Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost London-Edinburgh Tourer

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 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.”

The legendary 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 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.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in August 2009 at the Portola Hotel & Spa and Monterey Conference Center, Monterey, California and in March of 2010 at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida.

40/50 hp, 7,428 cc L-head six-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, solid front axle and with semi-elliptic leaf springs, live rear axle with cantilever leaf spring platform suspension, two-wheel mechanical brakes. Wheelbase: 143".

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright

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