Formerly the property of Denis Flather, in the present family ownership for 48 years 1913 Rolls-Royce 45/50hp Silver Ghost London-to-Edinburgh Tourer Registration no. LW 7027 Chassis no. 2643 Engine no. 70R
'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 1907 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.
Rigorous testing continued to be undertaken publicly too in the interests of promoting sales, the next such enterprise being Ernest W Hives' legendary journey in September 1911 from London to Edinburgh using top gear only. Rivals Napier had just completed a similar stunt and Rolls-Royce felt obliged to rise to the challenge. Hives' Silver Ghost averaged a remarkable 24.32 miles per gallon over the 400-mile journey and on its completion was taken to the Brooklands racetrack where it was timed at 78.26mph. That car, chassis '1701', incorporated under-slung cantilever rear springs and an engine upgraded with increased compression ratio and a larger carburettor, while the lightweight sports-tourer 'torpedo' coachwork was by Holmes & Co of Derby. Orders for replicas poured in and today genuine examples of the 'London-to-Edinburgh' model are among the most coveted of all Silver Ghost variants.
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 '2643' was ordered by Hugh Montgomery on 24th September 1913, though the build had actually commenced on 5th September. A member of the Marlborough Club in London's Pall Mall, Montgomery must have been a very wealthy young man; he lived in Warwick Square while his main residence was Bosworth Park, Nuneaton, and put down a deposit of £328, approximately £33,000 today.
The build card gives the chassis type as 'London to Edinburgh' and specifies the D-type (shallow rake) steering, lightweight (6-6½cwt) open touring body and the appropriate standard 850lbs front and 1,850lbs rear springs. On 23rd October Montgomery paid off the balance of £688 making the total £1,016, approximately £100,000 at today's prices for the chassis alone.
However, it appears that the order was changed and on 27th October 1913 '2643' was sent to Peters & Sons for the fitting of an enclosed limousine body. The car was completed in December 1913 but it was not until March 1915 that springs more suited to the heavy limousine body (925lbs/front, 2,050lbs/rear) were fitted to the chassis. In addition, the 'D' steering column was changed to the steeper 'B' type and the pedals, floorboards, dashboard, etc substituted for items more appropriate for limousine coachwork.
In October 1915 the Silver Ghost was sold via Barker & Co to Auguste Charles Valadier in Paris, France. A wealthy French American, Charles Valadier would pioneer the development of maxillo-facial re-constructive surgery while serving with the British Expeditionary Force during The Great War. Valadier had established a successful dental practice in Paris and when war broke out volunteered his services to the Red Cross. He established the first 'Plastic and Jaw Unit', which helped facilitate the later progress of plastic surgery.
A selection of tools and spares for Valadier's Rolls-Royce was supplied on 30th October. Rolls-Royce chassis cards state that the car was 'used by Military on Home or Active Service. European War 1914/19'. By December 1916 Major Valadier was stationed at Boulogne and the chassis had been fitted with up-rated springs (1,200lbs/front, 2,550lbs/rear) by Dutilloux & Ranlovich of Paris to cope with the additional weight of a dentist's chair in the rear. Sadly, only two months earlier Lieutenant Hugh Montgomery of the Irish Guards, the car's first owner, had been killed in France. Three times mentioned in despatches, Charles Valadier was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1919 and in 1921 was knighted for his services, having been granted British citizenship the preceding year (see separate file devoted to Valadier).
After the war's end, the Silver Ghost went back to Barker's, where it is presumed the coachwork was returned to limousine configuration, and was registered in the UK as 'LW 7027' on 14th July 1921, this being shortly after the introduction of the Roads Act of 1920 that required local councils to register all vehicles at the time of licensing and allocate a separate number to each. (Many vehicles, although in existence for several years in some cases, were only registered for the first time after the Act's passing). Still with limousine coachwork and finished in blue/black, the Rolls-Royce was now in the possession of Mrs Helen Boye Miller of London, its third owner (see duplicate logbook on file).
