ex-Richard Solove and John M. O'Quinn Collections, one of only five surviving 1908 Silver Ghosts 1908 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost Roi-des-Belges Engine no. 60747 (see text)
This majestic Silver Ghost was formerly part of one of the most noted collections of the model, that of American Richard Solove, who managed to acquire an example of each year's production from 1907-1915. Of all the years of Silver Ghosts to acquire, 1908 proved to be the most elusive for Mr. Solove, as there a very few survivors, all are owned by long term custodians and all prize them greatly. It would not be until 2007 that he was able secure the last piece of the puzzle, from Irish collector Walter Wilson.
Walter Wilson was responsible for returning this car to its former glory, having acquired the car as a collection of parts in 1989. The principal part of that group of parts was a very early '700 Series' Silver Ghost engine which dated from 1908, and was one of a handful of cars that had originally been sold to an Australian buyer. There are two schools of thought as to whether this engine had originated from car number 60747 or another of the same year, 60757 as both had headed to Australia and followed similar and lengthy histories with a number of different lives and latterly commercial service. Specialist and sleuth Jonathan Harley concluded that it was the earlier of these cars and it is that identity that has been attributed to the engine and therefore the car offered.
60747 had been supplied with shapely open touring coachwork by Alford & Alder of London and it is understood to have remained in the Rolls-Royce company's care being used the their Sales Dept. This included use in trial runs at Brooklands prior to the International Trial. When sold, it was supplied via Kemsley & Fisher to A.J. Staughton of Victoria, Australia. It stayed in Australia for much of its life, its ownership chain being recorded as: E.W. Greenwood also of Victoria; Capt. Wilson; Charles E. Waters, then moving to Melbourne in 1929. It is known to have been used by H.E. McGuigan in that city as a hire car in the 1930s, presumably having long since gained more commercial coachwork to suit this purpose. Its engine was found with G. Dubois of Victoria, some years later.
Specialist Rolls-Royce restorer and Harley assisted noted American collector Jimmy Leake of Oklahoma with the acquisition of the engine from Dubois, with the intention of creating a true recreation of the famed Silver Ghost 'The Pearl of the East', one of the earliest built and the first in 1908 to be supplied to Indian Princes. The project was not completed, and instead the engine and related parts were sold at auction, the buyer being Mr. Wilson of County Armagh in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Wilson elected to restore the car faithfully to 1908 Silver Ghost configuration, no easy task since this year's derivative of 'Ghost had a number of features abandoned on later cars. The engine was mounted in an accurate replica 1908 frame with three-quarter elliptic springs, and a 'dropped' front axle was forged, a period gearbox was configured to the four speed specification with overdrive on the top gear, a feature dispensed with in 1909. Complementing and completing the restoration was the Labourdette coachwork which they were able to source. Believed originally fitted to a Mercedes of this same era, the bodywork like the running gear was a style fashionable for a brief time, of the style favored by the Belgian Royalty with individual front seats, and naturally named as 'Roi-des-Belges' coachwork. Within a few years individual seats and shapely curved bodywork would give way to less elegant flat paneled, simpler coachwork. Period accessories and detail features would top off this exhausting process. As can be seen today, the restoration was a phenomenal achievement, the car being both extremely elegant and exacting in its detail.
Mr. Wilson would use the car for many years before selling it to Richard Solove in America, from whom it was acquired at public auction in August 2007. In the ownership of the late John M. O'Quinn the car was shown at the world famous Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, but has seen little other use.
The Rolls-Royce has a Veteran Car Services Certificate of Eligibility for its 1908 date. Please note the car will be subject to import tax of 5% if remaining in the EU.