Ex-Alton Walker, founding Chairman of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance
1925 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Piccadilly Roadster
Coachwork by Merrimac
Chassis no. S169MK
Engine no. 20694
Body No. M1665
6-cylinder inline, side valve, 452 cu.ins, single carburetor, 100bhp at 3,000rpm
Three-speed manual transmission
Front semi-elliptic leaf springs and rear cantilever spring suspension
*Owned by a series of prominent collectors of the marque and model
*One of the most sporting Silver Ghost designs
*Good tour car potential
The American Rolls-Royce
In 1920 Rolls-Royce made the dramatic announcement: "A limited number of Rolls-Royce chassis will be produced at the American Works, the same quality of materials will be employed as in England. F. Henry Royce is Engineer-in-Chief of the American operations. The products of the American works will be drawn on for English as well as American patrons."
Claude Johnson was to be Chairman of the American operation based at Springfield, Massachusetts, and from the outset it was abundantly clear that the traditions of excellence established in England would be maintained in America. At this time Rolls-Royce had a one model policy and the first cars to be built at Springfield were the 7.4-litre, 40/50hp Silver Ghost, quaintly adopting the English right-hand drive pattern a feature maintained until 1925 when left-hand drive became available.
The Silver Ghost had already earned for Rolls-Royce the accolade, The Best Car in the World, and the Springfield cars certainly maintained that reputation for the company.
The Motorcar Offered
S169MK was one of a number of Rolls-Royce that were delivered to those within the local New England state in which they were produced. Factory records still survive to this day which enables transparency in the early histories of them and they confirm that its original owner hailed from Southbridge, Massachusetts, just 40 miles from the works. He was Albert B. Wells, President of the American Optical Company, a business that survives to this day and had done particularly well through the first world war in furnishing the war effort, a staggering 2,500,000 glasses being supplied to the US Government in that period.
Mr. Wells originally specified a formal Pickwick Limousine body produced by Rolls-Royce Custom Coachworks, and actually constructed by Biddle & Smart. He would retain the car until 1933, when it passed briefly to J. Work and then through the esteemed coachbuilders and Rolls-Royce agency of Brewster and Company in New York. As proven from the original records for the Springfield Rolls-Royce motorcars, it was a common occurrence for cars to have their bodies upgraded or exchanged between cars for a variety of reasons from changing tastes of owners or fashion dictating different styles. All the while for many Rolls-Royce clients the refined engineering component continued to serve admirably, but no doubt if you owned one, keeping up with modern trends in bodywork design would have been important. Formal coachwork tended to date more quickly so it was often the case that a more sporty body, even if it were a little older might be transferred to a chassis to make it more fashionable and therefore also more saleable. No one knew this better than Brewster, and it is thought that it would have been at their premises that shelled its upright Pickwick bodywork for the lighter, sportier Piccadilly Roadster which had formerly adorned a Phantom 1, S160PM. It is believed that it would have gained the contemporary fenders and lights at that same time and still wears that same guise to this day. Brewster's managing partner J.S. Inskip sold the car to Captain A.W. Stone.
A succession of known Rolls-Royce aficionados would follow as the car crossed from East to West, the first being Fred Buess, Jr. of Glendale, California in 1951, eight years later it became the property of John Spring of Los Angeles. In 1963 it joined the collection of noted Silver Ghost owner and the Founding Chairman of the world renowned Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, Alton Walker. In this period, Walker would win the concours that he had helped establish with another, earlier Silver Ghost.
Gene Littler of La Jolla was the owner by 1969 and four years further on it has passed to John B. Zyrlo of Los Angeles. A year later, the car was acquired by noted AACA Member Sam Flohr of Colorado for his wife, Ruth Marie, with whom it would remain for the next two decades. Since then, just one further custodian possessed the 'Ghost before it arrived in the present private collection in 2007.
Between the last two ownerships it was established that the car's original engine had also been exchanged at some point. This inconsistency has been addressed, the correct motor found and its repatriation was entrusted to pre-war Rolls-Royce and Silver Ghost specialist Steve Littin of Ohio. It has recently emerged from his workshops ready for its sale.
One of the best known and elegant coachwork designs, a Piccadilly Roadster is frequently chosen for its versatility and comfort as a good tour car, providing comfort for driver and passenger as well as the option to use the rumble seat compartment for storage.
With the benefit of a long known history this is an affordable open entry to ownership of the legendary Silver Ghost model.
- Please note that this vehicle is titled as a 1924 and its title is in transit