1913 Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP Silver Ghost Torpedo TourerSOLD

RM Auction - Vintage Motor Cars at Amelia Island - March 10, 2007

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ESTIMATE: $600,000 - $750,000

$852,500 Sold

48bhp 7,248cc side valve six-cylinder engine with four-speed manual gearbox, front semi-elliptic leaf spring and rear three-quarter elliptic leaf spring, rear wheel mechanically operated service and emergency drum brakes, right hand drive.

In December of 1904, an adventurer and an engineer joined their creative forces and developed a high performance automobile that was flawless in its workmanship and marketed with passion and ingenuity. Forty of these 20-horsepower, four-cylinder models were produced in 1905 and 1906, but this was just the start of one of the greatest automotive stories in history. In March 1906, Rolls-Royce Limited was registered as a company and in the same year, the Honorable Charles Stewart Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce created the 40/50 six-cylinder Silver Ghost – a model that in the minds of many automotive historians is the most revolutionary automobile ever built.

Rolls was an automotive enthusiast, race car driver and aviator, who was also a marketing and promotional master. Royce was a fanatical engineer who would accept nothing short of perfection, and once described the crafting of his cars as "sewing" parts together. This unlikely pair was in fact the perfect union to sell a motorcar that would become the world standard, a fact that Rolls wanted to establish in the minds of the wealthy elite. He accomplished this through sensational publicity garnered from victories 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 an incredible £2 2s 7d to restore it to as new specification (or about $10 at 1907 exchange rates). Of course, the hoods for all competitors were sealed shut for this competition to prevent any in-race maintenance

Rolls also understood the importance of image when marketing and selling the most luxurious and advanced motorcar to the upper crust of high society. He accomplished this by "supplying" Silver Ghosts to British royalty, which further established the place of the Silver Ghost in the minds of the influential and wealthy elite. This observation, coupled with the fact that the Silver Ghost was the most comfortable luxury car built and the only one available that was quiet enough to allow for normal conversation at speed, made the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost the obvious choice for those who wanted the ultimate motoring experience.

Powered with a 454 cubic inch L-head, six-cylinder, side valve engine, the Silver Ghost was a mechanical marvel with its aluminum alloy crankcase and a timing drive and ignition that was driven by gears, not chains. The timing gears were made of phosphor bronze and nickel steel, which were ground and polished by hand. The crankshaft itself was ground to an accuracy of .0025 on its bearing surfaces and then hand polished to remove any minute scratches left by the grinder. The result was an automobile that ran in complete silence without a puff of smoke – a feat that could not be matched at the time and has never been duplicated since.

According to John Fasal ’ s remarkable reference work, The Edwardian Rolls Royce, Chassis 19MA was released for testing on December 15th, 1913. Originally planned for export to India, the car was fitted with a Hooper Landaulette and diverted to New York City for a rather famous client: Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt.

Mr. Vanderbilt was a passenger aboard the Lusitania, traveling from New York to Liverpool with his valet when a German U-Boat fired a torpedo that hit the great liner directly, sparking a secondary explosion that damaged the ship so extensively that it sank in just 18 minutes. According to witnesses at the time, both Vanderbilt and his valet assisted many other passengers in boarding lifeboats. Finally, with the ship sinking, Vanderbilt gave his life vest to a female passenger. He and his valet were among the more than 1,000 lives lost that day.

Following his death, the 19MA passed to his widow. According to Rolls-Royce records, it was in her ownership until at least the late 1920s. While intervening owners (if any) are not known, by the late 1950s the car was in the collection of noted Silver Ghost enthusiast, Mr. Charles E. Lowe of Wethersfield, CT. At this point, the body had been removed, but the chassis was complete, including its original engine (#101.R) – a remarkable feat considering nearly 50 years had passed since this beautiful Silver Ghost was delivered to Alfred Vanderbilt.

Lowe kept the car for nearly 40 years before it was acquired by the vendor, who commissioned a comprehensive restoration in England under the direction of world-renowned Silver Ghost restorer David Hemmings.

A stunning new torpedo tourer body was crafted by Penny Coachbuilders of Kingham, near Chipping Norton. Built in the style of Portholme Motor Coachworks, it is a faithful replica of the original Portholme tourer body fitted to 17RB – a photograph of which may be seen in John Fasal ’ s The Edwardian Rolls-Royce, Volume II, page 733. The coachwork was finished in white with light grey accents, and trimmed in deep button tucked dark green leather done by a noted U.K. specialist. Wilton wool carpets, top tonneaus, top boot and front storm curtains were crafted by multiple Pebble Beach winning Vermont trim specialist Michael J. Lemire.

Motor #101.R was completely rebuilt by Coldwell Engineering Limited of Sheffield, England. Coldwell is very well known for their attention to detail, and every effort was made to ensure nothing was overlooked. Upon completion, Coldwell installed 101.R into the restored 19MA chassis and thoroughly road tested the Silver Ghost prior to final completion and return to the vendor ’ s collection in the United States.

The Colonial style chassis has a four-speed gearbox and a supplemental fuel tank of correct design under the rear floorboards. In addition, a correct London & Edinburgh style sloping hood has been fitted, finished in polished alloy. The car is well equipped, including an extremely rare original Elliott speedometer/odometer with a clock mounted on the top – referred to by collectors today as a “ Triple Elliott ” . In addition, the car is fitted with an original grade meter, proper CAV lamps and electrics, and an original Klaxon electric horn.

The objective of the restoration was to make 19MA into a reliable tour car. Consequently, several modern upgrades were fitted, although each upgrade was carefully engineered to ensure it would be either completely hidden, or if that was not possible, to ensure that it was done with taste and discretion, so as to blend into the car with a period appearance. Examples include an engine oil filter and temperature gauge, a starter and alternator, rear brake lights and turn signals, and even a socket for a cell phone.

Since completion of the restoration in 2004, 19MA has proven its capabilities in more than 4,000 miles of touring. Recent events include more than 300 miles on the HCCA/AACA reliability run for brass era automobiles in September of 2006, and later that month, a 900 mile tour of upstate New York ’ s Adirondack mountains. In addition, the vendor reports having driven 19MA another 600-700 miles on weekend trips throughout the fall of 2006.

During the Adirondack tour, 19MA visited Sagamore, the great camp built and owned by the car ’ s original owner, Arthur Gwynne Vanderbilt. Mr. Vanderbilt owned Sagamore from 1901 to his death in 1915, and the family retained ownership until 1954.

These late prewar cars are very sought after as they have better brakes and gearboxes than the earlier cars and are much faster. In addition, they make superb touring cars, with handling and performance unmatched by any other car of the time – and 19MA ’ s build date in 1913 ensures that it will be eligible for the most desirable of the early car tours – not only the Rolls-Royce and Silver Ghost events, but the brass era events as well.

Perhaps the greatest joy of Silver Ghost ownership is the driving experience. 19MA ’ s lovely coachwork, meticulous restoration and proven reliability make it perhaps the ideal touring Ghost.

Reference Number 7282

as of 2/19/2007

Car 1913 Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP Silver Ghost Torpedo Tourer
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