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1915 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost London-Edinburgh Tourer Side View
Auction Result: $368,500
1915 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost London-Edinburgh Tourer Rear View
Auction Result: $368,500
1915 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost London-Edinburgh Tourer
RM Auctions, Automobiles of Amelia Island Collector Car Auction, Amelia Island, Florida, March 13, 2009
AUCTION RESULTS: Lot 118 - Sold at a price of $368,500
40/50 hp, 7,428 cc L-head six-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, solid front axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs, live rear axle with cantilever leaf spring platform suspension, two-wheel mechanical brakes. Wheelbase: 143".
Frederick Henry Royce was an engineer trained in the British electric power industry. He began tinkering with motor cars in 1902 and soon decided he could build a better car himself. By April 1, 1904, he had a running twin-cylinder car on the road and began production on a modest scale.
Charles Stewart Rolls, 14 years his junior, was born to Lord and Lady Llangattock and was educated at Cambridge University. He became fond of bicycle racing and took to motor racing in 1899 with a de Dion-Bouton tricycle. In 1902, with his father's backing, he began importing French cars to London and selling them. In the course of his business, he tested a Royce car; his friend Henry Edmunds, a pioneer motorist and founder of the Royal Automobile Club, arranged for him to meet Henry Royce over lunch in May 1904.
The two men hit it off very well, and Rolls took on the selling of Royce's entire output. The first Rolls-Royce car was shown at the Paris Salon in December 1904, and by 1905, both three- and four-cylinder cars were in production. In 1906, Rolls canceled all his other franchise arrangements and devoted himself entirely to the sales of Rolls-Royce cars. It was at this time that the two men's businesses were merged as Rolls-Royce, Ltd.
Henry Royce was embarking on largely uncharted territory when he set out to design a six-cylinder engine in 1906. In Britain, only Napier espoused the concept, and the vitality of longer crankshafts was of concern. Royce went back to basics and placed two sets of three cylinders on a common crankcase, set back-to-back such that the third and fourth pistons rose and fell together. Pressure lubrication was a forward-looking feature. Production began in 1907, the most famous of the genre being a silver Barker-bodied tourer built for Managing Director Claude Johnson. Christened "Silver Ghost," its name was later appropriated for the entire 19-year model run of what was officially called the 40/50, from its horsepower rating. The Autocar opined on its ghost-like behavior: "At whatever speed the car is being driven on its direct third there is no engine as far as sensation goes, nor are one's auditory nerves troubled…by a fuller sound than emanates from an eight-day clock."
Johnson's Silver Ghost took part in the 2000-mile Scottish Reliability Trial, winning a gold medal. He then subjected it to a further extended test, covering 15,000 miles in repeated London-Glasgow journeys, after which it was disassembled and examined for wear. All parts were found to be within tolerances, exceptional for that stage in the development of the motor car. The car still exists, now restored, and it is estimated it has covered nearly 600,000 miles.
The lengendary London-Edinburgh model resulted from a 1911 challenge by archrival Napier. Napier's distributor Selwyn Francis Edge entered a 65-hp car in an RAC-observed run from London to Edinburgh, driven entirely in high gear. Rising to the challenge, Rolls-Royce responded with a nearly standard Silver Ghost chassis clad in attractive, lightweight tourer bodywork. Higher compression and a larger carburetor were the only mechanical modifications.
The Rolls easily outshone the Napier on fuel consumption, and in a timed run at the Brooklands track, it bested its rival, 78.26 to 76.42 miles per hour, driven by Ernest Hives, who later would become the Rolls-Royce chief engineer. The same chassis, with a single-seat body and high ratio axle, was clocked at 101.8 mph in the flying mile at Brooklands the following year. The fame of its achievements and the aesthetics of the close-coupled tourer body resulted in production of a small number of similar models in ensuing years. Not surprisingly, the London-Edinburgh style has become a favorite with collectors. In 1911, the press began referring to Rolls-Royce as the "Best Car in the World," but it was several years before the company adopted the slogan in advertising.
The Silver Ghost remained in production through 1925, with electric lights and self-starter made standard in 1919 and four-wheel brakes late in 1923. Progress at other prestige makes like Hispano-Suiza, however, resulted in the Ghost becoming an anachronism, so when a revised overhead-valve model was introduced in May 1925, it was given a new name: New Phantom.
Chassis 23ED was ordered by the British Admiralty on February 21, 1915 and delivered on April 28. Silver Ghosts were frequently used by His Majesty's forces during World War I as staff cars, supply vehicles and, when appropriately clad, as armored cars – and consequently few retain their original coachwork today. 23ED was eventually shipped to the United States and was discovered by Joe Loecy, a prominent Ohio collector and Rolls-Royce enthusiast in the 1970s. It has remained in the same family ever since.
A restoration was planned over the years, and appropriate replacements for missing parts were found or fabricated. The London-Edinburgh tourer body was supplied by British coachbuilders Crailville, Ltd. of Southall, Middlesex and shipped to America for installation.
Founded in June 1975 as Crailville Motors, Crailville, Ltd. specializes in construction of correct period bodies for classic cars and the design and fabrication of modern custom coachwork for contemporary automobiles. Complete restorations of cars are also undertaken. The first of very few restorers accepted into the Guild of Master Craftsmen, Crailville, Ltd. has produced bodies and restorations that have won awards from Rolls-Royce clubs, as well as both the Louis Vuitton and Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
The full restoration of 23ED began in earnest three years ago. The car was subjected to a complete mechanical rebuild, including engine, transmission, axles and chassis. A new stainless steel exhaust system has been fitted, as well as an electronic overdrive for effortless touring. Many components from the original chassis and driveline were lost or used for other projects over the years, but correct replacements, even if by number not originally delivered with the car, were located, numbered and dated correctly for the car, restored and installed. The end result is that the finished product is as close to the appearance of the original as possible – with flawless detailing and stunning beauty.
The body, in the close-coupled London-Edinburgh style, has the delightful flying wings of its famous progenitor. It is finished in archetypal silver, nicely contrasted with the leather interior. A handsome canvas top is fitted for motoring on inclement days.
Appropriate accessories include an Elliott speedometer, mirrors and electric side- and headlamps. Everything is exquisitely detailed, and the car is road-tested and ready to show or tour. Fresh from a top to bottom rebuild, it is a virtually new Silver Ghost London-Edinburgh tourer.