1913 Rolls-Royce 45/50hp Silver Ghost Open Drive Limousine  Chassis no. 2297 Engine no. 104U
Lot 515
1913 Rolls-Royce 45/50hp Silver Ghost Open Drive Limousine Chassis no. 2297 Engine no. 104U
Sold for £419,500 (US$ 697,158) inc. premium
Lot Details
1913 Rolls-Royce 45/50hp Silver Ghost Open Drive Limousine
Coachwork by Barker & Co

Registration no. R 1130
Chassis no. 2297
Engine no. 104U


  • 'The directors were obviously as impressed with the car as the public were when they first saw it displayed... the company's future, based upon Royce's intuitive design genius and the uncompromising standards of workmanship he set, clearly lay in the rapidly expanding area of luxury cars...' – Edward Eves, 'Rolls-Royce, 75 Years of Motoring Excellence'.
    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'. Prior to 1908, when it relocated to a new factory in Derby, the company founded by engineer Frederick Henry Royce and entrepreneur the Honourable Charles Stewart Rolls had manufactured a variety of models at its Manchester premises. Cars with two, three, four and six cylinders were made, and even an abortive V8, before Managing Director Claude Johnson's decision to concentrate on the range-topping 40/50hp. The latter had first appeared at the 1906 London Motor Show and became known as the 'Silver Ghost' the following year when chassis number '60551' was exhibited wearing silver-painted tourer coachwork by Barker & Co.
    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.
    After a successful 2,000-mile trial under RAC supervision, the factory demonstrator - chassis '60551', 'The Silver Ghost' - was entered in the Scottish Reliability Trial, completing the 15,000-mile run with flying colours to set a new World Record. From then on the car's reputation was assured, not the least in North America where the wide-open spaces placed a premium on reliability and comfort. 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, 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.
    Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost chassis number '2297' was on test on 20th February 1913 and fitted with engine number '104U'. Ordered with nickel plated fittings throughout, the complete chassis was priced at £985 and supplied to Messrs Berliet Motors, of Sackville Street, London W1 on the 10th March 1913. The premier coachbuilder, Barker & Co was chosen to supply and fit the open-drive limousine coachwork (body number '3351'). It is interesting to note that this style of elegant coachwork was very popular in the Edwardian era but only 18 examples on Rolls-Royce chassis are known to survive from that period. Chassis '2297' is the only remaining 1913 Rolls-Royce graced with this style of coachwork out of the 166 completed that year.
    The Ghost's first owner was the Hon Lady Miller, who lived at 45 Grosvenor Square, London W1. After The Great War, it passed to Mrs F Gander-Dower, 30 Collingham Gardens, London SW5. Some time later the car turned up in the hands of the S M T Garage in Carlisle, painted green and registered 'HCA 779'. A J Barton of Hadrian's Camp, Carlisle acquired the Ghost in August 1951 for the princely sum of £120 and sold it the following year for £225 to Ken Rosewell, who most likely was still the owner when the car received its 1953 Coronation Rally plaque.
    In October 1955 the vehicle - now reregistered 'R 2121' - was in the ownership of J A G Burchell of Chigwell, Essex who repainted the coachwork in dark blue with yellow coachlines. In 1987 the Silver Ghost was acquired by Frank Cholerton of Derby, who carried out a fine restoration, repainting the car in its present Burgundy with black wings and reregistering it with the current number 'R 1130', an appropriately early Derby registration.
    The current vendor acquired the car in 1990. Last used on the road in 1993, it has been kept in dehumidified storage - on axle stands - and regularly run and maintained, the last occasion the engine was started being six months ago. A very original example of 'The Best Car in the World', '2297' is described by the vendor as in generally very good condition and comes complete with a full set of tools, including keys for the rear door locks.

Saleroom notices

  • This 1913 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost carries Landaulette coachwork by Barker & Co. and not Limousine as catalogued.
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