seperates it from the rest in the day.
    As I get older the bold RR grille is less graceful and less cohesive with the more graceful Bodies.

    Like 2

    Very unusual original owner. One would first think of movie royalty or a mover and shaker type of business exec.

    Anyone buying a new Rolls in 1929 would be important. The fact is he was a person of color in a time where it was difficult where one could succeed is amazing. Very surprised the dealer didn’t have a sign stating it only served a certain clientele. That is the compelling part to me. Bravo Mr Layton great choice.

    Very nice example. This obviously did not fall into the wrong hands and was not turned into a truck in the 50’s or worse. This is very cared for and has aged graceful. It would be a treasure in anyone’s collection.

    Like 16
    • Dovi65

      The RR agent may very well have PREFERRED to transact business with a “white only” clientele, however, Mr Layton’s money was just as green as that of any white person. As such, the RR agent put his personal bias aside, painted on a smile, and happily accepted Mr. Layton’s check in exchange for the buy.
      My Pops always said .. “Money talks, bulls*** walks”

  5. SDJames

    I’d have “my poor old gray-haired Daddy, driving my limousine”. :D

    Like 11
    • john c

      Saw this band, Dr Hook, sing those words live in an Atlanta club in the eighties…myself coming in third in a Halloween contest. Won a case of beer. Good catch SD !!

      Like 3
    • Ken

      I’d ride in the back seat with my freaky ole lady name a Cocaine Katie, who embroiders on my jeans.

      Like 2
  6. 38ChevyCoupeGuy

    Not a Rolls guy ,but something about this thing calls to me.Might be the 6banger? I think that’s about what cu in it translates to?Very cool car and story,but not in this budget. Good luck to the buyer😁

    Like 2
  7. Fahrvergnugen Farhvergnugen Member

    One wonders how this beauty and its occupants would have fared driving the Green Mile. Imagine the reception, pulling up at any quality hotel anywhere, but especially in Jim Crow territory.

    Maybe put good ol’ Miss Daisy up front for a change of scenery…

    Like 4
  8. jimmy the orphan

    The engine and running gear is what impresses me about this car. This hand built engine is hardly broken in at 70k miles. I’d bet that nothing has ever had to be done other than oil changes and maybe plugs and points. It looks like a dist. to me and not a mag. You could put another 130k on this engine with no trouble. gotta love that cross flow head. As always IMHO later……………….JIMMY

    Like 4
  9. Del

    Wow. I thought I knew about recording stars but never heard of this guy.

    No car dealer could ever afford to draw a color bar. Colored people were often denied many things in the USA, but they could and did buy lots of flashy cars.

    This is quite spectacular. Especially with the Provenance.

    Like 4
  10. Chinga Trailer

    I’ve known this car for years. Not really as nice as represented – the amateurish I’ll fitting vinyl on the top should be your first clue.

    Like 2
    • Charvet Classics

      I represent the owner of this car. The top is original leather and hardly ill-fitting. Installed by Cartlton Coachworks in 1929.
      I honestly doubt you’ve “known this car for years” or you would have never made such comments.

      Like 2
  11. SweetwaterMike

    johnc would that club happen to have been The Great Southeast Music Hall

  12. CharvetClassicCars

    I represent the owner of this Rolls. Thanks for the comments and interest. Just to clarify: Turner Layton (the original owner) purchased this Rolls while living in England. It was never in the U.S. during his nearly 30 years of ownership. He left America in 1924 and became a bonafide star in the UK, which afforded him the means to purchase this car. He sold it in the late 50’s and it came to the U.S. in 1959, where it was kept by one owner until 2018. Truly a remarkably preserved, original car.

    Like 1
  13. sethjohns

    Very good article. Congratulations Mr. O’Donnell.

  14. Jaap Tijman

    Rolls-Royce and not Rolls Royce. Yes, it matters…

  15. Capt Doug

    Did not meet reserve at $52,100
    Will Charvet try a different venue or auction?
    Seems to be an interesting original car for preservation show class and classy weekend driver.

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