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Lot 156: Rolls-Royce 45/50hp Silver Ghost Drophead Coupé

Goodwood Revival Sale, Bonhams (15 September 2012)

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 Hooper & Co as a landaulette, chassis number '9AG' was first registered on 1st January 1922 and supplied new to its original owner, Sir Felix Cassel, of Brook House, Park Lane, London, a noted barrister who was Judge Advocate General at the time. According to factory records the Ghost was then sold to The Hon E G Prettyman, of Orwell Park, Ipswich in 1928 before passing to R E Ross Esq, of Nottingham in 1957. The car then passed into the ownership of Mr O F Wills in 1966, remaining in his possession until 1984. An extensive restoration was undertaken during Mr Wills' 18-year ownership, which included a complete strip-down to the bare chassis prior to rebuilding the car. According to notes on file from Mr Wills, the engine was completely stripped and rebuilt by marque specialist Jonathan Harley while the gearbox was overhauled by Brunts of Silverdale. In addition, the brakes were relined and the brake actuating rods re-metalled and re-bushed by Coventry Boring. New two-seater sports coachwork was constructed by noted Rolls-Royce and Bentley coachbuilder, Tony Robinson, and the car was re-trimmed by MM Trimming using blue Connolly hide and a new mohair hood. Upon the work's completion in 1979 the car was awarded the Phoenix Trophy by the 20 Ghost Club for the best restoration. It was then used for various international tours and rallies including a tour of Japan in 1980 and a tour of Germany and Denmark in 1982. In 1984 it was sold again, on this occasion to a J L Hopkins who maintained it for the next 15 years as part of a major private collection. The Ghost saw very little use while in Mr Hopkins' possession; in fact, the car had covered only some 9,000 miles since the engine rebuild and restoration when he parted with it in 1999. It then passed into the hands of an Irish collector who also used the car very sparingly before the current owner acquired it in 2004. Described by the vendor as in generally excellent condition, benefiting from a recent repaint and interior re-trimming, 'NK 2898' has also been serviced by noted Silver Ghost expert Graham Ashley-Carter so will be perfectly set up and ready to go at time of sale. The car is offered with sundry restoration invoices, current MoT certificate and Swansea V5 registration document.

Lot Details
Auction Goodwood Revival Sale
Bonhams, Chichester, Goodwood
Lot Number156
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£110000
Hammer Price (inc premium)£124700
Condition rating1
Registration numberNK 2898
Chassis number9AG
Engine numberO63
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2