In the world of cars, as with tech, bicycles, and diets, that which is latest is paraded as greatest. Yet, before the Keto craze and before some hippie commercialized Acai berries, we must wonder how the people of years prior managed to stay alive. Looking at today’s cars, we must similarly wonder how we ever got by with less than 700 horsepower, 0-60 times greater than four seconds, and without IMAX screens for dashboards.
Indeed, the epitome of opulence looked very different just a few years ago and, to remember where we came from, we’ll take a look at a prime example of some well-aged luxury currently on hand at Barrett Automotive Group: a 2005 Rolls Royce Phantom.
As of the 2018 model year, this Phantom is one generation behind “current.” However, it is not to be dismissed as yesterday’s news. Rather, this approximately 19-foot-long land yacht is a mechanical marvel and the flagship that resurrected the “Rolls Royce Motor Cars” automobile company. Without it, modern luxury would look very different and we would not have the Wraith, Ghost, or that house on wheels they call the Cullinan today.
Four years after acquiring Rolls Royce, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (aka BMW) announced a new state-of-the-art factory in Goodwood, England and the return of the Phantom badge. A far cry from its predecessor, BMW threw the best bits from their 7-series at an all-new, incredibly huge aluminum space frame. After a thirteen-year hiatus, the Phantom rolled back on the scene for the 2003 model year.
In true BMW fashion, the chassis boasts 50/50 weight distribution for “improved driving dynamics.” All press releases of the day tout an emphasis on lightweight construction, but the behemoth can only disguise her size so much. Curb weight is approximately 5,600 lbs (which is pretty much exactly the same weight as a second-generation Ford Raptor). Still, all that weight, well-managed by 4-corner air suspension, keeps the Phantom quiet and planted on the road at all times. This car does not “absorb” bumps; it pummels them into submission.
In true Rolls Royce fashion, the ante is upped with rear “coach” doors (aka “suicide doors” on this side of the pond), and an interior adorned with hand-laid wood veneers and 15 to 18 leather hides. That’s right. One car - 15 head of cattle - at least!
Other impressive amenities include the door-closing buttons, integrated umbrellas, and ultra-plush lambswool floor mats that are mechanically fastened to the floors with little snaps. If you thought WeatherTechs were a splurge, a fresh set of these mats from Rolls costs $3,000.
Paired with a 6-speed automatic, a unique-to-Rolls-Royce 6.75-liter V12 (making 453 horsepower and 531 pound-feet of torque) pushes this vegan’s nightmare down the road. From a stop, 60 miles per hour is achieved in a graceful 5.7 seconds.
Production of this sizable saloon continued through 2017 with minor aesthetic changes and updates to infotainment in 2009 and 2012. Numbers peaked in 2008 when Goodwood cranked out 1,212 Phantoms (including the infamous “drophead” coupe and hard-top two-door variants). Total production for the Phantom VII is allegedly 10,327, including a wide array of bespoke, special edition cars.
As for 2005, just 796 Phantom VII’s were made, making the black over black example in our facility somewhat of a rare (and humongous) bird. Being an early production model, it was subject to one hilarious kink: Michelin Pax (meaning “peace” in Latin as in “peace of mind”) run-flat tires.
You’ve probably seen videos on these crazy tires and wheels, but, to summarize, they were Michelin’s early attempt at alleviating the annoyance of flats. Unlike today's run-flats that utilize reinforced sidewalls to roll a few extra miles without air, the Pax system required a special wheel design and a supportive insert within each Pax-specific tire. This insert could be driven on for, according to Michelin, 125 miles at up to 55 miles per hour.
Along with early Bugatti Veyrons, the Phantom came standard with these headache makers.
Though exciting in theory, the Pax system was incredibly heavy, rode harshly, and severely limited owners’ tire and servicing options. Michelin has since stopped producing Pax tires altogether, leaving Phantom and Veyron owners (and the ballers whipping 2005-2009 Honda Odyssey Tourings) with no choice but to fit new wheels.
For this reason, you’ll see a great deal of Phantoms (and Odysseys) on aftermarket alloys. Our Phantom is no exception. Even so, the original equipment Pax tires and wheels remain in the owner’s possession in like-new condition.
Aside from its OEM rubber, this early Phantom VII marks a milestone in automotive history. It brought on the revival of Rolls Royce and reminded the automotive world that no-compromise, luxury craftsmanship was still possible and worthwhile.
By no means was this the first luxury sedan, but it most definitely was and is one of the best.