1919/20 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost Alpine Eagle 25 AE
Lot 224
1919/20 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost Alpine Eagle 25 AE
Sold for £170,900 (US$ 283,620) inc. premium
Lot Details
1919/20 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost Alpine Eagle
Coachwork by Hooper and Co

Registration no. R 4708
Chassis no. 25 AE
Engine no. L H21


  • The Honourable Charles Stewart Rolls, gentleman adventurer, aviator, racing driver and astute businessman, and Frederick Henry Royce, engineer and innovator were indeed a formidable partnership, creating a motoring legend with a reputation for unsurpassed excellence. It says much for the business acumen of Rolls that, despite his inborn desire for things to happen quickly, he tolerated the pedantic and at times frustratingly slow attention to detail of his mechanical-genius partner. From this painstaking approach, the Rolls-Royce 40/50hp, ‘The Silver Ghost’, was to emerge and earn for itself and the company the accolade of ‘The Best Car In The World’.
    In production from 1907, the Rolls-Royce 40/50hp (later named ‘The Silver Ghost’) was powered by a 7,036cc, six-cylinder engine from 1907 to 1909, later enlarged to 7,428cc. The 40/50hp car passed every test to which it was subjected, whether in service as a formal town carriage, sprint racing on sand or competing in the arduous Scottish Trials. 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 and at Rolls-Royce’s Springfield plant in the USA until 1926, the longest production run of any model from that celebrated company.
    In 1913 several special works competition cars were produced based on the Silver Ghost for the Austrian Alpenfahrt. The latter event, which was then the most severe test of reliability and ability for a touring car, took in 1,800 miles and climbed 19 Alpine passes. The Rolls-Royce teams failed to gain the win due to minor technicalities, but nevertheless performed immaculately throughout. These were Rolls-Royce’s last competition cars, but the specification could be ordered by owners requiring a higher performance motor car, this model being known as the ‘Alpine Eagle’. The upgraded items included a higher back axle ratio for more relaxed cruising, nine-leaf rear springs for a more comfortable ride, and a slightly higher compression ratio.
    Factory records show that Keith Merrill, an American Consul resident in Cavendish Square, London, ordered chassis number ’25 AE’ in 1917, though the continuation of The Great War meant that the car was not finally delivered until July 1920. Within a few years Mr Merrill was posted back to the USA and took the Rolls-Royce with him. ‘25 AE’ had only two further owners while in the USA, one of whom was Mitchell Todd Jr, of Nantucket, whose parents bought the car for him as a 16th birthday present in 1941. The car remained in his family until 1985.
    In 1995 ‘25 AE’ returned to the UK, still sporting its original coachwork, and an extensive restoration was undertaken by marque specialists Coldwell Engineering, where every issue requiring attention was addressed, including the installation of a pair of new cylinder blocks. Inspection of the receipts relating to this work, which total circa £80,000, is highly recommended.
    This tremendous car was ordered with a number of special items, including nickel fittings, low ‘D’ rake steering, short levers and wing-mounted lighting to the Hooper Open Touring five-seater body. Hoopers also fitted a foot warmer to the rear compartment, which was noted on the original inspection sheet prepared in November 1920 by Mr Evans, Rolls-Royce’s travelling inspector. The car is finished in light grey with contrasting light green wings, while the Burgundy-upholstered leather seating is superb, complemented by recently fitted blood-red carpeting. Touring equipment includes the original Auster rear screen, Carl Zeiss Jena scuttle mounted auxiliary lighting, CAV Model F headlights and twin side-mounted spare wheels.
    ‘25 AE’ has been in the present enthusiastic ownership for a number of years, taking part in appropriate VSCC and R-REC touring events. A previous R-REC concours winner, the car is presented in very good overall condition and is a tribute to the current owner’s meticulous attention to detail. The Ghost is in regular use and has been maintained by Rolls-Royce specialists A L Glew Ltd. It comes with copy build sheets, extensive invoices for the restoration work carried out, old style V5, current Swansea V5C and is MoT’d until March 2009.
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