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1920 Rolls-royce 40/50hp silver ghost

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  • 1920 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost for sale
  • Desirable Alpine Eagle Speed Model
  • Extensive history and original engine
  • Fresh from restoration with marque specialist AJ Glew Ltd
YEAR1920
MAKERolls-Royce
PRICE£285,000

VEHICLE DESCRIPTION

Beautifully finished in grey with a contrasting red interior, this extremely handsome Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost is one of the highly desirable Alpine Eagle Speed Models. 

Its extensive history file documents its early days in impressive detail. Ordered on 24 March 1919, chassis number 10CW was ‘received on test’ on 21 February 1920. It was then dispatched to JB Ferguson, which was based on Chichester Street in the centre of Belfast. Founded by Joseph Bell Ferguson – brother of tractor pioneer Harry – the company was, according to a 1921 article in the Belfast News Letter, the sole distributor for Rolls-Royce in Ireland. 

It was also a coachbuilder that bodied a number of 40/50hp chassis, and it duly fitted four-seater tourer coachwork to 10CW. On 23 November 1920, the car was delivered to its first owner – a JH McGugan, who was also based in Belfast. It was sold the following year to a Mr Sandford, and then to a Mr Langford, both of whom lived in London. 

The chassis cards for 10CW note that it was sent to the Rolls-Royce Cricklewood depot on various occasions during this period, including a visit in August 1921 for routine engine servicing. 

The Silver Ghost was then shipped to the US via the SS Missouri, a note on the chassis cards suggesting that this happened in August 1922. Records held by the Rolls-Royce Foundation show that, in 1932, it was sold by LI Dimm to Al Gross of Long Island, and that at some point it was fitted with a ‘sedan limousine’ body that was built by the Brooks-Ostruk company of West 66th Street in New York. 

The Rolls-Royce was later stored for more than 40 years in an open-fronted barn before being rescued in 1977 by marque enthusiast Arthur Knapp. Although he didn’t embark upon a restoration, Knapp saved the car from further deterioration and it was eventually bought by Malcolm Tucker in November 2007. 

In an article for the RREC’s Silver Ghost Register in November 2013, Tucker wrote: ‘The condition of 10CW reflected the time the car spent at the mercy of the Mid-West weather; scorching summers and icy winters. The Brooks-Ostruk body had suffered badly … the aluminium panelling was corroded badly, and the steel wings were disappearing fast. The doors and main body frame had stood up well, however. The chassis and mechanical components appeared to have avoided serious corrosion, and were at least 95 per cent complete.’

The car was brought back to the UK and a full restoration was started in March 2008 by Mike Knowles of Ro-Ben. Due to Knowles’s ill-health, the work was taken over by AJ Glew in September 2013. A close replica of the original Ferguson body was built by Western Coachworks, while Trevor Hirst of Christchurch fabricated a new set of wings and bonnet sides. The Silver Ghost retained its original engine (J171) and was given the UK registration number RR-7492 in March 2016, following a painstaking restoration that had cost more than £230,000.

More recently, AJ Glew carried out a further round of restoration work after the car had suffered an accident, with the result that this Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost is being offered for sale in exceptional condition throughout. With its engineering pedigree and effortless performance, it is rightly considered to be one of the finest – if not the finest  – cars of its time.

MODEL HISTORY

First introduced in late 1906, the Rolls-Royce 40/50hp was the model that established the marque’s reputation as the builder of ‘the best car in the world’. It went into production in 1907 and lasted until 1926, and was made in both the UK and the USA – the latter at Rolls-Royce’s factory in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The 40/50hp was originally fitted with a 7-litre straight-six engine, which featured a seven-bearing crankshaft and pressurised lubrication system, and the model was soon proving itself via its impressive performance in reliability trials. In 1907, one car covered 15,000 miles under official RAC observation – a total that including taking part in the Scottish Reliability Trial – and its only involuntary stop during that period was when a petrol tap shook itself closed on rough roads. 

Registered AX 201, that particular car was called ‘the Silver Ghost’, a name that would retrospectively be applied to the entire 40/50hp range after it had been replaced by the Phantom.

The engine was enlarged to 7.5 litres from 1910, and the following year a 40/50hp famously drove from London to Edinburgh and back using only top gear – a remarkable demonstration of the car’s flexibility. Early reports mentioned not only that, but also the model’s overall quality, smoothness and refinement.

Taking part in such trials generated invaluable publicity, but also helped to improve the model throughout its production life. After a disappointing showing in the 1912 Alpine Trial, for example, Rolls-Royce returned the following year with cars featuring a four-speed gearbox in place of the old three-speed unit, improved cooling and bigger brakes. At the time, the brakes operated on the rear wheels only. Not until the early 1920s did front brakes – complete with servo assistance – become available.

The modifications made to the successful 1913 Alpine Trial cars were then carried over to the production cars in the shape of the sporting Alpine Eagle Speed Model, and a total of nearly 8000 Silver Ghosts were built during the course of its life. As the car that established the foundation upon which the Rolls-Royce legend was built, it is still revered more than a century later.


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