1912 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost 'London-to-Edinburgh' Light Tourer Registration no. R 4690 (see below) Chassis no. 2015 Engine no. 8
Coachwork to the design of Holmes of Derby Ltd
The Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls, British gentleman adventurer, aviator, racing driver and astute businessman and Frederick Henry Royce, engineer and innovator, were indeed an indomitable partnership, creating a motoring legend with a reputation for unsurpassed excellence. It says much for the business acumen of Rolls that, despite his inborn desire for things to happen quickly, he tolerated the pedantic and at times frustratingly slow attention to detail of his mechanical genius partner. From this pedantic attention, the Rolls-Royce 40/50hp, 'The Silver Ghost', was to emerge and to earn for itself and the company the accolade "The Best Car in the World".
In production from 1907, the Rolls-Royce 40/50hp, (only later named 'The Silver Ghost'), was powered by a 7,036cc, six-cylinder engine from 1907-1909, later enlarged to 7,428cc. The 40/50hp car passed every test to which it was subjected, whether in service as a formal town carriage in the Capital, sprint racing on Saltburn Sands or competing in the arduous Scottish Trials. 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. Rolls-Royce, unlike other contemporary manufacturers, steadfastly refused to build their own coachwork, taking the view that their speciality was engineering excellence and leaving the coachwork to the exclusive group of dedicated coachbuilders who had made the seamless change from carriage manufacture to motor car body building.
Contemporary Rolls-Royce advertising in 1911 featured Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Chassis no.1701 and its remarkable London to Edinburgh and return journey that year, describing the feat in the following terms:
The car.... was a standard Six-Cylinder Rolls-Royce chassis of 40/50h.p.
The trial... was to demonstrate that the car could travel from London to Edinburgh and back entirely on the top gear, that at the same time it could show an exceptionally economical petrol consumption, and yet attain considerable speed when required.
The result...... the car travelled from London to Edinburgh and back on top gear on a petrol consumption of 24.32 miles per gallon, afterwards without alteration or adjustment attaining a speed of 78.26 miles per hour on the Brooklands track.
Some factory wag mischievously noted the factory records for 1701 with the words 'The Sluggard' but clearly nothing could have been further from the truth for here was an up-to-the-minute and very fast model of the 40/50 hp car which had already earned for Rolls-Royce the soubriquet 'The Best Car in the World'.
1701, the car that gave the new model its 'London-to-Edinburgh' name, was just the second chassis built to the new specification with a massive torque tube to carry the propeller shaft, strengthened rear axle casings and, in the case of the first two cars in the series, inverted semi-elliptic rear springs. 1701 carried an elegant light tourer body by Holmes of Derby Ltd., carriage builders since the nineteenth century. With engine compression ratio upgraded, a larger carburettor and a skimpy wind-cheating body, 1701 was later to record a spectacular 101mph over the flying half mile at Brooklands with Edward W. Hives (later to become Chairman of Rolls-Royce) at the wheel. So not only could Rolls-Royce satisfy the market that demanded the most comfortable formal cars built in the best traditional coach-building traditions, but here was a sporting car with few, if any equals, from a very small and exclusive peer group of manufacturers.
All these much publicised promotional exploits were driven by the similar stunts promoted by arch self-publicist S.F.Edge at the helm of Napier who were perhaps Rolls-Royce's most serious rival for the luxury car market. That Rolls-Royce were more effective in their marketing exploits and in their engineering excellence is substantiated by Edge's retirement from Napier in 1912 and the withdrawal of Napier from motor car manufacture in 1924. Arguably the introduction of the new 'London-to-Edinburgh' Silver Ghost was one of the final nails in Napier's coffin.
The London to Edinburgh and return run some 800 miles travelling north mainly via The Great North Road and returning down the west side of the country had captured the headlines and Rolls-Royce's subsequent order book, with a raft of new more sporting owner-drivers, undoubtedly put pressure on the manufacturing facilities at Derby. In all some 188 of the 'London-to-Edinburgh' cars were built, the first production models being delivered to the coachbuilders in the Spring of 1912 and the last, no. 2699, in October 1913.
