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The Audrain Concours Auction / 1926 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost Piccadilly Roadster Chassis no. S335RL Engine no. 22355Body no. M1658

Lot 120
Formerly in the Collection of William Ruger Sr.
1926 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost Piccadilly Roadster
30 September 2022, 16:00 EDT
Newport, Rhode Island, International Tennis Hall of Fame

US$450,000 - US$550,000

Ask about this lot

1926 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost Piccadilly Roadster
Coachwork by Rolls-Royce Custom Coachworks

Chassis no. S335RL
Engine no. 22355
Body no. M1658

7,428cc L-Head Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
85bhp at 2,300rpm
3-Speed Manual Transmission
Front and Rear Leaf Spring Suspension
4-Wheel Drum Brakes

*Exceptional example of the sporting Silver Ghost Piccadilly Roadster
*One of just 79 examples believed to have been constructed
*Ex-works development car, offered with copies of the factory build sheets
*Long periods of ownership by several Rolls-Royce experts
*2009 Amelia Island Concours award winner


THE ROLLS-ROYCE SILVER GHOST

Rolls-Royce came early to America. In 1906, C.S. Rolls himself brought three cars to race at New York's Empire City track. An exhibit at the annual auto show followed, where three cars were sold. In 1913, a New York depot was set up with coachbuilders Brewster & Co., who bodied the majority of the imported chassis. In 1919, Rolls acquired a factory in Springfield, Massachusetts and began to manufacture the Silver Ghost. In addition to Brewster, American Rolls-Royces were bodied by many other prestige coachbuilders, a number of them under the hallmark of "Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Work". Included in this bevy of eastern craftsmanship were such companies as Biddle & Smart, Willoughby, Merrimac and Holbrook. In order to have cars ready for customers who wished to buy "off the showroom floor," a range of standard designs was prepared, to be executed by the aforementioned firms. Included were the Pall Mall tourer, Oxford seven-passenger tourer, Piccadilly Roadster and Mayfair and Riviera town cars.

Initially the same as its British counterpart, the Springfield Silver Ghost chassis evolved over the years to adapt to its adopted country. First were component substitutions, American Bosch ignition in place of the Watford magneto, American wheels replacing Dunlops and eventually all electrical equipment was of local manufacture. By 1924, six-volt electrics had been adopted, and the following year the chassis was reconfigured for left-hand drive. At the same time, the four-speed, right-hand-shifted gearbox gave way to an American-style three-speed with center change. The Silver Ghost remained in production in England until 1925 and at Rolls-Royce's Springfield plant in the USA until 1926, the longest production run of any model from that celebrated company.

THE MOTORCAR OFFERED

This beautifully presented Springfield Rolls-Royce is believed to be one of approximately 79 American Silver Ghosts built with the sporting Piccadilly Roadster coachwork from new. Originally manufactured in June 1926, this Silver Ghost was used for several years by the factory as a development car. Such attention ensured the Roadster was consistently fitted with the latest technical developments, and as reported by a later owner who was also a Rolls-Royce Owner's Club president, the car was factory-fitted with a number of components from the forthcoming Phantom model.

According to copies of the factory build records, chassis no. S335RL was delivered to its first private owner on December 28, 1928. It was one of the later examples in the Springfield Silver Ghost chassis sequence, and was finished just as it appears today, with the sporting and very attractive two-seat Piccadilly Roadster coachwork, and naturally, as it was a Springfield Rolls-Royce, left-hand drive steering. The Piccadilly was initially purchased by A.J. Davis of the Scullin Steel Company of St. Louis, Missouri. He retained possession for nine years before the car passed to Edward M. Bergen through a title transfer by Elsie Green. A year later, in March 1938, Bergen traded the car back for a new Springfield Phantom, chassis no. 132 PM.

Acquired in October 1951 by John B. Davis of Florissant, Missouri, the Rolls-Royce was then sold in 1953 to Carroll Vail, president of the St. Louis Rolls-Royce Owner's Club. Mr. Vail kept the fine Piccadilly Roadster for nearly two decades before selling it in July 1972 to Conrad Karras of Great Notch, New Jersey, who is known to have toured with the car.

Returning to the vintage market in 1986, the car was acquired a year later by William 'Bill' Ruger, namesake of the famed firearms manufacturer. The Silver Ghost remained in the possession of Ruger's estate for fifteen years, until his collection manager, Lyle Patterson, purchased the car for himself. A complete restoration was entrusted to Frank Cooke's Vintage Garage, during which the engine was refurbished with two new cylinder blocks. The brakes, kingpins, front axle, and gearbox were also disassembled and refurbished. In its subsequent finely restored condition, the car was campaigned by Patterson on the 2003 European Alpine Tour.

In 2006, modern touring conveniences were added with the tasteful integration of overdrive and a new stainless steel exhaust system. The front seats were also reupholstered in black leather, and the paintwork was refinished with a period-correct scheme of French gray with black fenders. The strength of this work was reflected in the Roadster's presentation at the 2009 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, where the car drew an award from Automobile magazine. The current owner acquired the Rolls In March of 2015.

Regularly exercised in the current owner's care, recent cosmetic work includes recovering the trunk and re-nickeling some of the dashboard switches. The Rolls has not been shown public in the current ownership. This charming Piccadilly Roadster is accompanied by a complete toolkit, original manuals, copies of the factory build record cards as well as side curtains. It is a particularly striking example of the high-scuttle Rolls variations crafted in America, and is sure to be welcomed at touring events and regional Concours d'Elegance. The car would complement any collection, from gatherings of Rolls-Royce and prewar American classics to the most diverse arrays of sporting roadsters.

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