THE PROPERTY OF CHRISTIE'S INTERNATIONAL MOTOR CARS
1908 ROLLS-ROYCE 40/50hp 'SILVER GHOST' OPEN DRIVE D-FRONTED LANDAULETTE
Registration No. SX 48 (U.K.)
Chassis No. 60712
Black with green coachline, with black and green interior and brass fittings
Engine: six cylinders, in-line in two blocks of three, L-head, 7,036cc (429 ci.); Gearbox: four-speed manual; Suspension: front, semi-elliptic leaf spring, rear, three-quarter elliptic leaf spring; Brakes: external contracting on rear wheels and transmission. 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.
One such client for the renowned Rolls-Royce was Sir John Stewart-Clarke, of Dundas Castle, South Queensferry, who purchased this chassis, 60712, in early 1908. It would be the first of four Silver Ghosts to be supplied to this family, three for Lord Dundas, all of which received Barker coachwork, and one for Lady Dundas, a Mulliner Landaulette. To put their wealth in perspective, each of these cars would have cost them in the region of £1,000 new, when the weekly wage of the skilled craftsmen who built them was unlikely to exceed £1.75 per week.
712 was the twelfth of the second '700' series of cars that now featured three-quarter elliptic springing amongst other early developments. A long wheelbase chassis, as depicted in John Fasal and Bryan Goodman's definitive reference work The Edwardian Rolls-Royce it was originally bodied with Open Drive, D-Fronted Landaulette bodywork by Barker. Long established as the most fashionable of coachbuilders, Barker were already strongly connected with the marque, drawing on their two centuries of experience in carriages and seamlessly transferring these skills to motor car manufacture. Rolls was pleased to associate their cars with the renowned coachbuilder, proudly proclaiming in 1905 that 'all Rolls-Royce cars will be fitted with Barker's bodies'. A car for all seasons, the versatile coachwork configuration comfortably carried five people and potentially two more on the occasional seats, always with the option of the rear of the bodywork opening and windscreen fully opening to appreciate fair weather, and the luggage stored on the roof. It is easy to visualize the variety of uses for the family of such a car. This was again an aspect which Rolls-Royce were keen to promote and did so with a series of illustrations in their sales catalogues entitled 'Arrival at' showing the Silver Ghost in use at a range of meetings from The Opera House to The Field.
The family must have been impressed by the new Rolls-Royce car as further orders were made in 1909 and 1911. The fourth of their chassis was purchased in 1913 and was also fitted with Barker three-quarter Landaulette coachwork. It seems likely that this car was a replacement for 712, as the early car was retired from its formal work, and its Barker body removed or (as it later turned out) converted to a Shooting Brake body to take on a more menial role for the family on the Scottish Moors. Notes on the build sheets confirm that at around the same time lower gear ratios were fitted to the back axle, presumably to assist with its new role. The factory records also confirm continued maintenance by Rolls-Royce until 1929, and in some part substantiate the later appearance of the car. A photograph taken in the mid-1930's shows the Shooting Brake confirming it still to be sporting Barker wings, detachable rim wheels and wood bulkhead, by which time the car can also clearly be seen to be equipped with CAV lighting. In direct correlation it is noted in 1920 that a CAV Dynamo had been fitted.
The family later sold the Shooting Brake to car collector John Sword of East Balgray, the West of Scotland transport boss and bus pioneer who had begun collecting in 1945. Many years later, in 1980, the daughter- in-law of Sir Stewart Clarke confirmed selling the car to Mr Sword for 'a few meagre hundreds' and remembered it fondly, saying I was thrilled to hear of the dear Rolls-Royce which we all had such exciting and happy times in. My mother-in-law used to take it always up to the shoots every year in the Highlands, and we and her house party used to visit the nearby towns and wave flags to all who passed by.
Upon Sword's death in 1962, his collection was disposed of in one of the first major auctions of old cars, held at East Balgray on a wet September day. Buyers from around the world assembled to bid for the 120 cars offered for sale, eleven of which were secured by American Ralph Dunwoodie on behalf of William Harrah, including this car, still in Shooting Brake configuration.
