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Lot 532: Rolls Royce Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost Tourer

Grand Palais Sale, Bonhams (7 February 2013)

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'. 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. 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. One of the wonderful benefits of the Rolls-Royce brand is that the company itself kept thoroughly detailed records of the cars as they built and maintained them as well as later ownership histories. The admirable work that the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club carries out in maintaining these records, together with work by a number of other individuals who actively research and retrace histories of these cars for the most part makes it relatively easy to trace the history of a particular Rolls-Royce. In this case, 34 AG was built at a time when the company was in the incubation of its American business, and was selling a number of cars through its New York Agency. The car immediately preceding it, 33AG was sold to America, and it appears that this was the original intention for this car too, although 'AMERICA' is then crossed out on its build card and in its place a note records that the car was sent to Hooper & Co. being dispatched to them on 21st September 1921. Other notes confirm Limousine coachwork was to be fitted, and point to it being sold as new to Frederick Till of Lynton House, Newland Park in Hull, UK. There is a note of the next owner being the famed author Rudyard Kipling on the Rolls-Royce ownership records, but authorities now believe this to be erroneous, as Mr. Kipling had taken delivery of another Silver Ghost in June that year, and was apparently known for only having had one car at a time. Unusually for Rolls-Royce, there are two secondary full order sheets from March 1925 and February 1936, when the company sold the car again themselves. In both instances, the car is actually recorded as a 'Landaulet', suggesting that Hooper had actually chosen to body the car in this fashion, rather than as a Limousine. It is thought that it was therefore resold first to Alistair Reid of Brinscall, Lancashire, who traded in a very early car, chassis 765 a Cockshoot Landaulet against its purchase. 11 years later Mr. Reid traded 34AG and Phantom 1, chassis 100MC in part payment for Phantom II chassis 102 MY, being allowed 50 and 150 for each respectively. At this point, 34AG is noted as 'Complete car sold as it stands, the whole in second hand condition for the sum of 15. In 15 years its depreciation had been a 1,622! The buyer was George Newman of 369 Euston Road, NW1 in London. This timing ties in perfectly with notes sent to Mr. Brown regarding the history of the car from Wayne Kennerley of Tolworth in Surrey, who was at that time compiling histories of Rolls-Royce and Bentleys that were owned in Africa. He notes the car to have received its 'second body, off a 1914 Silver Ghost fitted in 1936' by 'Haywood fitters', it seems likely that this is a reference to E.G. Hayward of Wood Green and that the body was the same one that it still wears to this day. Another open touring body by E.G. Hayward survives to this day and has many common features to the coachwork on this car. Close inspection of the car today tallies with the idea that this is indeed a period teens or vintage period body, it is build is consistent with a quality coachbuilder both in terms of its shape, the gauge of the structure and its individual design. It is not known where 34AG was located during the war years or indeed for some time after this. Its next known transactions are with a series of U.K. dealers in the late 1970s, before it left British shores, to become the property of G.M. Stewart of South Africa in 1984. Returning to the UK in 1991 and into the hands of Jack Hornsby, Mr. Brown became its next owner in 1997. In Mr. Brown's ownership renowned mechanic Ted Overton was entrusted to maintain the Silver Ghost, and it appears to have seen regular use. The car's cosmetic condition is that of a well worn but looked after car, the interior showing some colour loss, but not age, the engine bay being tidy but not immaculate and best summed up as a good 'driver' quality car. In a collection that features a number of icons of design, it is fair to say that none achieved the longevity of success that was associated with the Rolls brand and this model in particular. This year will mark the centenary of one of the greatest successes for the Silver Ghost, on the Alpine Rally, there can be no better inspiration to purchase one of these legendary cars.

Lot Details
Auction Grand Palais Sale
Bonhams, Paris, France
TypeCar
Lot Number532
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price€120000
Hammer Price (inc premium)€128361
Year1921
Condition rating3
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis number34 AG
Engine numberO294
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors