1926 Rolls-Royce 20 H.P.
Year of manufacture1926
Number of seats2
Offered from the Bursville Collection
1926 Rolls-Royce 20hp Open Tourer
Coachwork by Park Ward in the style of Barker (see text)
Registration no. not UK registered (see text)
Chassis no. GUK74
"This model was introduced to meet requests for a smaller, less expensive car in keeping with the trend after the First World War towards smaller cars for a wider market. Construction was simplified - but standards of workmanship were not compromised." - Edward Eves, Rolls-Royce, 75 Years of Motoring Excellence.
Changing times after WWI eventually forced the abandonment of Rolls-Royce's 'one model' policy, an all-new 20hp car joining the existing 40/50hp Silver Ghost in 1922. The 'Twenty' reflected Henry Royce's interest in contemporary trends within the American automobile industry, incorporating unitary construction of engine and gearbox, the latter featuring the modern innovation of a central ball change and 'Hotchkiss drive' rear axle. The engine, Rolls-Royce's first with overhead valves, was a six-cylinder unit displacing 3,127cc. Favourably received as the Twenty was, its three-speed transmission's central gearchange was not well liked, and when four-wheel, servo-assisted brakes were introduced in 1925, a four-speed gearbox with right-hand, gated change replaced the original three-speeder.
The Twenty's introduction enabled the company to cater for the increasingly important owner-driver market that appreciated the quality of Rolls-Royce engineering but did not need a car as large as a 40/50hp Ghost or Phantom. The Twenty proved eminently suited to town use yet could cope admirably with Continental touring when called upon. In total, 2,490 were built between 1922 and 1929, the Twenty's production overlapping with that of the successor 20/25hp model.
Accompanying copy build sheets and chassis cards show that 'GUK74' - a factory trials car - was completed with open tourer coachwork by Barker & Co of London, one of the finest of all British coachbuilders and a firm associated with Rolls-Royce from the latter's earliest days. Factory records show that 'GUK74' was used as a works Trials Car, and that the original body was then removed and fitted to another 20hp, 'GYK78', which had been taken over from one T Simpson (see below). It has always been assumed that Barker supplied the replacement barrel-sided tourer body; however, recent research has established that the original Park Ward body from 'GYK78' was fitted to 'GUK74'. This Barker-style body had been ordered via H C Nelson - Park Ward agents, whose plaque remains on the car. The first private owner of 'GUK74' was T Simpson of Bramshott, Hampshire. It is also known that one Shane Christopher was connected with both 'GUK74' and 'GYK78' at around this time (see email correspondence on file).
Registered 'YR 7140', the Twenty was later resold by the factory and delivered to its next owner, James W Bowhill of Loan, Edinburgh on 12th December 1929. However, it should be noted that Rolls-Royce's invoice to Bowhill lists the coachbuilder as Barker. Whatever the case, the current body is shown in a photograph dated 1928 (when the car was with Christopher) and reproduced in John Fasal's book, The Rolls-Royce Twenty (page 287). Further research may yet prove fruitful. It should also be noted that the engine currently fitted (number 'G621') came from the 1923 20hp 'GA33', which was a Barker-bodied drophead coupé supplied to Viscount Elveden.
Only one further owner is recorded on the chassis card: Mr William Hay of Aviemore, Inverness-shire, from 18th June 1936. There is then a gap in the recorded history of 'GUK74', which by the early 1960s was in the USA in the possession of Parker Snyder of Ohio, placed in its owner's newly built garage. The Rolls-Royce was still in its shipping crate when Parker Snyder passed away in 1994 and has remained untouched to this day. Purchased earlier this year by the vendor, a long-standing member of the Rolls-Royce and Bentley community with a large collection of pre-war cars, 'GUK74' is presented in 'barn find' condition, ripe for re-commissioning or sympathetic restoration. Please note that the UK number plate in the photographs will need to be re-applied for.