Originally supplied to HRH The Prince of Wales
1923 Rolls-Royce 20hp Cabriolet
Coachwork by Barker & Co.
Chassis no. GA 14
Engine no. G562
* 3,127cc straight-six cylinder
* Three-speed transmission
* Original Barker coachwork
* Royal provenance
* Hidden from public view for more than 40 years
* Excellent restoration candidate
'This model was introduced to meet requests for a smaller, less expensive car in keeping with the trend after the First World War towards smaller cars for a wider market. Construction was simplified - but standards of workmanship were not compromised.' - Edward Eves, Rolls-Royce, 75 Years of Motoring Excellence.
Changing times after WWI eventually forced the abandonment of Rolls-Royce's 'one model' policy, an all-new 20hp car joining the existing 40/50hp Silver Ghost in 1922. The 'Twenty' reflected Henry Royce's interest in contemporary trends within the American automobile industry, incorporating unit construction of engine and gearbox, the latter featuring the modern innovation of a central ball change, and 'Hotchkiss drive' rear axle. The engine, Rolls-Royce's first with overhead valves, was a six-cylinder unit displacing 3,127cc. Favorably received as the Twenty was, its three-speed transmission's central gearchange was not well liked and when four-wheel, servo-assisted brakes were introduced in 1925, a four-speed gearbox with right-hand, gated change replaced the original three-speeder. The Twenty's introduction enabled the company to cater for the increasingly important owner-driver market that appreciated the quality of Rolls-Royce engineering but did not need a car as large as a 40/50hp Ghost or Phantom. The car proved eminently suited to town use yet could cope admirably with Continental touring when called upon.
Prior to his brief accession to the throne in 1936, Edward, The Prince of Wales, was very much the celebrity royal and following his service with the Grenadier Guards in the First World War, spent the 1920s representing his father King George V at home and abroad, but still found time for society life. A notorious womanizer, this would ultimately prove Edward's downfall when he married American divorcee Wallis Simpson in the face of public and private criticism, the resulting abdication creating a scandal that resonated for decades afterwards. Edward was a keen motorist and took delivery of numerous Rolls-Royces during the course of his life, beginning with a Barker Limousine in 1919 and is said to have owned 11 examples of the marque in his lifetime. That's not counting the Rolls-Royces others have claimed Edward owned over the years, perhaps none more famously than the New Phantom re-bodied in Belgium by Jonckheere of Belgium now resident in the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
The 20hp on offer here, chassis 'GA14', has a very interesting history, having been built to the order of HRH The Prince of Wales in 1923 and fitted with dual-windscreen coachwork by Barker & Co (Coachbuilders) Ltd of 66 South Audley Street, London, as confirmed by the original build sheet. The chassis card records regular servicing until 1933. The car's subsequent history is unclear but it is believed that the car remained in the UK as photographs survive of the car taken in the 1960s outside a service station where it appears to be in substantially original condition, very much as it survives here today.
At some point in the late 1960s or early 1970s, 'GA14' joined the exodus of pre-war Rolls-Royces crossing the Atlantic and is reputed to have been part of the MGM movie fleet before passing into the long-term ownership of an eccentric hoarder who kept it stored away in Brentwood, California for three decades.
Chassis 'GA14' has been with the current California owners since March 2000 and has continued to be hidden away undisturbed until now. Offered in unrestored condition and substantially complete, the Rolls-Royce importantly retains its original Barker coachwork and has almost unlimited potential as a restoration project given its Royal past. The coachwork has many delightful features, including the division, a speedo and clock mounted in the rear compartment, Lucas lighting and the coachbuilders plates. The weathered upholstery, timber and possibly even paint could well be original and the car comes with a jack, sidemount mirrors (not attached) and even the original key. This is a most exciting find of a very significant and early Twenty.
- Please note that the title for this vehicle is in transit