When he retired from active service in 1958 as the Deputy Supreme Commander of NATO in Europe, Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery had a long and distinguished career under his belt. Having fought in the First World War and held several command posts in the interwar years, he commanded the British Eight Army during World War II, leading that field army during the Western Desert Campaign in North Africa against the highly decorated Desert Fox, Erwin Rommel, subsequently overseeing the Eight Army’s campaigns during the Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy, and eventually taking command of all Allied ground forces until after the Battle of Normandy.
Though he was known for his Spartan lifestyle, Montgomery spared no expense on his personal transportation, with a preference for Rolls-Royce – he was ferried about during the Second World War in one of three Rolls-Royce Phantom IIIs. Montgomery was said to have believed in the power of the image the Phantom conveyed – solidity and reliability being chief among the attributes he wished to display. His favourite was the ‘Butler’ Phantom II, originally commissioned for Alan Samuel Butler, the Chairman of the De Havilland Aircraft Company, a more aerodynamic model thanks to a front-sloping windscreen and an enclosed spare tyre.
Montgomery’s main official transportation for many years until 1962, the Butler Phantom will be one of seven of the greatest Phantoms from the past 92 years to be put on display at The Great Eight Phantoms exhibition in London at the end of July, sitting alongside the highly anticipated eighth generation that is yet to be unveiled. This will be one of only two opportunities for the public to catch a glimpse of this storied car (including the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in the US in August) before it returns to its owner’s private collection.
The Rolls-Royce Phantom debuted in 1925 as the replacement for the original Silver Ghost. The Phantom I was an instant success, its 7.668L straight-six engine proving unsurprisingly lively, paving the way for a long line of cars that still boasts a reputation as one of the world’s most elite. The exhibition will run for eight weeks, telling the stories behind these iconic cars, including Fred Astaire’s Phantom I on loan from Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.