The Silver Ghost was, with the Model T Ford, the longest-lived and most famous automobile of its era. Approximately 8,000 – including military staff cars and armor-plated versions – were built between 1907 and 1926. Its mascot name was “The Spirit of Ecstasy”. (Meanwhile Henry Ford was producing over 16,000,000 Tin Lizzies). In 1913 the Colonial model Silver Ghost chassis was developed for sale in India. The display car has a four-passenger tourer body by Kellner of Paris.
The partnership between the Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls, third son of Lord Llangattock, and Frederick Henry Royce, a working class manufacturer from Manchester, had begun in 1904. Royce was the engineer, Rolls the enthusiast. In 1907, their new 40/50 model received its more popular designation after a tourer painted silver was driven 15,000 miles and then dismantled under Royal Automobile Club (R.A.C.) supervision. All parts were inspected and reported in “as-new” condition. A motoring correspondent declared the 40/50 the “best car in the world,” which the Messrs. Rolls and Royce thought was a fine slogan. It was on the Silver Ghost that the famous “Spirit of Ecstasy” mascot was introduced as well.
There was nothing really extraordinary about a Silver Ghost, but everything in it was extraordinarily well built. “A triumph of workmanship over design” was one critic’s summation. That a Silver Ghost would never wear out and that its engine was inaudible are legends only slightly exaggerated.
Then as now, quoting horsepower figures was regarded as odious by Rolls-Royce. A top speed of 80+ mph was possible in a Ghost like this one. In 1914 the New York price for a Silver Ghost chassis was $7,000. Said Rolls-Royce: “The quality will remain long after the price is forgotten”.
Acquired from the collection of Briggs Cunningham.
Photos – Peter Harholdt
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