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The Round Door Rolls-Royce

The “Round Door Rolls-Royce” as it is known, was a very interesting car for its time that carried bold and very imaginative one-off coach work. It is based on a 1925 Phantom I Rolls-Royce chassis which was first introduced in 1925.

It was bought new by Mrs. Hugh Dillman of Detroit, MI., and the chassis was delivered to Hooper & Co., a respected London-based coach builder who constructed a cabriolet body for the chassis. Mrs. Dillman for whatever reason was unhappy with the finished result and never took delivery of the car.


It appears that it was then purchased by the Raja of Napara and passed through several other owners hands until it arrived in Belgium in 1932. Two years later an unknown owner had the Belgium firm of Jonckheere construct its second coach work. It has been reported that in 1936 the creation won a Prix d’Honneur at the August, 1936 Cannes Concours d’Elegance in France.

Recently the press photo (top) surfaced, which is dated July 2, 1938. The caption with it states that it was owned at the time by Maxwell M. Bilofsky and it was one of the first cars to be routed on a New England trip, by the Automobile Club of Boston. Bilofsky is listed as being a electric light bulb magnate at the time.

Apparently the car again passed through several more owners and before World War II it appeared in Bar Harbor, Maine, where it was chauffeur driven for the new owner. It managed to survive WWII, but somehow ended up in a junk yard (above) in New Jersey during the 1950s. It evidently came into collectors hands in the 1950s and was saved and restored. In 2001 it was purchased by the Peterson Museum after which it re-restored and it has remained in the collection since.

Just last week at The Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance, which was staged September 7-9, 2012, on the grounds of historic Windsor Castle in England, the Round Door Rolls was displayed with sixty of the world’s rarest motor cars. The photos above (middle) are courtesy of  Tim Scott of Fluid Images and Sports Car Digest. Scott served on the event’s Steering Committee and as the Official Photographer. More details and photo of this fine event soon.

29 responses to “The Round Door Rolls-Royce

  1. In the junkyard photo it looks like the wipers are actually mounted through the windshield glass. They’re not shown that way in the restored car. Is it just the photo angle, etc. or were those blades mounted through the glass?

  2. I got to see the Round Door unrestored in the Petersen basement back in 2003, it was painted white at that time. The current restoration in black looks very nice. Bob

  3. Yes, this car looks good in black, but its most interesting feature, the shut lines around the doors, disappears into the paint. A light color would have shown these off better.

  4. It was bought new by Mrs. Hugh Dillman of Detroit, MI.


    I thought that name sounded familiar so I did a quick search. Mrs. Hugh Dillman was the married name of Anna Dodge, the widow of Horace Dodge, as in the Dodge brothers. I’m not sure if they used the term gigolo back then, but Dillman, an actor, was a bit of a layabout.

    John and Horace Dodge died within months of each other in 1920 or 1921. Between the money they made selling Henry Ford rolling chassis and components for the cars he assembled, the money they made selling their own cars starting in 1914, and the money that Ford paid them for their interest in FoMoCo (partly due to giving them stock in lieu of money he owed them), the Dodge Bros were fabulously wealthy. Their widows, particularly after they sold their interest in Dodge to New York bankers (who in turn sold it to Walter P. Chrysler), were two of the richest women in the world so it doesn’t surprise me that the former Mrs. Dodge ordered a custom Rolls. She enjoyed a life of luxury and tore down the mansion in Grosse Pointe that John had built for her, and built the even grander “Rose Terrace” for herself and Dillman.

    Ronnie Schreiber
    Cars In Depth

  5. This car was available for sale in the late 1950s early 1960s when it was gold for 8500. My dad remembers this clearly because of the Gold paina nd the round doors and the fact that every really really cool car in that era was around 8500. At the time this included the Mormon Meteor and the one of the Lebaron V12 dual cowls. That price point seemed to be the spot where sellers put the really special stuff.

  6. I remember seeing this car in the early 1960s just outside of Philadelphia, PA. It was painted gold and was exhibited on a large trailer with display windows on both sides. At that time the exhibit was traveling to shopping centers around the country. For just $1.00, you could walk through the trailer on interior walkways and see “The Famous Round Rolls Royce”. I always wondered what happened to it.

    • I saw the same display in 1963 at a shopping mall in Essex, MD. As I recall the owners at that time claimed the car had been built for Edward VII of England . This contradicts the current information as for whom it was origanally built . When I saw the car they gave out colored postcards with a photo of the gold painted car (five pounds of actual gold was alledged to be in the paint). I have long ago lost this post card. Does anyone out there incyberland still have one of these cards?

  7. I remember see it at the “Eastern States Exposition THE BIG E”
    in W Springfield, MA. I believe it was early 70’s.
    I rember it being supposedly painted with real gold paint and supposed to have been owned by European Royalty. I prefer the gold color to its now black paint made it more exotic.

    • That’s right, it was claimed to be built for King Edward Viii before the abdication.
      (Not Edward Vii… 1901…. 1910). I have the postcard.

  8. I saw this car in a shopping center display in Miami, Fl. back in the mid 60’s(?) and I believe it was painted gold. Very cool looking car. Thanks for the flashback.

  9. I saw this car in 1964 at the New York state fair in it’s trailer. It was gold with the hype that it won the New York auto show twice. Supposed to have been the only RR ever built with a angled radiator. of course this was the second body so not factory. It was a cool looking auto. looked smaller than the white version. Was a 2 seat coupe.

  10. When i first saw this car it was in the sixties on display in a big trailer, at a shopping center in Hollywood florida,my mother was with me and said OMG thats your uncle’s old car !!! they had it at their used car lot in or around Little Ferry, NJ..back in the late 1940s ,not sure of exact date.. gathering more info from other family members they said they parked the car out front to promote the car lot, but too many curious people stopped by to look at it, and it took away from their business of selling used cars, then they decided to park it out back and just let it sit and deteriorate, not sure if it went to the junkyard or who bought it then,,,

  11. I’m quite familiar with this car during the period that it was owned by Max Obie. He had it painted gold and advertised it as “the $100,000 Rolls Royce Sportscar built for the Duke Of Windsor. “

  12. I am very familiar with this car when it was white and stored in a garage in Stillwater, N.Y when it was owned my Max and Cecil Obie. He later had it painted gold and toured Fairs,and it was Known as the $100,000.00 Rolls Rorce that was supposed to have been built for the Duke of Windsor

    • I saw this vehicle while at Myrtle Beach SC as a kid in the 70’s. It was a touring exhibit that was in the trailer of a big rig, if I remember correctly. I still have the flier that I got as I entered the exhibit that told the story of the car. At the bottom it says “exhibit owned and operated by Max and Cecil Obie, Stillwater, NY 12170”. It goes on to say that the paint contained “six pounds of gold powder covered by 17 coats of clear lacquer”. As a kid it was the most fabulous thing I had ever seen.

  13. I do not if anyone will get this but maybe this would be of interest.

    I saw an old Rolls Royce in Columbia, South Carolina in about 1955 that had round doors but looked nothing the pictures shown. This car was two door, big bumper and large Roll Royce type headlights, original black paint, and both doors on car were completly round. Also, small rectangle back window.

  14. In the late 1940s when I lived in Loch Arbour, NJ, this car was owned by Maxwell Bilofsky who lived two houses away and, according to local legend, was persuaded early on by local authorities to keep it permanantly garaged after its unusual appearance proved dangerously distracting when driven in town. Supposedly, its original owner was the Prince Of Wales.

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