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1910 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Landaulette Side View
Auction Result: $539,000
1910 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Landaulette by Brainsby
RM Auctions, Automobiles of Amelia Island Collector Car Auction, Amelia Island, Florida, March 13, 2010
AUCTION RESULTS: Lot 194 - Sold at a price of $539,000
7,248 cc side valve six-cylinder engine cast in pairs, three-speed manual gearbox, front semi-elliptic leaf spring and rear three-quarter elliptic leaf spring, rear-wheel drum brakes.
In 1904, an inspired partnership between an adventurer and an engineer gave birth to the most enduring automotive legacy: the Rolls-Royce. Just two years later, they created what many agree was the most influential automobile in the early decades of motoring: the legendary Silver Ghost.
In the context of its day, a Silver Ghost was an awe inspiring sight. At a time when many had not seen – let alone owned – an automobile, here was a truly majestic creation. Most automobiles on the road then were light one- and two-cylinder machines whose wooden chassis, wagon wheels and tiller steering clearly attested to their roots as horseless carriages.
Frederick Henry Royce was an incomparable engineer; the Silver Ghost offered the power and refinement of a six from the very beginning. More than that, its abundant torque and virtually silent operation astounded anyone fortunate enough to drive one. This was the first true luxury automobile, capable of carrying the most elegant bespoke coachwork and able to accelerate almost from rest in top gear.
If the performance of the Silver Ghost was startling, it was the legendary quality of the Rolls-Royce that made its owners happy – and kept them coming back. Royce was a man who referred to the assembly of his cars as a careful sewing together of precision parts; it was a radical concept at a time when other cars' construction had more in common with the blacksmith's methods.
The Silver Ghost presented here, chassis no. 1204, was delivered in January 1910 to Mr. Andrew T. Reid, Esq. of Auchterarder, Scotland. Research indicates Mr. Reid to have been the son of Sir Hugh Reid, who was the Chairman of the North British Locomotive Co., Ltd. The younger Reid was the Managing Director and, like his father, also greatly interested in artwork. Born in 1863, he had a sizable collection of his own, some of which was later sold at auction following his passing in 1941. Correspondence between the vendor and Andrew Reid's nephew indicates his will decreed that all of his possessions be sold after his passing. In fact, this car, chassis 1204, was stored at Auchterarder House during World War II and was sold by Andrew Reid's brother, along with two other Rolls-Royces that were in storage, shortly after the war. In the late 1950s, the car was acquired by the Neal brothers, well known Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost restorers. Correspondence between the present owner and Mr. M.R. Grist provides additional insight into the car's coachwork and how it found its way to the Neal brothers. The lovely landaulette body was built by Brainsby, purportedly for a 1908 Minerva owned by a judge. It was removed in the 1920s as the Minerva was rebodied. Thereafter, the body remained in storage until it was purchased by Mr. Grist in 1958 from an individual in Plymouth for just £15. The body was collected on a trailer supplied by Cecil Bendall, as evidenced by a black and white photograph obtained by the vendor. Mr. Bendall of course was an important car collector in his own right and founding member of the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain. The body was then purchased by John Birchell, who it is believed sold it to the Neal brothers, who in turn married the body with chassis 1204. So, although the Brainsby coachwork is of the period and contemporary to chassis 1204, it is not known which coachbuilder originally supplied the body on this Silver Ghost. Nevertheless, an inventory and valuation of Andrew Reid's property in 1912 includes, among many other items, a "Rolls-Royce Landaulette," which supports the theory that chassis 1204 was sold new with landaulette coachwork. It should be noted that Thomas Brainsby & Sons was founded in 1905 in Peterborough, building bodies for such cars as Crossley, Fiat, Hotchkiss and occasionally even Rolls-Royce. The company seems to have faded away in the 1920s, around the time that Brainsby-Woolard arose, a supplier of coachbuilt bodies which were contracted out to such houses as Lancefield or John Charles. According to British coachwork expert Nick Walker, "it seems likely that the firm was a partnership between the original Brainsby and a salesman by the name of Charles Harry Woolard." This company ceased operation in 1936. The age of the body on 1204 and plate on the door sill both indicate the coachwork on this car to have been done by Thomas Brainsby & Sons. Mr. George Hardwick of West Ewell, London purchased 1204 in about 1964 and kept it for over two decades, during which time he participated with the car in the 1977 Royal Jubilee. A copy of a period photograph shows him in this parade, driving past H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. The present owner acquired the car in 1988 and has maintained it in his collection of veteran cars ever since. It has been driven rather sparingly and received cosmetic and mechanical work over the years, only as needed. It is finished in maroon with an intriguing, unidentified coat of arms on the doors, which has been on the body since at least the late 1950s when it was acquired by Mr. Grist. The front seats are upholstered in black leather, and the passenger seats are worsted wool with tapestry window pulls. Various period features included extensive brass trim and lamps, which included opera lamps, as well as a talk tube, allowing passengers to communicate from the rear with the chauffeur in front. It is reported to run and drive well and is well suited for participation in any Silver Ghost tour. Even today, a Silver Ghost is remarkably refined, outperforming cars a dozen or more years newer. The steering is refreshingly light and responsive, and the action of the clutch and transmission is that of a much newer car. It is difficult to imagine a more usable and comfortable steed for brass era tours – and certainly none with the elegance and style of the incomparable Silver Ghost. Moreover, as a very early 1909/1910 Silver Ghost, this car benefits from exceptional rarity. The current USA Rolls-Royce Owners Registry only lists five pre-1911 cars that are known to exist. As the U.S. accounts for a significant portion of early Rolls-Royce ownership, the offering of this Silver Ghost is an opportunity not to be missed by Rolls-Royce enthusiasts and serious collectors.