1924 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Piccadilly Roadster
1 of 4 examples with coachwork by Merrimac
Sister car of the Howard Hughes Piccadilly Roadster
Fitted with modern alternator and bespoke overdrive
Exemplary maintenance record under current 10 year ownership
The year is 1906 and Rolls-Royce is preparing for the Olympia Motor Show. Their plan is to manufacture four chassis to use on their stand. Two of these chassis are existing models, a four cylinder 20hp and a six cylinder 30hp model. The other two are Rolls-Royce’s brand new 40/50hp chassis, so new in fact, that the show cars are unfinished and the press will have to wait until March 1907 to get an opportunity to test one.
Mechanically, the new 40/50hp was designed to be the most advanced car in the world, and in order to achieve this, Rolls- Royce created a brand new side valve engine to power the car. The result was a six cylinder unit displacing 7036cc and made up of two casts of three cylinders, as opposed to previous six cylinder Rolls-Royce engines which consisted of three casts of two cylinders. Ignition was from a trembler coil to twin spark plugs in each cylinder. Internally, the engine used a seven-bearing crankshaft with full pressure lubrication and an especially large main bearing to reduce vibration. The engine was a model of power, refinement and reliability. In fact, it was the reliability that lead to Rolls-Royce becoming known as the maker of: “The best car in the World”.
In 1907, Claude Johnson, the Commercial Managing Director, and sometimes described as the hyphen in “Rolls-Royce”, decided to arrange for a reliability trial to be organised to showcase the reliability and quietness of the new 40/50hp engine. The test mule was the 12th 40/50hp produced, chassis number 60551, registration number AX 201. Fitted with open coachwork by Barker and finished in Aluminium paint with Silver fittings, AX 201 was given the name ‘Silver Ghost” due it’s colour and eerily quiet engine. The plan was to enter the “Silver Ghost” in the 1907 Scottish Reliability Trials and then, immediately afterwards, attempt a test run of 15,000 miles by driving between Glasgow and London a total of 27 times! With members of the press aboard the “Silver Ghost” set off and went on to break record after record. Amazingly, after 7,000 miles the servicing costs of keeping the car going were calculated at £2 2s 7d. Thus the reputation of the 40/50hp was established, as was the nickname “Silver Ghost”, which surprisingly wasn’t acknowledged by the Factory until 1925.
As a luxury motor car, the Silver Ghost wasn’t designed with motorsport in mind, however, in 1912 a Mr. James Radley privately entered his 40/50 hp in the Austrian Alpine Trial, but the three-speed gearbox would prove inadequate to get the car through the Katschberg Pass. As a result, Rolls-Royce prepared four cars for the 1913 event and had them fitted with four-speed transmissions and the power was increased from 60 bhp to 75 bhp through a higher compression ratio and larger carburettor. The changes made for dramatic improvements, and the team cars won six awards, including the prestigious Archduke Leopold Cup. This success lead to the factory producing cars of the same specification for customers, which became officially known as Continental models, but the name they have kept today is the nickname given to them by chief test driver, Ernest Hives: Alpine Eagles.
The Silver Ghost would go on to be produced until 1925, when it was replaced by the Phantom I. In this period of production the car saw many developments including an increase in engine size to 7428cc, introduction of a four-speed ‘box and the option of four wheel brakes with servo-assistance. All of which added to an already impressive reputation as the car that truly put Rolls-Royce on the map as a manufacturer of the best cars in the world. A reputation it can still be proud of today.
THIS MOTOR CAR
The Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost for sale at The Classic Motor Hub is an example of a ‘Springfield Silver Ghost’ as it was built in the Rolls-Royce factory in Springfield, Massachusetts, where Silver Ghosts were produced between 1921 and 1926 to satisfy the huge appetite for Rolls-Royce in the United States.
There were a number of body styles available on the 40/50HP chassis but the most sporting of these was the Piccadilly Roadster, a style synonymous with the rich and famous of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ especially the eligible bachelors from wealthy families who would become known as ‘Playboys’. E.R Campbell was most likely such a character, he was certainly from a wealthy family, as he was a member of the famous soup family who at the time were one of the largest food producers in the USA and still are today. Just two days before Christmas 1924, E.R Campbell took delivery of this very car, chassis number 385LF. Believed to have been finished in White with a Burgundy interior, it must have cut quite the dash in 20’s New York. The body was built by Merrimac, a well-respected coachbuilder in Massachusetts, who built just 4 Piccadilly Roadsters, one of which was commissioned by Howard Hughes and is the next body number along to this example offered for sale.
Early records tell us that Mr. Campbell would keep his Rolls-Royce until 1927 when it was bought by a Mr. Henry MacDonald, also of Long Island, NY. He would keep the car through the War years until 1946 when the car would leave New York State for the first time and head to Philadelphia to its third owner, a Mr. David Felix. He kept the car for 6 years before selling it to John Lewellen of Southampton, Philadelphia who would go on to sell the car to Andrew Handzo, a resident of New Jersey. A picture on file shows Mr. Handzo sitting at the wheel of his Rolls-Royce, still resplendent in White, at a car meet in September 1957. 385LF would have one more owner in the USA, a Mr. Lovegrove of Swartz Creek in Michigan until the car would cross the ‘Pond’ and be bought by well-known vintage car dealer, Ivor Bleaney in 1989. We car dealers aren’t usually ones for hanging on to cars for too long but Ivor would keep this fabulous Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost for nearly 20 years. An advertisement on file sees him describe the originality of the car as “simply exquisite”. At this point it was still in its original colour specification of White with Burgundy.
A couple of UK owners would follow in 2005 and 2008 until in 2010 the car is for sale with top restorers and marques experts, P&A Wood. Now painted Black but retaining the original specification Burgundy interior, the car would catch the attention of the current owner in May 2010. P&A Wood provided a thorough workshop report on the car and a deal was agreed with a vast amount of work agreed within said deal to make sure the car was ready for immediate use. The internal invoice was over £25,000 GBP.
The current owner is a well-respected collector of steam cars and has owned some fabulous machines in the past, including a Bentley Speed Six. An extremely fastidious owner, he has been right through this stunning motor car, tidying up and sorting anything and everything that needed attention. The brakes and hubs have been gone through, the wiring all replaced, a modern alternator installed and a bespoke overdrive was fitted as well. One only has to read through all the invoices from the last few years to realise the exemplary level of care that has been lavished on this wonderful motor car in the current ownership.
With the car is a number of spares items, mainly original parts that have made way for new over the years and a comprehensive history file. When one drives this car and realises that although developed over the years, it is of 1906 design, you really get a sense of why this car was considered the best in the world. The stories of pulling away in top gear are all true, the ease with which one can drive this car, even with no prior Pre-War or Vintage experience is testament to the design and engineering of these fabulous cars.
This incredible Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Piccadilly Roadster for sale at The Classic Motor Hub is available for immediate inspection and represents a fantastic opportunity to acquire one of these most iconic of motor cars, with its original coachwork and a known ownership history back to new.