1912 ROLLS-ROYCE 40/50HP SILVER GHOST OPEN TOURER
COACHWORK BY WILKINSON
Registration No. DU 5063
Chassis No. 2059 E
Engine No. 105 N
Grey with blue interior, and black hood and full tonneau
Engine: six cylinders, in-line in two blocks of three, L-head, 7,428cc; Gearbox: three speed manual; Suspension: front, semi-elliptic leaf spring, rear, cantilever leaf spring; Brakes: two wheel drum. Right hand drive.
In 1906, one year after the firm of Rolls-Royce was founded, Henry Royce designed his greatest achievement. The six-cylinder, 40/50hp model would establish the firm's reputation for engineering excellence. It was introduced to the world at the 1906 London Motor Show at Olympia and swiftly became renowned as the ultimate in luxury motoring, soon to be credited with the title 'The Best Car in the World'. The automotive world was both stunned and gratified by the car's mechanical integrity, the degree of which had not been seen before.
C.S. Rolls and Henry Royce were soon joined by Claude Johnson, a founder of the Royal Automobile Club, and organiser of the 1900 1,000 Mile Trial. He had previously worked for C.S. Rolls and was both a sound businessman and a brilliant promoter. It was he who saw that one of the greatest attractions of the Rolls-Royce was its exclusivity and that only a fortunate few were able to own such a fine car. He realised that demand would in fact be diminished by either increases in production or decreases in unit price. His recommendations were adopted as a policy by the firm and played a vital role in the preservation of the image of the 'Best Car in the World'. Claude Johnson was determined to associate the Rolls-Royce name with reliability as well as 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 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.
Chassis No. 2059 E was ordered by the company itself in July 1912, and the completed chassis supplied to coachbuilders and agents for the company, Angus Sanderson & Co. to be fitted with Torpedo coachwork. The completed car, painted solely in Rolls-Royce green livery - a note is made that there be no lining on the moulding - was upholstered with matching upholstery and all brightwork of Nickel finish. Equipment specific to the car included a full compliment of C.A.V. accessories; head lights, side and tail lights, switchboard, cigar lighter, dash board light and klaxon horn all being powered by a dynamo by this manufacturer. In addition domed-wings, and Rudge Whitworth wire wheels, were specified on the original order, and an Elliot speedometer with clock.
This attractive combination of rakish coachwork and accoutrements, was exhibited on the Rolls-Royce Stand at the Motor Show at Olympia in November 1912, from which it was sold to its first owner, Walter Attenborough of Bedford, who took delivery a week after the exhibition. In his ownership, build sheets record subsequent maintenance at the works throughout the 1920s, right up to a de-carbonising of the engine in 1929. Such notes remind one of how reliable and long lived these cars proved to be, though presumably by this time its styling would have looked rather dated.
In April 1929, Mr Attenborough moved to London, where he resided until 1933 when he died. On his death it is uncertain to whom the car was sold, nor indeed how it survived the war, but according to John Fasal and Bryan Goodman's excellent reference work, The Edwardian Rolls-Royce, it was discovered in the late 1950s by G.D.A. Price of Prestbury, as a chassis and group of spares. From Mr Price it went to Silver Ghost exponent Michael Neale, who it is understood was responsible for restoring the car and commissioning the sporting tourer coachwork, by Wilkinson, that it wears today.
The Rolls-Royce was acquired by the current owner in 1996, joining an excellent stable of early motor cars. In his tenure, following a period of storage prior to his purchase, the car has been carefully and sympathetically refurbished. Cosmetically, it has benefitted from a complete re-trim and the wings have been re-profiled, whilst mechanically the carburettor has been rebuilt and to improve usability, a starter motor has been fitted. A period Elliot speedometer with clock was also sourced, and added.
In the last five years the Rolls has seen regular use and has always proved reliable, whilst cosmetically it is in excellent order, and presents very well. It is currently road fund licenced and has an MoT and comes with a full length tonneau cover as well as copies of the factory records and other documentation.
The Silver Ghost is today as usable a tourer as it was originally intended, and can happily keep up with modern traffic in a manner that not many of its contemporaries are able to. Examples with lightweight coachwork, and protection from the elements, such as the car on offer therefore provide exceptional entries for all number of long distance events including those of the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts and Owner's Clubs.