1923 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost Tourer
Coachwork by Barker
Registration no. TBC
Chassis no. 22NK
Engine no. R111
'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.
A late Ghost, 22NK is regarded as one of the finest examples in the country and the history has been well documented in Ian Irwin's "Silver Ghosts of Australia and New Zealand" and Tom Clarke and David Neely's "Rolls-Royce and Bentley in a Sunburnt Country". Fitted with Barker barrel-sided open tourer bodywork, 22NK was delivered through South Australian agents Motors, Ltd. to George Milne of Adelaide on January 10, 1924 and wore the South Australian plate '27-120'. The car later moved to New South Wales and was stored at the King's Cross Parking Station during the War years before being sold to Allan Blomfield and Allan Kearley in the mid-1950s. The next owner, John McNamara, bought 22NK from Rex Turner's Neutral Bay Motors in 1955 and had it registered 'UX-758'. The well known car enthusiast Laurie O'Neil became the next owner of the Ghost, selling the car to his brother Lance who lived in Glenelg, South Australia. By the end of the 1960s, 22NK had returned to Sydney once more, this time with another famous car identity, Jack Jeffery, who lived in the Vaucluse. Later owners Peter McGrath and John Vawser both used the car for RROC events frequently during the late 1970s and into the 1980s. In 1991, 22NK passed into the ownership of Malcolm Johns, yet another respected marque enthusiast and during his ownership the car did numerous club rallies around Australia and abroad, testimony to the cars' useability and reliability. The most recent owner, a noted Sydney enthusiast with an impressive collection of pre-war cars, has continued to maintain the Ghost in superb condition, both mechanically and cosmetically. The rear seats were re-upholstered to match those in the front and the car has been fitted with wheel discs, greatly enhancing the appearance. Owned by a succession of well known personalities and Rolls-Royce club members, 22NK retains the original coachwork and is certainly one of the best examples to come on the open market in recent years.