Correspondence on file indicates that towards the end of the 1920s Charles Gibbs & Co Ltd converted the car into a breakdown vehicle, complete with jib crane at the rear. Rolls-Royce's last record of parts supplied to Gibbs for '2643' is dated 20th September 1934. In receivership shortly thereafter, Gibbs & Co was purchased in February 1935 by Geoffrey Thomas, who bought back the mortgaged Rolls-Royce from the finance company. The Ghost then continued in use as a recovery vehicle until circa 1948 when the magneto burnt out.
In March 1960 the car was purchased by F M Wilcock of Swandean Garage, Worthing. Michael Wilcock was an enthusiastic and talented engineer who in 1953 had become famous for creating the 'Swandean Spitfire' special by fitting a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine into a chassis made from two Daimler Dingo scout cars. Driven by Wilcock at the Brighton Speed Trials, the car still survives today in Canada. The eccentric Wilcock also kept a complete Vickers Supermarine Spitfire on his garage forecourt, running the engine once a year on 'Battle of Britain Day' (photograph on file). That aircraft still exists in airworthy condition in the USA.
After Wilcock had acquired the Silver Ghost a complete strip down and rebuild commenced (see 'as found' and restoration photographs on file). Brigden Coachbuilders of Shoreham constructed a replica London-to-Edinburgh tourer body and the rebuilt Ghost returned to the road towards the end of April 1963. Wilcock had opened the Brighton Motor Museum in 1961 and it is likely that the Silver Ghost was put on display there.
In November 1965, '2643' was purchased at auction by the current vendor's father, Denis Flather, and driven back to his home in Sheffield that evening. Interestingly, for the gear wheel used in the Silver Ghost differential, Rolls-Royce specified UBAS (Un Brakeable Axle Steel) a case-hardened steel patented in 1890 by the vendor's family's steel-making business. Denis Flather was a wealthy industrialist, the fourth generation to lead the family steel company in Sheffield. William Thomas Flather, Denis's grandfather, was a pioneer Sheffield steel maker and processor who developed new grades of steel to create tougher materials. In the late 1800s much wealth was created making millions of bicycle spokes for the rapidly expanding markets at home and abroad. W T Flather developed the new process technology of cold drawing steel bars to produce bright bar stock that fed into the world of steel component manufacture.
Denis Flather's father, David, had been a founder member of the Sheffield Motor Club back in 1903. Hence Denis grew up with motor vehicles and competitive motor sport, and bought a 2-Litre Lagonda for his 21st birthday. In 1935 it was replaced with a factory built 1½-Litre Aston Martin fitted with Prince Bira's racing engine, as used in the Ulster Grand Prix. Denis Flather built a number of specials specifically designed for sporting trials, one based on a Brescia Bugatti which he shorted by one foot!
After WW2 he founded the BTDA, later to expand into the British Trials and Rally Drivers Association, which organised and ran many different forms of amateur motor sport. He was their President for many years. Denis also built and raced 500cc racing cars: 'The Flather Specials'. He was Chairman of BRM during those first euphoric three years when the V16 Grand Prix car was born, but disappointingly it never achieved its potential. For many years he was an active member of the RAC Competitions Committee and yet in stark contrast in 1952, bought an 1897 Daimler capable of just 20mph. On his retirement in 1974, after the family steel company had been sold, he was straight back into the thick of it as was one of the triumvirate, together with Peter Sprague and George Minden, which in 1975 bought the remains of Aston Martin from the Receiver.
For the next 25-or-so years the Silver Ghost was rallied extensively both at home and abroad including the 1966 Paris-Lloret de Mar Rally over the Alps to Geneva (1,700 miles) and 1966 Paris-Barcelona-Marseilles-Monte Carlo Rally (1,936 miles) as well as the 1968 London-to Edinburgh top-gear re-enactment. Other rallies attended include the Barcelona-Lisbon (1969), Swedish (1971), York-Inverness (1971), Isle of Man (1972), Keron (1973), The Great Alpine Re-enactment (1973), John O'Groats-Land's End (1975), FIVA (1976), Moët (1977), Windsor Castle/Ascot Silver Jubilee (1977), Isle of Mull (1978), VCC Golden Jubilee (1980), Bristol-Bournemouth (1987 and '88) and the Norwich Union Classic (1988, '89 and '90). In 1970 the Ghost was shipped to Australia to take part in that country's Bi-Centenary Rally, spending a month away from home.
