Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Boat-Tail Skiff
Early in its history, Rolls-Royce developed a strong reputation for performance. The Tourist Trophy Race was one of the most prestigious events of the era and was won by the Honourable Charles Stewart Rolls and Frederick Henry 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 £22s 7d to restore it to as-new specification (or about GBP 7.50 at 1907 exchange rates).
Rolls also understood the importance of image when marketing and selling the most luxurious and advanced motor car 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 7,248 cc L-head, six-cylinder, side valve engine, the Silver Ghost was a mechanical marvel with its aluminium 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 .025 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.
Three specially equipped cars were prepared for an important trial in 1911 – the London to Edinburgh run. The Rolls-Royce entries dominated the field, and following their great success, this enhanced specification became available to client order. Later, three such L to E chassis were upgraded to provide enhanced performance and entered in the Austrian Alpine trials. When Rolls-Royce won the event outright, this improved specification became available and was known as the Alpine Eagle specification.
Most of these cars were ordered for sporting applications, and 54PB appears to be no exception. Although there is no official record of the original coachwork, the car was fitted with a low rake steering column, indicating that it was intended to receive sporting open coachwork.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in January of 2009 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona and in October of 2009 at the Battersea Evolution, London.
48 bhp 7,248 cc side valve six-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, front semi-elliptic leaf spring and rear three-quarter elliptic leaf spring, two wheel drum brakes, right hand drive.
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Phil Greatorex