Chassis no. 2015 is recorded in John Fasal and Bryan Goodman's standard work 'The Edwardian Rolls-Royce' as the twenty-second car built to 'London-to-Edinburgh' specification and the eighth car with overslung suspension. The vendor believes this car to be the ninth oldest survivor of about thirty-five surviving 'London-to-Edinburgh' cars.
Detailed records for the construction of chassis no. 2015 show that it was on test on 11th June 1912. The specification included 'D' rake (low) steering column, dynamo installation as 1800E (the third underslung car) and London-to-Edinburgh brake mechanism, side levers, bonnet and dash and springs suitable for Holmes body. Other details listed were larger wheels, twenty gallon petrol tank, low twenty inch radiator and CAV lighting. Initially the car was fitted with standard springs as these were 'the only springs obtainable' and plain wheels (wooden artillery) were fitted. 2015 was back in the depot in August 1914 when correct springs were fitted and 935x135 Dunlop wire wheels and hubs were fitted in Madrid Depot in March 1915. In Paris later that year a new type rear axle and improved type torque tube and sphere were fitted, providing much superior foot pedal braking and side by side handbrake, both to the rear axle 19inch drums. Chassis no.2015 conforms exactly to these specifications today with the exception of 35x5 split rim wheels and straight-sided tyres now fitted for convenience and safety.
Factory records show 2015 was 'despatched from the works complete with body, spares and accessories as fitted by Holmes' on 7th October bound for Parisian concessionaires Autos Rolls-Royce (France), in turn for their customer the Marquis de Linares in France. By 1915 2015 was in Spanish ownership, that year belonging to aristocrat Conde del Real of Madrid, later in 1917 it belonged to Juan Victoria of Madrid and in 1923 it was in the ownership of Sr. D. Ricardo Trelles of Madrid. In post war years the car belonged to Jose Manuel Rodriguez de la Vina of Madrid in 1969. It was around that time that the original Holmes of Derby coachwork was replaced with replica skiff style coachwork.
Repatriated to England some six years ago, 2015 has been the subject of a painstaking five year professional restoration to concours standard, only finished this year. Complete mechanical restoration of chassis, engine and gearbox was entrusted to Rolls-Royce specialists David Hemmings and Alexander Delbarre, with machining entrusted to Archers of Dunmow. It was decided to re-clothe the restored chassis with long wing light tourer coachwork to a London-to-Edinburgh design to Holmes of Derby, (the original coachbuilders of this car), the ash framing being entrusted to Roger Wing and the aluminium panelling to Steve Mcfarlane. Now fabulously presented, the coachwork is finished in black livery with maroon coachlining to the wings and is upholstered in best English tan hide with deep-buttoned seat backs and plain knee roll squabs, complemented by brown leather-bound carpets. The strikingly handsome coachwork features the Colonial louvred bonnet and is furnished with a magnificent three piece cranked windscreen, C.A.V. lighting and double Elliott speedometer/mileage recorder. The car has full weather equipment including cantilever hood, front and rear tonneau covers and hood envelope. The twenty inch radiator proudly carries the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot. The nearside running board accommodates a practical toolbox while the offside running board carries the spare wheel and an electric Klaxon horn
The registration number R 4690, originally issued in Derby, is anticipated to be on the UK V5C Registration Certificate by the time of the sale. The vehicle also comes with current MoT until November 2014, an original owner's handbook and a Dunlop wheel brace.
With Rolls-Royce engineering finesse combined with London-to-Edinburgh specification and Holmes of Derby style coachwork, 2015 surely represents the pinnacle of sporting motor car design in 1912. Now fresh from restoration by carefully selected renowned experts in their field, 2015 is ready to be paraded on the world's most exclusive concours d'elegance lawns or to be driven in swift and grand style, whether on The Great North Road to Edinburgh or much further afield.