It is estimated that no more than 25-30,000 miles have been covered since 1965, during which period the car has never suffered any accident damage, and it is worthwhile noting that '2643' was always driven to and from events and never trailered. The car has been taxed and MoT tested throughout the family's ownership and has always been housed in a secure unheated garage. In 1968 the registration was changed temporarily to 'WTF 1' and then in 1970 ownership passed to the current vendor.
From 1965 to 1974 the Silver Ghost was maintained in the private garage of its owner's business in Sheffield. After the business was sold its maintenance was entrusted to Sheffield-based Coldwell Engineering (John Cockayne), which undertook extensive mechanical works between 1974 and 1981 (see separate folder containing 30-plus invoices). Since formal rallying ceased in 1990 the car has been serviced and maintained by the vendor, who has insured, MoT'd and used it privately each year.
Rebuilt by Coldwell Engineering during the 1970s, the engine is described as in good sound condition, registering oil pressure when hot of 13-15psi under load, 3-5psi on tick-over. We are advised that all elements work correctly and the engine ticks over almost silently at 325rpm when warm. It should be noted that although the starter motor and ring gear are fitted they are not operational, while the standard feature of automatic cylinder wall oiling when using the foot throttle has been reset to give a small and continuous injection of oil. The exhaust is mechanically sound, providing an appropriately throaty note, with the cut-out operational when desired.
Well oiled so as to provide confident and controllable power transmission, the leather-lined clutch is correctly set and affords easy gear changes. However its use when reversing requires care as there is a tendency for the cantilevered rear springs to 'wind up'. We are advised that the gearbox, torque tube and rear axle all function well and reasonably quietly while the chassis is reported as mechanically sound and robust, free from any underlying metal corrosion. Described as all sound, the Rudge Whitworth hubs take wire spoked wheels with beaded edge rims and are shod with five new Dunlop 895x135 chevron-pattern tyres fitted less than 500 miles ago.
All main electrical circuits are 12-volt and a dynamo is used to charge the battery. A trembler coil on a separate 6-volt circuit is used for starting only. Two alternative 6-volt batteries are provided (there is no recharging provision). The trembler coil circuit has been rewired: the switch (central knob marked 'B' on the steering column) being replaced with a separate switch under the dashboard. Side and headlamps have been rewired and now are operated through two modern switches beneath the dashboard. All circuits are appropriately fused in two fuse boxes.
We are advised that the body's underlying structure and surface contours are excellent and remain true to the original design and construction. The entire car was repainted cream by Wilkinson's of Derby in 1976 and the paintwork now displays a pleasantly aged patina. The nickel plating is in reasonable condition for its age while the radiator is excellent. Soft and well oiled, the red leather upholstery is complete and possesses a wonderful patina. Other noteworthy features include an in-period 'Spirit of Ecstasy' mascot, Elliott double speedometer/odometer, Auster screen, windscreen wiper, petrol tin, a set of Rolls-Royce spanners, a quantity of spares and a rear trunk with fitted suitcase containing rear and front tonneau covers.
Documentation contained within the accompanying extensive and beautifully produced history file, close inspection of which is highly recommended, includes copy Rolls-Royce chassis cards and guarantee document; Hugh Montgomery's Army record; articles on the life and work of Auguste Charles Valadier together with his Army record; 1921 duplicate logbook in the name of Mrs Helen Boye Miller; correspondence from Geoffrey Thomas; photographs by F N Wilcox; 1965 auction catalogue details; numerous repair and maintenance invoices; assorted correspondence; VCC dating certificate; last MoT certificate (expired June 2013); UK V5C registration document; and assorted records and photographs detailing the car's rallying career.
As its impressive rallying record amply demonstrates, '2643' still possesses the qualities of refinement, reliability and performance that established Rolls-Royce as the pre-eminent British motor manufacturer as long ago as the Edwardian era. Currently taxed and MoT'd, it represents a wonderful opportunity to acquire a well-documented Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost carrying the desirable London-to-Edinburgh coachwork, albeit one that had to wait some 50 years to receive the type of body that Rolls-Royce originally intended.