1910 Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP Silver Ghost Open Drive Landaulet SOLD

RM Vintage Motorcars in Arizona - Biltmore Resort & Spa, Friday January 19, 2007

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ESTIMATE: $500,000 - $600,000

$469,800 Sold

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. Here 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 history of the automobile is littered with good products that failed in the market, and it was here that the Honorable Charles Stewart Rolls made his contribution. A consummate marketer, he was also an automotive enthusiast, racecar driver and an aviator. Rolls understood the publicity that would follow from success in competition, and he set about promoting the new Silver Ghost in the world's most important automobile events.

The Tourist Trophy Race was one of the most prestigious events of the era, and was won by Rolls and Royce in commanding fashion in 1906, when the pair beat their nearest competition by 27 minutes. This was followed by the famous 15,000 mile reliability run of 1907, where the original Silver Ghost finished the event and required only very minor work to restore it to as-new specification. There was also the grueling Austrian Alpine Trials where the Silver Ghosts dominated their competition and plowed over alpine passes that had proven impassable by lesser cars.

At the same time, Rolls demonstrated an early grasp of the concept of product placement. The company supplied cars to the British royal family, and in so doing, cemented the image of the marque among England ’ s high society. So began the legend of the world ’ s finest automobile.

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.

48bhp 7,248cc 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. Wheelbase: 142.5"

The renowned firm of H.J. Mulliner was founded by its namesake in central London in 1900. Not to be confused with the A. Mulliner concern – founded in 1760 to make mail coaches – the histories of the two companies are intertwined. To further confound historians, H. J. Mulliner took over the Brook St. showrooms of A. Mulliner and began building bodies for the motor trade almost immediately. Nonetheless, the two companies remained separate, and pursued coachbuilding independently – although there is some evidence of cooperation between the Mulliner companies.

The quality of H. J. ’ s work was exceptional, and the company earned what was perhaps the ultimate accolade: a commission from Rolls-Royce to build a roadster for C. S. Rolls himself. Although the car no longer survives, the design – known today as the “ Balloon Car ” – was so stunning that a number of contemporary Silver Ghost owners have commissioned copies of it.

Chassis #1300 was finished and placed on test June 18th, 1910. Originally fitted with a Cabriolet body by A. Mulliner, the car was delivered new to Miss M. D. Topham of London. Very little is known of the appearance or fate of this early coachwork, although it is presumed to have met the same end as so many early Silver Ghosts, whose reliability and superb engineering contributed to the war effort, serving King and country as ambulances or light trucks. In the process, most of these cars were separated from their original coachwork. Following the war, the cars were returned to their owners, but according to legend, little effort was made to ensure that the prewar owners received the same chassis number in return.

The result is that today, Silver Ghost aficionados are generally unconcerned about the current fashion for “ matching numbers ” that afflicts so many other marques. In fact, the clubs place the emphasis on the integrity, quality, and provenance of the chassis, and require only that the body be of period construction, design, and materials.

In 1922, #1300 was owned by Mrs. Bidwell of London. Later, in 1933, the car passed through the hands of J. Evans & Sons in Malvern. While the intervening owners are lost to history, by the early 1950s, Chassis #1300 was owned by U.K. Silver Ghost collector Stanley Rimmer, who restored the car and installed the lovely original H. J. Mulliner coachwork the car carries to this day.

Rimmer sold #1300 to J. Pollack, who imported the car to the U.S., keeping the car for a short time before passing it on to well-known Pennsylvania collector William Boden, who enjoyed the car for nearly 30 years, using it for many tours and other Rolls-Royce events. Finally, in 1985, he sold his beloved Ghost to Millard Newman, whose Florida-based Ghost collection was legendary. The vendor acquired the car from the Newman estate about five years ago.

According to noted Ghost restorer Steve Littin, the chassis is an excellent numbers matching original, and in good restored condition. He notes that after rebuilding the chassis, he has sorted the car out and driven it extensively, and maintains that #1300 is one of the best driving prewar Ghosts he has experienced. Of the various engine, transmission, and chassis specifications available, #1300 is equipped with the most desirable options to suit the car ’ s elegant coachwork.

Finished in a lovely deep red with black trim, the car ’ s lines are enhanced by its elaborate brightwork, all of it finished in gleaming German silver. Known as an Open Drive Landaulette style, it features an exposed seat for the driver and footman, and a folding rear roof section to allow the car ’ s owners to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine of a lovely afternoon ’ s drive. (It should be noted that while the operating mechanism was retained, the roof has been covered in one piece for improved weather protection. The work was done to permit a future owner to easily return the Landaulette to normal operation).

Lighting equipment includes an impressive pair of Lucas “ King of the Road ” headlamps, a pair of elaborate kerosene cowl lamps (although serviceable, the lenses of both are cracked), a delicate pair of kerosene coach lamps, and a single rear tail lamp. The radiator cap is fitted with an original, period RAC member ’ s badge (#DG279). Twin tool boxes are mounted on the running boards.

The interior is finished in oxblood leather with elaborately embroidered trim and a pair of remarkable folding seats in ebony lacquer and matching red leather that would not look out of place at a finely set dining table. The car is well equipped, including a pair of crystal flower vases, an original electric Klaxon, a 60 mph Smith ’ s speedometer, and a wonderful overhead luggage rack.

A recent road test by RM technicians revealed that the car starts easily and settles immediately into a smooth and quiet idle. The clutch and shifting mechanism operate very well, and the car accelerates quickly and seemingly without effort. The brakes are in good order, stopping the car with surprising authority given their age and configuration. An electric starter and accompanying electrical system have been fitted, making regular use of the car a joy.

The body is an older restoration but still presents well, with some paint repairs and other cosmetic upgrades required for concours presentation. The engine bay is neat and tidy, with polished brass and an overall appearance demonstrating the care taken in maintenance. The car ’ s strong mechanical condition and solid original body make it an ideal candidate for either Silver Ghost or Brass Era Tours.

Any Silver Ghost is an imposing automobile, although one must see the cars in person to appreciate the grandeur of the marque. Elaborate formal cars like #1300 best represent the ideal of the time – a superbly appointed motor car for those who could truly afford the very best.

Reference Number 5831

as of 1/10/2007

Car 1910 Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP Silver Ghost Open Drive Landaulet
VIN 1300 
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