Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Piccadilly Roadster
When Henry Royce set out to design a six-cylinder engine in 1906 he was breaking new ground. In Britain, only Napier espoused the concept, and the vitality of longer crankshafts was of concern. Royce went back to basics and set 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 the “Silver Ghost”, its name was later appropriated for the entire 19-year model run. The Autocar opined on its ghost-like behavior: “At whatever speed the car is being driven on in direct third there is no engine as far as sensation goes, nor are one’s auditory nerves troubled”.
Rolls-Royce came early to America. In 1906, C.S. Rolls himself brought three cars to race at New York’s Empire City track. An exhibit at the annual auto show followed, where three cars were sold. In 1913, a New York depot was set up with coachbuilders Brewster & Co., who bodied the majority of the imported chassis. In 1919, Rolls acquired a factory in Springfield, Massachusetts, and began to manufacture the Silver Ghost. In addition to Brewster, American Rolls were bodied by many other prestige coachbuilders, a number of them under the hallmark of Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Work.
John Webb deCampi’s book Rolls-Royce in America shows S304RK to have been delivered to a T.M. O’Leary late in 1925, although the exact date is not recorded. It originally bore a Pickwick division limousine body, which has since been exchanged for a Piccadilly roadster, both of which are Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Work styles. This was a common practice at the time; when a client traded in a Rolls-Royce, the chassis was generally in excellent and low mileage condition, but the coachwork was outdated. As a result, the factory would fit a new and more sporting body which would be quite readily saleable. Most of these changes were made in the late 1920s and into the early 1930s.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in January of 2009 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona.
40/50hp, 7,428 cc L-head inline six-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, suspension via front semi-elliptic and rear cantilever leaf springs, solid front axle, live rear axle, four-wheel mechanical brakes. Wheelbase: 143.5"
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Simon Clay