Sunday, July 30, 2017

Concours d'Elegance of America, Plymouth, Michigan, July 30, 2017: Part Five--Silver Ghost Class

One of the most celebrated cars of the 20th Century was the Rolls-Royce 40/50, more familiarly known as "the Silver Ghost," although that was not an official name but rather the name given to an individual car used as a demonstrator.   First produced in 1906, the Silver Ghost had quite a long run, with 7,874 built by the time production, in the United Kingdom and the United States, ended in 1926.  The car was updated somewhat in its lifetime (although electric start was not introduced until 1919) but was no longer competitive by the mid-1920s.  At the time of its introduction, it only had front brakes operated by a hand lever, and a foot lever acting as a transmission brake.  Electric lighting was only offered as an option in 1913, and made standard in 1919.  Nonetheless, the Silver Ghost's famed reliability and smoothness of operation earned it the sobriquet of "the best car in the world," which Rolls-Royce was to use in its advertising for many decades.  A remarkable range of custom bodies was produced for the car, as the concours showed.

Production of the Silver Ghost was suspended in World War I but engines and chassis continued to be built to be used for the famous Rolls-Royce armoured cars (think Lawrence of Arabia, who had a unit with nine, and the Irish Civil War, where 13 were drafted to fight the IRA).

1914 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost
This car has had a remarkable history.  Originally constructed as an armoured car, it was rebodied as a hearse and subsequently rebodied three times since 1923.  The current elegant tourer body is a modern reproduction by Littin and Son.  Steve Littin is a Silver Ghost specialist based in Ohio.

1912 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost
This fine example with a Holmes tourer body was sold to a French marquis in Paris, then went on to Spain, where it was resident for 90 years.  It was returned to England in 2007 and underwent a comprehensive restoration.  Holmes & Co. was established as a coachbuilder in Derby in the 19th Century and continued in operation until 1970.

1911 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost
Unusually fitted with brass rather than the usual nickel plating, this car was originally equipped with a landaulet body that was removed in the 1930s as too old-fashioned.  The car was driven for some time by its owner without a body but having a hood, seats and fenders.  Over a six year period in the late 1970s, the owner at that time restored the car, designing his own body in a Roi des Belges style.  The car was restored again in 2012 by Steve Littin.

1923 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost
The subject of a $1 million frame-off restoration in 2004, this car was previously owned by the noted Blackhawk Collection in California.  The seven passenger tourer body is by Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Works, which was located in Merrimac, Massachusetts, and supplied coachwork for Rolls-Royces produced in the American factory in  in nearby Springfield.

1912 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost
This 1912 Silver Ghost was rebodied in 1988 with replica Roi des Belges coachwork similar to that of the English Barker firm.  Apparently the name derives from a suggestion by the mistress of the King of Belgium.

1913 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost
Built to the same upgraded specification as the famous London-Edinburgh rally car, this Silver Ghost was purchased by a family of jewelers in Paris and originally had a torpedo-style body by Barker.  The car was eventually rebodied in its current Holmes & Co. coachwork.

At the time we were looking at the cars, many of the Silver Ghosts were being driven around by their proud owners and here are some photos of Ghosts on the move.  And, yes, they are practically silent.


Continue to Part Six here

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