1923 Rolls-Royce Springfield Silver Ghost Piccadilly Roadster
Coachwork by Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Works
Chassis no. 318XH
Engine no. 21-143
The Silver Ghost was introduced at the London Motor Show in late 1906 and it was a major leap for the young firm of Rolls-Royce, for it was a larger and more powerful car than they had previously attempted. The 40/50 model (later known as the Silver Ghost) was quiet, smooth, powerful and beautifully proportioned, and the British market loved it from the very start, making it a huge success. Previously, the best cars available had been French in origin, and the British aristocracy was delighted to find a home-grown car superior to what the French had to offer. Henry Royce pursued a policy of constant improvement, and by about 1914 the cars had become even better -- proving to be very reliable and, with a light body, very fast as well.
Mechanically, the 40/45 was quite conventional -- a ladder frame with a 7.4 liter six cylinder engine consisting of two three-cylinder blocks with non-detachable cylinder heads and side valves. Royce designed his own twin-jet carburetor which suited the engine quite well. Twin ignition, one coil and distributor system and a second magneto system assured reliability. The lubrication system was pressurized (at a time when many competitors still relied upon splash lubrication); and there was even a system that applied extra oil directly to the cylinder walls when starting or running at high speed. Power was conveyed thru a fabric-lined cone clutch that was very long lived. Well known R-R specialist Bill Cooke of the Vintage Garage states he has never seen a Ghost clutch worn out, though owners can destroy them by carelessness. After 1913, 40/50s had four-speed gearboxes (except for the last of the Springfields which adopted a US style 3-speed) and a torque-tube drive. A torque tube is an enclosed driveshaft wherein the enclosing tube also locates the rear axle in the fore and aft direction.
Springfield Silver Ghosts were built from 1921 to 1926. The car offered here is a 1923 which is still very much like the British Ghosts of the same era. It is right drive, 4-speed, with a 12-volt electrical system and rides on 23-inch wheels with 33 x 5 tires. Many enthusiasts prefer these early Springfield cars because of their more sporty feeling and lighter steering with the skinny tires.
Springfield offered a line of factory bodies designed by Ray Dietrich, then of LeBaron coachworks in New York City, and they were distinguished by their British geographic names -- the roadster being dubbed the Piccadilly after the London traffic circle that surrounds the statue of Eros. Rolls-Royce had its own coachworks on Waltham Avenue in Springfield, but most of the bodies were subcontracted to other builders who delivered the bodies to Waltham Avenue in the white -- meaning that they were primed but unpainted, unupholstered and without the top canvas. Waltham Avenue would finish them to suit the customers order. The color scheme of this car -- maroon body, black fenders and trim, and black top and seats -- was a very popular and appropriate color scheme. This Piccadilly had been subcontracted to Merrimac, who built most of the open (roadster and tourer) Springfield bodies.
The car was originally sold to E. D. Gaither of Cincinnati, Ohio, and was delivered on July 31, 1923. Typically, not much is known about the cars subsequent ownership until the late 1950s when it was part of the well-known Richard Paine collection at Seal Cove in Maine. Then for about 35 years it was owned by Richard Hughes of Essexville, Michigan who was very kind to the car so it was in fine shape when purchased by our consignor about the turn of the Millenium. After being in the consignorss garage for only about a year, the garage caught fire and the Ghost and a 1939 Wraith sedanca were both damaged. Fortunately, the damage to the Ghost was mostly superficial -- body, paint, top and upholstery. The car was then restored to the highest standard by Jim Hery of Parkesburg, Pennsylvania, with mechanical work completed by Bill Cooke of the Vintage Garage. The restoration was so successful and the car has won many awards, including the Best in Concours Class at the 2005 Rolls-Royce National Meet in Greenwich, Connecticut. The consignor is now in his 90s and has decided regretfully to allow the car to move on to another appreciative owner.
The Piccadilly body is one of the most highly regarded body styles ever placed on the Ghost chassis because of its nearly perfect body lines. There is not any aspect of the style that could be improved. This car will allow the owner entry into any number of Concours and Club activities including the Rolls-Royce Owners Club, Silver Ghost Association, etc.