Harrah retained the car in his collection until 1979 when he sold it to local collector Tom Batchelor, who now removed the coachwork to fit a superb contemporary Tourer body that he had found in Missouri on the third floor of a carriage house.
In 1986, Terry Cohn purchased 712, complete with the shooting brake bodywork. When the car was shipped back to the UK, a full restoration was undertaken mechanically and cosmetically. The chassis was entrusted to John Cockayne of Coldwell Engineering who in the process became aware just how very original and remarkably complete the chassis was, and reported in the R-R.E.C. Bulletin in December 1989 This was a very satisfying restoration because the car was so original and it was the first Manchester built car with which I had been involved. It was perhaps not surprising that this was the case as its ownership had largely been of a passive nature, certainly without incident, and for more than half its life the car had been stored or on exhibition. With the restoration completed by David Hemmings and Brian Frost, the Silver Ghost was driven to its debut at the 1989 Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club Annual Rally and Concours, where it won its class. Several other concours victories followed.
Although always a successful concours entry as a Tourer, it remained a fascination of the owner to one day restore her to the original Landaulette form. In the mid-1990's investigation was begun as to whether such a project would be viable. The services of David Hemmings were again employed to research the change of bodywork, and if the original Barker body, or any remnants of it might still exist. An initial trip to the Dundas Estate proved unsuccessful but questioning revealed a potential source of help, that of a widow of one of the original workers on the Estate. This lead proved productive, a whole cache of material being discovered including a variety of coachwork components and, most importantly, a pair of doors and a substantial quantity of ironwork, much of which it seemed had come from the car. In addition Barker kicker plates were found and also a set of Rushmore headlights, which were known to have been removed when converted to CAV. With this find, the project gathered momentum.
Now the focus turned to the discarded shooting brake body. Expert examination made it apparent that this had been built on the original coachwork as the lower bodyframing matched the chassis perfectly, it also seemed that the bench front seat was the original Barker seating. This combined with the Scottish findings made restoration a realistic proposition. In a thorough rebuild under the supervision of David Hemmings, the Landaulette coachwork was painstakingly reconstructed, incorporating the parts found in Scotland, from the doors to many of the detail fittings. With a frame of seasoned timber, hand-beaten and rolled aluminium panels, skillfully shaped external mouldings and fastidiously worked detailing, the Landaulette coachwork has been faithfully recreated, and represents traditional coachbuilding at its highest level of workmanship. The completed body was then upholstered by M. Thomas restorations, again with meticulous attention to detail. This exhaustive project was completed in the Summer of 1998.
Today, due to the careful preservation through an uncomplicated and prestigious chain of ownership, and a diligent exacting restoration, this magnificent Silver Ghost is as she was supplied new. In the front driver's compartment the dash retains its vertical fuel pressure pump, ignition switches and coil, and is fully equipped with a three piece S. Smith & Son speedometer, odometer and clock cluster. A speaking tube connects the front to the rear compartment for its passengers to instruct the chauffeur, whilst they may enjoy the sumptuously appointed Landaulette cabin. This has been furnished in green cord, with matching green and cream brocade and grey headlining. In the division, a pair of occasional seats are stored as is a fold up table, and a cocktail shake and crystal glasses. For complete privacy, blinds are fitted to each window.
As testament to the fastidious quality of the rebuild the Ghost was immediately rewarded when it arrived in New York for the 1998 Louis Vuitton Classic at Rockefeller Center, taking Best in Class and Best in Show.
In the search for excellence, the 40/50hp was continually updated, and as the scale of production developed the factory moved from Manchester to Derby. Mechanically 712 is widely regarded as the most correct and original of all remaining early chassis, retaining its complete running gear, confirmed by details such as Vickers chrome steel tag, dated 1907, on the front axle, cast 'London and Manchester' gearbox cover and chassis number plate. Whilst of the few cars built at the Manchester factory, only six earlier examples exist from this period of production, and just one car retains its original coachwork, being the Company's car, 60551 - 'The Silver Ghost'.
Christie's is proud to present this fabulous and exclusive Silver Ghost, the first Manchester built example to be publicly offered for sale in more than a decade. A spectacular proven concours winner it is eligible for many events including those of the RROC, RREC, VMCC, Horseless Carriage Club of America and VCC of Great Britain.