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Harry Saltzman was the rotund, Canadian-born co-producer of the first nine James Bond films; in other words, most of the really good ones.
A restless and sometimes difficult character, he lived the life of a true movie mogul (as the co-founder of the most successful film franchise in history, he was perfectly entitled to do so), but never recreated the success he and Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli achieved with 007 between 1962 and ’74.
The peak of Bondmania was probably 1965. With Thunderball having out-grossed the wildly successful Goldfinger, the by then significantly wealthy Mr Saltzman saw no reason to deny himself and his family the finer things in life.
So, along with the large country house (Denham Place, not far from Pinewood Studios) and the swimming pool came the inevitable Rolls-Royce.
Not your off-the-peg Cloud III or one of the new Silver Shadows, but a full-size, built-to-order Phantom V Limousine.
Based on the lengthened Silver Cloud/S-series chassis and powered by the 6230cc aluminium V8, the Phantom V had replaced the Silver Wraith six years previously as the firm’s most majestic and formal offering.
Aluminium-bodied and almost 20ft long, this new-for-1959 model was announced alongside the Silver Cloud II.
It was the first Phantom since the royalty and heads of state-only Phantom IV of 1956.
This time, however, Crewe would sell a Phantom V to anybody with enough money.
As a symbol of personal success, such a car had few equals and no betters: and if it was good enough for the Queen, John Lennon, Lew Grade and the other usual suspects, then why not Saltzman?
James Bond and Rolls-Royce have had a long and fruitful association.
Ian Fleming had a fine appreciation of the mystique of these cars, and dropped the name liberally in his books to help evoke the sensual pleasures of expensive hedonism that made his 007 thrillers so appealing in gloomy post-war Britain, where luxury was in short supply.
On the page James Bond drove Bentleys ancient and modern, of course, and even ‘M’ had a Wraith.
On film the first Royce makes its debut in From Russia With Love when Kerim Bey’s Silver Wraith collects Bond at Istanbul airport.
Goldfinger’s literary Silver Ghost becomes the most famous Bond villain car of all, the Barker-bodied Phantom III Sedanca de Ville.
It would not have been lost on Saltzman that the Phantom V was the most expensive Crewe product.
Although, at £9517, it was by no means the most expensive car in the UK in the mid-’60s: a Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman was almost £10,000 and a Ferrari 500 Superfast a spectacular £11,518 when the 50-year-old ordered his Phantom in 1965.
A Mini was then £469 and the average house was priced at £2000.
Painted Mason’s Black and with ‘HS’ monograms on the doors, chassis number EVE9 took the best part of a year to build in the Mulliner, Park Ward workshops in Willesden.
On delivery in January 1966 it was registered 5 HYE (Broccoli had CUB 1 on his Phantom V), with power steering and automatic transmission as standard. Saltzman clearly didn’t consider air-con a worthwhile extra at £500.
Phantom VIs from early 1969 benefited from separate air-con units for the front and rear as standard, and had the early Silver Shadow-type dashboard with the main instruments behind the steering wheel.
Being one of the VA-series Phantom Vs, with paired headlights and the more powerful Cloud III engine, Saltzman’s car had the chromed door frames and reshaped windscreen of HJ Mulliner, Park Ward design number 2003, rather than the purely Park Ward design number 980 of 1959-’62 vintage.
This shape would remain unchanged until the final Phantom VI of 1992. By then it had acquired various upgrades but was essentially the same car, still with a separate chassis, a 12ft wheelbase and huge drum brakes.
Saltzman sold his Phantom V in 1968 to film director Michael Winner for £8500 and replaced it with a Phantom VI.
Winner had the Royce repainted to lose the ‘HS’ monograms – “It was cheaper than changing my name” – but Saltzman retained the 5 HYE plate, hence the current NAN 509D number, one of a set of ‘NAN’ plates reserved by the licensing authority at the time.
Famous for his Death Wish films (and savage restaurant reviews), Winner had a stable of expensive luxury cars that included a silver Bentley T1.
He retained a driver called Michael White to look after the fleet and to chauffeur him in the Phantom.
Probably neither Saltzman nor Winner took the wheel of this Rolls-Royce themselves. If they had, they might have been surprised at how delicately more than 2½ tonnes could be placed in traffic and how smartly it could hiss away from the lights, getting to 60mph in about the same time as a Volvo P1800 and not far behind a Mini Cooper ‘S’: 13.8 secs, to be precise.
Today, 56 years on, this unrestored Phantom V is still a capable and well-groomed servant that can lift its skirts when required.
