1910 ROLLS-ROYCE 40/50 SILVER GHOST ROI-DES-BELGES
COACHWORK BY ROTHSCHILD
Chassis No. 1322
Black with maroon pinstriping, aluminium bonnet, maroon tufted leather interior and matching wool carpeting
Engine: six cylinder, 7,248cc., side valves, 48bhp at 1,000rpm; Gearbox: three-speed manual; Suspension: front, semi-elliptic leaf springs, rear, three quarter elliptic; Brakes: two wheel drum. Right hand drive.
The Rolls-Royce has been widely accepted as the ultimate symbol of quality for almost nine decades. The six cylinder 40/50 h.p. 'Silver Ghost', introduced in 1906 at the London Motor Show at Olympia, swiftly established itself as the ultimate in luxury motoring and was soon credited with the title of 'The Best Car in the World'. This remarkable model remained in production for almost twenty years, with only minor modifications, and was solely responsible for establishing the firm's reputation for engineering excellence.
Claude Johnson was determined to associate the Rolls-Royce name with reliability as well as with quality and elegance. The thirteenth 40/50hp produced, registered AX 201 and having chassis number 60551, was fitted with a handsome touring coachwork by Barker. It was in this particular car that Johnson set out to publicise the marque to the World. The car became known as 'The Silver Ghost'; Silver because the metal parts were silver-plated and the body was finished in silver (aluminium) paint, and Ghost by reason of its extraordinary silence when running. Reports of the car were given by The Autocar on 27th April 1907 when testers were suitably impressed by the ride and quality and silence of the engine. They wrote At whatever speed this car is being driven on its direct drive third there is no engine as far as sensation goes, nor are one's auditory nerves troubled, driving or standing, by a fuller sound than emanates from an eight day clock. There is no realisation of driving propulsion; the feeling as the passenger sits either at the front or the back of the vehicle is one of being wafted through the landscape.
The Silver Ghost, as it would from then be known, quickly became regarded as the ultimate car of its era; not only did Rolls-Royce achieve a quality of engineering far higher than had previously been attained, but the chassis was also perfectly suited for a very diverse range of coachwork, from lightweight long distance rally car to the most beautifully formed Limousine. Some of the most spectacular coachwork ever seen was to grace the Silver Ghost chassis and was ordered by exceptionally wealthy clients from all over the world, from Belgian Royalty, to Indian Maharajahs and the British Aristocracy. The Silver Ghost would naturally continue to be developed and improved upon and by the 1300 series new features would include the introduction of a three-speed gearbox, the removal of the under-seat fuel tank to rear mounting on the chassis frame, fitment of shock absorbers as standard and, from chassis 1264 onward, cast aluminium number plates.
This chassis, 1322, was delivered to coachbuilder, Joseph Cockshoot, on September 7, 1910. The price of the chassis was £985 less 20 discount, making £788. The original body was a Cockshoot Landaulette with brass fittings and its first owner was Mr. Thomas B. Hardy Esq., who was President of one of the Argentine railroads. It is believed this may have been the first Rolls-Royce imported into Argentina. In 1919, the car returned to England for a complete overhaul and was modernized with new Cockshoot Landaulette coachwork and electric lights. In 1963 James McCloud, himself a resident of Argentina, purchased the car. At this stage the car was still running and was intact with its 1919 coachwork which was in somewhat dilapidated condition. Between 1963 and 1972 very little was done to the car. In 1972, McCloud decided to restore the car with coachwork that matched the 1910 chassis. Therefore, the Cockshoot body was given to a fellow member of the classic car club in Argentina and the rolling chassis was shipped to Piedmont, California in 1972. The restoration commenced in around 1974 and was completed in August 1978 with a very fine replica coachwork of the Mulliner bodied Balloon Roadster that C.S. Rolls had driven. On its first outing it won first place at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and it continued to take many awards on the show car circuit including an AACA National first place junior award, the Foo Dog trophy from the Rolls-Royce Owners' Club for the best Silver Ghost, and a First in Class at Silverado.
The car has also been owned by Mr. Bill Lassiter on a number of occasions beginning in 1982 when the car was brokered to him by Ben Moser from James McCloud. In 1985 he sold the car to a New Jersey buyer and two years later he bought it back again. He later sold the car to fellow Florida collector, Ray Lutgert, who in turn successfully sold the car, along with his excellent collection of Rolls-Royces, through Christie's at Pebble Beach in August 1995. Less than six months later, 1322 was once again sold back to the Lassiter Collection.
In 2000 the replica Balloon coachwork was removed and replaced by a superb contemporary Roi-des-Belges touring body that for many years was fitted to the 1908 Silver Ghost, chassis number 60712. This Rothschild body was originally discovered by noted collector Tom Batchelor on the third floor of a Missouri carriage house and he fitted it to 60712 in around 1980.
In its current condition this splendid car is painted black with black wings and maroon striping for added visual appeal. The bonnet has been left in a polished aluminium state, while the interior is trimmed in maroon tufted leather with matching wool carpeting. All of the lamps and bright work are finished in polished brass including those wonderful self-generating Lucas driving lights. Extras on this car include Rudge-Whitworth style wire wheels, a complete set of Silver Ghost tools, a correct set of engine pans, spring gaiters and an Auster rear cowl wind screen.
On a recent outing in the San Gabriel Mountains of California, this Ghost performed wonderfully both in pulling the grades going up and braking coming down. The car has considerable charm and would surely enable the successful purchaser to campaign on many events held by the Rolls-Royce Owners' Club, the Horseless Carriage Club or similar European events and rallies.