Thursday, June 18, 2009
Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost
The Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost refers both to a car model and to one specific car from that series.
Originally named the "40/50 h.p." the chassis was originally produced at Royce's Manchester works moving to Derby in July 1908 and between 1921 and 1926 at Springfield, Massachusetts factories. Chassis no. 60551, registered AX 201, was the car that was originally given the name "Silver Ghost." Other 40/50 hp cars were also given names but the Silver Ghost title was taken up by the press and soon all 40/50s were called by the name, a fact not officially recognised by Rolls-Royce until 1925 when the Phantom range was launched.
The Silver Ghost was the origin of Rolls-Royce's claim of making the "Best car in the world" – a phrase coined not by themselves, but by the prestigious publication Autocar in 1907.
The chassis and engine were also used as the basis of a range of Rolls-Royce Armoured Cars.
In 1907 the Commercial Managing Director, Mr Claude Johnson (often described as the hyphen in "Rolls-Royce"), ordered a car to be used as a demonstrator by the company. With chassis no. 60551 and registered AX 201, it was the 12th 40/50 hp to be made, and was painted in aluminium paint with silver-plated fittings. The car was named the "Silver Ghost" to emphasise its ghost-like quietness, and a plaque bearing this name adorned the bulkhead. An open-top body by coachbuilder Barker was fitted, and the car readied for the Scottish reliability trials of 1907 and, immediately afterwards, another 15,000-mile (24,000 km) test which included driving between London and Glasgow 27 times.
The aim was to raise public awareness of the new company and to show the reliability and quietness of their new car. This was a risky idea: cars of this time were notoriously unreliable, and roads of the day could be horrendous. Nevertheless, the car set off on trials, and with press aboard, broke record upon record. Even after 7,000 miles (11,000 km), the cost to service the car was a negligible £2 2s 7d (£2.13). The reputation of the 40/50, and Rolls-Royce, was established.
AX201 was sold in 1908 to a private customer and recovered by the company in 1948. Since then, it has been used as a publicity car and travelled worldwide. In 1989, the car was restored by SC Gordon Coachbuilders Luton, and P&A Wood, London, UK. It is now owned by Bentley Motors.
In 1984, the car was photographed in great detail whilst in storage in Luton by precision model makers Franklin Mint. This went on to become one of their best selling products.
The Silver Ghost is considered the most valuable car in the world; in 2005 its insured value was placed at USD$35 million.