In the world of formal, working vehicles it is as far removed from the stretched stiletto-white Hummers and other hen-night specials as it is possible to be.
The Phantom V has yet to be surpassed as an example of seven-seater limousine elegance, other than the superbly proportioned James Young Touring limousines on the same chassis.
As with most Phantoms this one has leather in the front and West of England cloth in the rear, although you could order twill or just have Connolly leather throughout.
In fact, almost any requests (considered to be in good taste) by the buyer could be accommodated.
It fires promptly on a modern high-torque starter motor and has an even, whispering tickover.
The dashboard architecture is almost identical to a Standard Steel Cloud, with the instruments in the centre and a cubbyhole to the right of the big, slim-rimmed steering wheel.
There is a feeling of command looking down the imposing bonnet, and unlike in many limousines the driving position is not cramped or uncomfortable.
The sweetness of the engine and the relative smoothness of the gearchange (the Hydramatic was a GM design dating from the 1940s) bear testimony to the low mileage of this Phantom, which accelerates with a silken, lusty relish that belies its size and age.
Crewe restricted the top speed to just over the ton in favour of lively acceleration and smooth low-speed processional work by fitting a lower axle ratio than the Silver Cloud III.
At 6000lb the Phantom V weighs about the same as its modern namesake.
This car has much less enthusiastic brakes than it should have. Although a harder shove is always required at low speeds due to the transmission-driven servo, with this mechanical assistance Phantoms and Clouds had huge and superbly efficient drums, so attention is evidently required here.
Ditto the power steering, which is only partially in evidence. With the swift and silent power windows raised I was soon building up a good lather of sweat manoeuvring this otherwise benign 20ft machine.
Ambitious cornering is tolerated rather than encouraged, with understeer very much the order of the day as the nose dives in.
By which time your boss would have splashed his whisky and soda and likely hatched plans to give you your cards at the end of the week as a result.
The rear seat is probably the place to be in a Phantom V, a plump and handsome sofa with a big centre armrest and controls for windows, radio and heating/ventilation in cubbyholes at either end.
I will blame the horrendous ’80s Pioneer radio/cassette installation on Winner.
Enjoying a quiet ride that smothers bumps with sheer mass, I can only speculate on who has occupied these generous expanses of West of England cloth over the decades.
Almost certainly the first three Bond actors – George Lazenby tells a story of Saltzman deciding to sell the car because the ashtray was full – and Lord knows how many Bond girls. Maybe even Benny Hill girls during its Winner years.
The colourful Mr Winner died in 2013 but the year before he sold his Phantom V to a businessman called Andrew Davis.
It seems that in the past nine years it has not been stored as carefully as it deserved; the Saltzman/Winner Phantom will need attention to its paint, wood veneers and leather to return it to its gleaming best.
But the basics are sound.
While vanity and ego played their part in Saltzman’s decision to buy the Phantom, there was a practical element to the choice of car for a busy showbusiness tycoon who had everything but time to spare.
Money might not buy you happiness but it does insulate you from day-to-day inconveniences and, as a quiet 100mph luxury office space, the Phantom was almost unrivalled.
The fact that you could hold private meetings behind the electric division while travelling to appointments (to have more meetings) must have appealed to a man who was always on the move, mentally, looking for the next big project.
However, it would have been such a quiet space to relax in at the end of a heavy day that the chauffeur-driven Phantom V would have felt worth the money.
As an ideal means of wafting five clients through the West End to a dinner, a private screening or a premiere, no other limousine offered such a combination of dignity, glamour and superb workmanship.
Images: Will Williams
- Rolls-Royce Phantom V Sold/number built 1963-’69/112 (MPW)
- Construction aluminium body, steel box-section chassis
- Engine all-alloy, ohv 6230cc V8, with two SU HD6 carburettors
- Max power 200bhp @ 4000rpm (est)
- Max torque n/a
- Transmission four-speed automatic, RWD
- Suspension: front independent, by coil springs, wishbones, anti-roll bar rear live axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs; telescopic dampers f/r
- Steering power-assisted cam and roller
- Brakes drums, with servo
- Length 19ft 10in (6045mm)
- Width 6ft 7in (2006mm)
- Height 5ft 9½in (1765mm)
- Wheelbase 12ft 1½in (3683mm)
- Weight 6000lb (2721kg)
- 0-60mph 13.8 secs
- Top speed 101mph
- Mpg 12.7
- Price new £9517 (1965)
- Price now £70,000*
*Price correct at date of original publication