1914 Rolls-Royce 40/50-hp Silver Ghost Landaulette  Chassis no. 50YB Engine no. 109E
Lot 1252
1914 Rolls-Royce 40/50-hp Silver Ghost Landaulette
Coachwork by Barker Registration no. LE 7478 Chassis no. 50YB Engine no. 109E
Sold for £418,140 (US$ 693,377) inc. premium
Lot Details
1914 Rolls-Royce 40/50-hp Silver Ghost Landaulette
Coachwork by Barker

Registration no. LE 7478
Chassis no. 50YB
Engine no. 109E

Footnotes

  • The first owner of this impressive Rolls-Royce was Carlos Braun Menéndez, scion of a wealthy family of Chilean origin who had moved to Buenos Aires in 1908. The family's fortunes were based on ranching, trading and shipping, and they had substantial landholdings in Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia. Amazingly, Señor Braun Menéndez, who had been born in Puntas Arenas, Chile, in November 1895, was only 18 when he placed the order for his Silver Ghost with Pickford, Trown & Co, Motor Engineers and Engineers' Toolmakers, of Eccleshall Road, Sheffield, early in 1914!

    Pickford, Trown, a company established in 1910 and headed by Ernest Hardy Pickford and Felix Trown, were agents for Rolls-Royce, Daimler and Chenard-Walcker, and were the sort of forward-looking company that would appeal to the entrepreneurial Braun Menéndez family, for they were also registered as "manufacturers and repairers of flying machines, aeroplanes, etc".

    The specification for the Braun Menéndez Ghost called for a CAV electric lighting set with dynamo, a London-Edinburgh-pattern bonnet with louvres – presumably with the hotter climate in Argentina in mind – and brass fittings.

    The Rolls-Royce was on test in chassis form on 24 May 1914 and – fitted with a handsome landaulette body by Royal coachbuilders Barker – was despatched by road to Pickford, Trown on 9 July and invoiced ten days later, with a note cautioning "not to be sold outside Yorkshire or at a discount."

    However, young Señor Braun Menéndez would have a considerable wait before taking delivery of his Rolls-Royce, for – as he recalled in 1972 – "the shipment from the UK was delayed for two years due to the First War ban on that type of export. It was, nevertheless, shipped in 1916 after representations to the British Government."

    Señor Braun Menéndez kept his Rolls-Royce for over half a century before selling it to noted collector and dealer Ben Paul Moser of Santa Barbara, California in 1969. Mr Moser, a Rolls-Royce and Bentley enthusiast, already had several Ghosts, and sold the car on to a San Francisco collector named Rossi. He in turn sold the car in 1972 to John Wilkins of Canterbury, Kent, who had the car restored bodily by Antique Automobiles, confiding the engine and chassis to Silver Ghost expert J.N. Harley. Michael Banfield purchased the Ghost in 1974 and rallied the car extensively in Britain and Europe throughout the 1970s, '80s and '90s. In good running order, it has been impeccably restored to 1914 condition, with additional work being carried out by the reputed restorer Brentclass in 1981. It was selected to represent "The Edwardian Formal Car" class in the Cartier Style et Luxe Concours at the 1997 Goodwood Festival of Speed.

    This car represents the Edwardian Silver Ghost at its peak: the model had its origins when Rolls-Royce rushed into the six-cylinder market with the 30 hp of 1905-06, whose engine was based on components developed for the smaller, lighter 10 hp twin and 20 hp four. Like so many early sixes, it suffered from periodic vibration. Henry Royce realised that forming a six from three pair-cast cylinder blocks was inferior to combining two three-cylinder units, and applied that lesson to his next six-cylinder car, the 40/50-hp, which appeared in late 1906.

    The new power unit was far more robust: its crankshaft was almost twice the diameter of that of the 30-hp, and full pressure lubrication was adopted. The chassis was stronger, too, with a four-speed gearbox (third was direct, fourth an overdrive "sprinting gear"), leather-faced cone clutch and platform rear suspension. Royce's passion for perfection was shown in the way that the brakes were compensated by a miniature differential gearing in an aluminium housing, while the rear axle casing was, in Royce's words, "sewn together with a ring of tiny bolts"

    The public launch of the 40/50-hp six took place at the 1906 Olympia Motor Show, where a Pullman limousine and a polished chassis were shown. It was Claude Johnson who really put the new model on the map when he took the 12th car of the type, christened The Silver Ghost, on a 2000-mile RAC-observed run (which included the course of the forthcoming Scottish Reliability Trial) and then launched the car on a 15,000-mile RAC-observed trial which it completed triumphantly with only one involuntary stop, when the petrol tap shook closed after 629 miles. The car famously only needed the replacement of £2 2s 7d-worth of parts to as-new condition after the equivalent of three years' motoring. Thereafter 40/50 Rolls-Royces have been known as "Silver Ghosts" in its honour.

    Late in 1909 the engine was increased in size from 7036cc to 7426cc and the power output raised to 60 bhp. Around the same time the overdrive four-speed gearbox was replaced by a three-speed unit with direct drive on top gear in the interests of top-gear flexibility.

    In 1911 a new pattern car with a tapered bonnet, cantilever rear springs and an increased compression ratio ran from London to Edinburgh using only top gear and then recorded a speed of 78.26 mph at Brooklands. This model went into production as the "London-Edinburgh". In 1913-14, a four-speed transmission with direct-drive top was introduced.

    By then, Rolls-Royce had established a formidable reputation as "the Best Car in the World". With a formal body by perhaps the best British coachbuilder of the day, and an unusual history, this handsome Silver Ghost is the epitome of that enviable accolade.
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