1926 Rolls-Royce 45/50hp Silver Ghost 'Playboy' Roadster  Chassis no. S400RK Engine no. 28004
Lot 338
1926 Rolls-Royce 45/50hp Silver Ghost 'Playboy' Roadster Chassis no. S400RK Engine no. 28004
£120,000 - 150,000
US$ 200,000 - 250,000
Lot Details
1926 Rolls-Royce 45/50hp Silver Ghost 'Playboy' Roadster
Coachwork by Brewster

Registration no. SV 5192
Chassis no. S400RK
Engine no. 28004


  • Although the 40/50hp model would have earned its 'The Best Car in the World' sobriquet in any event, 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 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.

    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 and at Rolls-Royce's Springfield plant in the USA until 1926, the longest production run of any model from that celebrated company. Cars were right-hand drive up to 1925 and left-hand drive thereafter.

    Unlike its British-built counterpart, the American product could be ordered with 'factory' bodywork, usually by Brewster, which would be taken over by Rolls-Royce in December 1925. As well as manufacturing coachwork of the highest quality, Brewster had built its own automobiles from 1915 up to the time of its acquisition by Rolls-Royce, re-emerging as an auto-maker in its own right, using Ford chassis, when US Phantom production finally ceased in 1934 and the company became part of the reconstituted Springfield Manufacturing Corporation.

    Chassis number 'S400RK' was delivered new on 11th March 1926 to a Mr D Armstrong of Greenwich, Connecticut carrying Mayfair Town Car coachwork by Brewster, and later was returned to the factory for re-bodying. At this time Rolls-Royce of America had a policy of repurchasing low-mileage 'formal' cars and reissuing them with sporting bodies of more fashionable style. Brewster's 'Playboy' body was used exclusively for this purpose and the car offered here is one of only 28 built on the Silver Ghost and New Phantom chassis. Nowadays the 'Playboy' is acknowledged as one of the most attractive of all Rolls-Royce of America body styles.

    'S400RK' was imported into Belgium some 30-40 years ago and resided there in a little known private collection until purchased by the immediately preceding owner. The car is finished in blue with red coachlining and red leather interior, and has the benefit of servo assistance for the brakes. In recent years the latter have received attention at marque specialists Taylors where other works carried out include comprehensively rebuilding the engine around new cylinder blocks, the originals being damaged. New valves, high-compression pistons, exhaust manifold and a reground crankshaft were incorporated at the same time (see bills for the period 2007-2012 totalling more than £75,000 on file). The car is offered with Belgian export paperwork and an expired MoT (1995).

Saleroom notices

  • We are pleased to advise that this vehicle is offered with a Swansea V5 registration document
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