Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost

Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost

Infobox Automobile
name = Rolls-Royce 40/50 Silver Ghost

manufacturer = Rolls-Royce Ltd
aka = 40/50
production = 1906–1926 7874 madeThe Rolls-Royce Motor Car. Anthony Bird and Ian Hallows. Batsford Books. 2002 ISBN 07134 8749 6]
engine = straight 6 7036cc (1906-1910) 7428cc (from 1910)
transmission = 4 speed manual (1906-1913) 3 speed manual (1909-1913)
wheelbase = Auto in|135.5|0 (until 1913) Auto in|143.5|0 (1913-1923) Auto in|144|0 and Auto in|150.5|0 (from 1923)
predecessor = Rolls-Royce 30 hp
successor = Phantom I

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 1906, Rolls-Royce produced four chassis to be shown at the Olympia car show, two existing models, a four cylinder 20hp and a six cylinder 30hp, and two examples of a new car designated the 40/50 hp. The 40/50 hp was so new that the show cars were not fully finished and examples were not provided to the press for testing until March 1907.cite book |last=Evans |first=Michael |title=In the Beginning-the Manchester Origins of Rolls-Royce|year=2004 |publisher=Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust|location=Derby, UK |id=ISBN 1-872922-27-9]

The car at first had a new side-valve, six-cylinder, 7036 cc engine (7428 cc from 1910) with the cylinders cast in two units of three cylinders each as opposed to the triple two cylinder units on the earlier six. A three speed transmission was fitted at first with four speed units used from 1913. The seven-bearing crankshaft had full pressure lubrication and the centre main bearing was made specially large to remove vibration, essentially splitting the engine into two three cylinder units. Two spark plugs were fitted to each cylinder with, from 1921, a choice of magneto or coil ignition. The earliest cars had used a trembler coil to produce the spark with a magneto as an optional extra which soon became standard - the instruction was to start the engine on the trembler/battery and then switch to magneto. Continuous development allowed power output to be increased from convert|48|bhp|abbr=on at 1,250 rpm to convert|80|bhp|abbr=on at 2,250 rpm. Electric lighting became an option in 1914 and was standardised in 1919. Electric starting was fitted from 1919cite book |last=Baldwin |first=N. |title=A-Z of Cars of the 1920s|year=1994 |publisher=Bay View Books |location=Devon, UK |id=ISBN 1-870979-53-2] along with electric lights to replace the older ones that used acetylene or oil.

The substantial chassis had rigid front and rear axles and leaf springs all round. Early cars only had brakes on the rear wheels operated by a hand lever with a pedal operated transmission brake acting on the propeller shaft. The footbrake system moved to drums on the rear axle in 1913, but from 1923, four-wheel, servo-assisted brakes became optional.

The success of the model led to the company's dropping the previous range of cars and following a one-model policy until the launch of the Twenty in 1922. In all, a total of 7874 Silver Ghost cars were produced from 1907 to 1926 including 1701 from the American Springfield factory, many of them still running to this day.

After the introduction of the Phantom I in 1925, older 40/50 models were called Silver Ghosts to avoid confusion, but there was only one car given the name "Silver Ghost" - 60551, registered AX-201. The name referred to the car's ghost-like quietness. For many years after, Rolls-Royce continued with the paranormal theme of naming cars, and the Ghosts remain one of the most evocative symbols of their time.

The Alpine Eagles

A 40/50 was privately entered in the prestigious 1912 Austrian Alpine Trial by James Radley but its 3 speed gearbox proved inadequate for the ascent of the Katschberg Pass. A factory team of four cars were prepared for the 1913 event with four speed gearboxes and engine power increased from 60 to 75 bhp by an increase in compression ratio and larger carburettor. The team gained six awards including the Archduke Leopold Cup. Replicas of the victorious cars were put into production and sold officially as Continental models but they were called Alpine Eagles by chief test driver (and later Rolls-Royce Managing Director) Ernest Hives and this is the name that they have kept.

The Silver Ghost

The Commercial Managing Director, Mr Claude Johnson (often described as the hyphen in "Rolls-Royce"), ordered a car painted in aluminium paint and the fittings silver-plated. It was the 12th 40/50 hp to be made. A plaque with the words "Silver Ghost" 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 convert|15000|mi|km|sing=on 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 Rolls-Royce was set, and the 40/50 very successful.

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 Ltd.

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. [cite web|url=|title=MotorTrend Magazine - 2005 Concours at Cranbrook|publisher=|accessdate=2007-01-18]

Movie appearances

The Rolls Royce Silver Ghost is in famous films such as; City Lights (1931), Rebecca (1940), Citizen Kane (1941), Giant (1956), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965), Young Frankenstein (1974), etc [ [ Internet Movie Cars Database: Rolls-Royce 40/50 "Silver Ghost" in Movies and TV series] ] .

ee also

*Rolls-Royce Armoured Car


External links

* [ "Ambassador Extraordinary - A History of 'The Silver Ghost'"] , reprint from "Queste", 1990
* [ Rolls-Royce and Bentley Models]

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