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Lot 423: Rolls-Royce 45/50hp Silver Ghost Doctor's Coupé

Rolls-Royce, Bentley Motor Cars and Automobilia, Bonhams (19 June 2010)

The directors were obviously as impressed with the car as the public were when they first saw it displayed... the company's future, based upon Royce's intuitive design genius and the uncompromising standards of workmanship he set, clearly lay in the rapidly expanding area of luxury cars...'  Edward Eves, 'Rolls-Royce, 75 Years of Motoring Excellence'. Although the 40/50hp model would in any event have earned its 'The Best Car in the World' sobriquet (actually first used by the Pall Mall Gazette in November 1911), Rolls-Royce's decision to drop all other types only served to focus attention on what would become known as the 'Silver Ghost'. Prior to 1908, when it relocated to a new factory in Derby, the company founded by engineer Frederick Henry Royce and entrepreneur the Honourable Charles Stewart Rolls had manufactured a variety of models at its Manchester premises. Cars with two, three, four and six cylinders were made, and even an abortive V8, before Managing Director Claude Johnson's decision to concentrate on the range-topping 40/50hp. The latter had first appeared at the 1906 London Motor Show and became known as the 'Silver Ghost' the following year when chassis number '60551' was exhibited wearing silver-painted tourer coachwork by Barker & Co. The heart of the Silver Ghost was its magnificent engine, a 7,036cc (later 7,428cc) sidevalve six equipped with seven-bearing crankshaft and pressure lubrication. A sturdy chassis comprised of channel-section side members and tubular cross members was suspended on semi-elliptic springs at the front and a 'platform' leaf spring arrangement at the rear, though the latter soon came in for revision. The transmission too was soon changed, a three-speed gearbox with direct-drive top gear replacing the original four-speed/overdrive top unit in 1909. In the course of its 20-year production life there would be countless other improvements to the car, one of the most important being the adoption of servo-assisted four-wheel brakes towards the end of 1923. After a successful 2,000-mile trial under RAC supervision, the factory demonstrator - chassis '60551', 'The Silver Ghost' - was entered in the Scottish Reliability Trial, completing the 15,000-mile run with flying colours to set a new World Record. From then on the car's reputation was assured, not the least in North America where the wide-open spaces placed a premium on reliability and comfort. Royce's uncompromising engineering standards demanded only excellence of his staff in Manchester and later Derby, and no chassis was delivered until it had been rigorously tested. The Silver Ghost remained in production in England until 1925, 6,173 being completed at the Manchester and Derby factories, and until 1926 at Rolls-Royce's Springfield plant in the USA where a further 1,703 were made, the longest production run of any model from this celebrated company. Originally bodied by Cockshoot as a double landaulette, chassis number '49RE' now wears doctor's coupé coachwork by Dansk Karosseri Fabrik (Danish Coachwork Factory) of Copenhagen, Denmark. It is not known when this body was fitted. The Silver Ghost was paraded at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1996 and in May 2000 took part in the R-REC's successful world record attempt at Chester (no. 12). Organised in conjunction with Chester Lions Club, this event saw 420 cars gather on Chester Racecourse in an attempt to achieve the largest number of Rolls-Royces on the road at same time. The cars took up two miles of road, earning an entry in the Guinness Book of Records, while the Lions charity benefited from a £10,000 donation from the R-REC. The accompanying history file contains a substantial quantity of receipts for restoration work, which includes an engine rebuild in 1992 carried out by marque specialists J N Harley Engineering Ltd at a cost of £30,303. Between May 1994 and May 2002, J N Harley undertook further restoration works, items receiving attention including the shock absorbers, brakes, running boards, fuse box, hubs, magneto, dynamo, under-trays, steering box, fuel tank, universal joints, crown wheel/pinion, axles, wheels, road springs, carburettor, wiring and clutch, plus general servicing at a cost of circa £27,000. In addition there are bills dated 2000 from Enfield Auto Electrical Ltd for works to the instruments, lights, interior, dashboard, stove enamelling, etc totalling £4791. As well as the aforementioned bills, '49RE' comes with copy chassis cards, original owner's handbook, Swansea V5 and a quantity of expired MoTs dating back to 1992. Serviced by Hunt Engineering of Stratford-upon-Avon in 2004, the car is reported to be in generally very good order and running well. The enthusiast vendor advises us that it was last MoT'd to July 2009.

Lot Details
Auction Rolls-Royce, Bentley Motor Cars and Automobilia
Bonhams, Rockingham Castle, Northamptonshire
TypeCar
Lot Number423
Estimate£180000-£220000
Outcome NOT SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Year1920
Condition rating
Registration numberNE 177
Mileage-
Chassis number49RE
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors