1909 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost Roi-de-Belges Tourer Coachwork in the style of Barker
Chassis no. 1203
Engine no. 1203
Launched at Olympia in 1906, Henry Royces masterpiece, the new six-cylinder, 40/50hp Rolls-Royce, was in a class of its own and Royces engineering genius combined with the selling charms of the Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls and the business flair of Claude Johnson ensured that the world soon recognised the new model as "The Best Car in the World". The history of the 40/50hp car, soon to be colloquially referred to as The Silver Ghost, is well chronicled, production continuing in the U.K. until 1925 and, remarkably, no fewer than 6,173 chassis were built in the U.K. with a further 1,703 erected at the Springfield Factory in the U.S.A.
Chassis number 1203 is one of an exceptionally small number of pre-1910, parallel-bonnet Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost cars surviving. The current Veteran Car Club of G.B. Members Handbook lists just 16 such cars world-wide and the list of owners of each of those vehicles reads like a Whos Who? of the worlds most serious and best-informed car collectors.
1203 was ordered in October 1909 by Thornton & Schieber Ltd and the coachwork specified was a seven passenger limousine landaulette. The chassis was on test in December 1909 and Hooper were selected as the favoured coachbuilder. It is known from Rolls-Royce records of parts supplied that this car remained in continuous use at least until 1931. A reference in John Fasals standard work, The Edwardian Rolls-Royce, referring to the engine being fitted in a motor launch in 1919, is now believed to be erroneous, particularly as the car was known to be in service after that time and retains its original engine to this day. Letters on file from historian John Fasal and restorer Jonathan Harley confirm their agreement that the original engine has stayed with the car. In the 1920s the car belonged to A Hutton of Nutfield Priory, Surrey, and in 1935 to a Noel Armitage. In 1946 it was discovered by D Abbott-Anderson on "Cow Roast" scrapheap at Tring, a well-known source of derelict early motor cars in the immediate post-war years. SJ Jimmy Skinner, a most prominent Silver Ghost collector and enthusiast, was to acquire 1203, the car later passing through a veritable Whos Who? of Rolls-Royce collectors, including the Neale Brothers of Worcestershire, J M Levin of Ohio, Rick Carroll of Florida and, staying in Florida, then to the notable collection of Bill Lassiter, before acquisition by its present owner in 1999. The coachwork, in Roi-de-Belges style, is recorded as being built by Willis in 1972.
Upon acquisition by its new owner a full and detailed restoration was embarked upon, the work being entrusted to Rolls-Royce specialist Jonathan Harley, with a brief to ensure that the car would prove 100% reliable in long distance motoring while attending to every mechanical and cosmetic detail and maintaining originality in all major respects. Its owner is delighted that this demanding brief has been fully achieved and a recent 2,000 mile family motoring tour of Southern Ireland has confirmed the cars absolute reliability, to the standards that Henry Royce himself set out to achieve. Since restoration the car has covered some 8,000 or so miles with no problems, has won many trophies and been well-feted in Southern Ireland.
1203 is superbly equipped for the long-distance motor tour. The superior quality accessories include a matched pair of Bleriot bullseye headlamps, Lucas no.644 oil side lamps with starburst etched glass side-lenses and bullseye front lenses, Lucas oil tail-lamps, matching Rotax rear-view mirrors and two-piece cranked windscreen, all these fittings being splendidly silver-plated, significantly reducing cleaning and preparation work required. Dashboard essentials include a petrol pressure gauge, single Elliott speedometer, a motor aneroid barometer, an oil pressure gauge and a Smiths eight-day clock. Audible warning of approach is provided by an Autovox horn along with an off-side wing-mounted Boa Constrictor horn.
The coachwork is superbly liveried in silver and upholstered in dark green, deep-buttoned leather, with dark grey carpets and comes with a tonneau cover and hood envelope. The near-side running board accommodates a generator box while a pair of running board toolboxes accommodate the wheel brace, spanner and other essential tools. The car is equipped with an off-side mounted spare wheel, most practical running-board mats and the door handles and hinges and other fittings are also silver-plated. As the car pre-dates the design by Charles Sykes of the Spirit of Ecstasy, this car carries an Edwardian R.A.C. badge on the radiator cap. Other motor club badges include the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain, Motor Union and Automobile Association. A most practical modification and enhancement for motoring enjoyment is the fitting of an electric starter. Since the photographs in this catalogue were taken an Auster rear screen has been fitted, enhancing comfort for the rear seat passengers.
In short, here is a car of significant importance which will stand proudly in any of the worlds great car collections and yet a car fully prepared and ready to undertake the most testing journies. Its vendor describes it as a delight to drive and well able to hold its station in modern traffic. Its meticulous owner has commissioned well-known Rolls-Royce specialist, Allan Glew, to prepare the car prior to the sale to ensure that its new owner will derive the same pleasure from 1203 which a succession of Rolls-Royce cognoscenti have clearly also enjoyed over the last 50 or so years. The car comes with V.C.C. Dating Certificate no.1100, together with copies of Factory Order and Build Sheets and detailed records of its restoration.