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Jonathan Harley served in the Royal Armoured Corps in Malaya and Germany, where he acquired practical experience working on Rolls-Royce military engines. He followed a career in mechanical engineering until the chance discovery of an abandoned 1926 Rolls-Royce Phantom I and its subsequent restoration led him to found J. N. Harley Engineering, one of the foremost restoration shops in the United Kingdom working almost exclusively on the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.