Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Open Drive Landaulette

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

This example is one of the ultra-rare and most desirable early pre-WWI Silver Ghosts. Original factory records show that chassis 1797 was originally a Derby trials car and then used for the "London Open Trials," as shown by notes that have been crossed out and rewritten with the name of the first owner at the top of the main order. One would presume from these notes that 1797 actually remained at the Rolls-Royce factory as a test car for an extended period. In fact, there was a seven-month interval between the chassis test date in October 1911 and the customer delivery date in 1912.

The car was sent to the Rolls-Royce Conduit Street showroom, where it received styled Torpedo coachwork from Barker, as well as detachable Vinet rim wheels and nickel fittings throughout. Finished in grey with dark green leather, it was purchased by first owner, R.G. Reid of the Bank of Montreal, who took delivery in early May 1912. Mr. Reid, who was based out of both London and St. John’s, Newfoundland, experienced the car and its sporty coachwork around the streets of London for two years before returning it to Barkers for new bodywork. At this time, it received formal "Limousine Landaulet" coachwork, more suited for chauffeured driving. As before, Barker provided an extensive list of build sheet specifications detailing the luxurious appointments of this special motor car, including a new dark blue livery.

The rest of Mr. Reid's ownership of 1797 is uncertain, but records do indicate that 1797 was in the ownership of Mr. Gordon E. Smith of the Orillia, Ontario area in 1954. In the mid-1970s, the car was discovered as a complete rolling chassis by Mr. Joe Loecy, who had earlier purchased another Silver Ghost, chassis 53 MA, from Mr. Reid. In 1982, the late Millard Newman acquired 1797 and was able to locate a correct period-style body from a Thomas Flyer, a body that was built by the New York coachbuilder F.R. Wood. The car passed through noted Silver Ghost collector Raymond Lutgert to Mr. Bill Haines, who acquired 1797 in 1988 and sent it to renowned Silver Ghost restorer David Hemmings in the UK. In Mr. Hemmings’ care, 1797 received an extensive cosmetic restoration, including the proper modification and fitting of the aforementioned F.R. Wood body onto the Silver Ghost chassis. In 2003, the Silver Ghost joined the growing collection of the prolific Houston-based collector John O’Quinn and has been treated to climate-controlled storage ever since.

Today, this magnificent automobile continues to represent a period-correct recreation of the exquisite second Barker configuration from 1914. Its formal styling has been complemented with the use of many period-style fittings and an interior finished in Bedford cord with braided trim. Amenities include a speaking tube for the rear passenger to the driver. The exterior is highlighted by nickel headlights, sidelights and carriage lights with an acetylene generator, while the roof luggage rack and running board-mounted toolbox are useful for longer excursions.

The quality of this car and its impressive restoration resulted in the achievement of several concours awards, including Best in Class at Pebble Beach in 1993 and Best in Class at Meadow Brook in 1996, followed by a showing at Amelia Island in 1998. In Mr. O’Quinn’s ownership, 1797 was carefully preserved and shown again at Amelia Island and at the 2005 Concours on Rodeo, held in Beverly Hills, California.

Today, the offering of 1797 marks an extraordinary opportunity to acquire an extremely rare and highly desirable early pre-WWI Silver Ghost, with its provenance, period coachwork and greatly original chassis contributing to its significance and value.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in March of 2011 at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida.

48 bhp, 7,248 cc side-valve six-cylinder engine, three-speed manual gearbox, front semi-elliptic leaf spring and rear three-quarter elliptic leaf spring suspension, and two-wheel mechanical drum brakes.

Source: RM Auctions

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