1911 Rolls-Royce 40/50 H.P.
Year of manufacture1911
The ex-Stanley Sears, Raymond Lutgert
1911 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost Semi-Open-Drive Limousine
Coachwork by Joseph A Lawton & Co, Liverpool
Registration no. M 46
Chassis no. 1543
Although the 40/50hp model would have earned its 'The Best Car in the World' sobriquet in any event, Rolls-Royce's decision to drop all other types only served to focus attention on what would become known as the 'Silver Ghost'. Prior to 1908, when it relocated to a new factory in Derby, the company founded by engineer Henry Royce and entrepreneur the Honourable Charles Rolls had manufactured a variety of models at its Manchester premises. Cars with two, three, four and six cylinders were made, and even an abortive V8, before Managing Director Claude Johnson's decision to concentrate on the range-topping 40/50hp. The latter had first appeared at the 1906 Motor Show and became known as the 'Silver Ghost' the following year when chassis number '60551' was exhibited wearing silver-painted tourer coachwork by Barker.
The heart of the Silver Ghost was its magnificent engine, a 7,036cc (later 7,428cc) sidevalve six equipped with seven-bearing crankshaft and pressure lubrication. A sturdy chassis comprised of channel-section side members and tubular cross members was suspended on semi-elliptic springs at the front and a 'platform' leaf-spring arrangement at the rear, though the latter soon came in for revision. The transmission too was soon changed: a three-speed gearbox with direct-drive top gear replacing the original four-speed/overdrive top unit in 1909. In the course of its 20-year production life there would be countless other improvements to the car, one of the most important being the adoption of servo-assisted four-wheel brakes towards the end of 1923.
After a successful 2,000-mile trial under RAC supervision, the factory demonstrator - chassis '60551', 'The Silver Ghost' - was entered in the Scottish Reliability Trial, completing the 15,000-mile run with flying colours to set a new World Record. From then on the car's reputation was assured, not the least in North America where the wide-open spaces placed a premium on reliability and comfort.
Rolls-Royce Silver ghost chassis number '1543' was manufactured in 1911 and delivered to long-established carriage makers Joseph A Lawton & Co of Liverpool, who were responsible for the 'tulip backed' open-drive limousine coachwork. The latter was built to the specification of the car's first owner, Mrs S Benger of the Benger Foods family, who lived at The Grange, Knutsford, Cheshire and was a near neighbour of Sir Henry Royce.
Mrs Benger retained the Silver Ghost until 1920 when it passed to Dr J Howson Rae of Manchester, Mrs Benger having just spent £172 17s 5d on a major overhaul at the factory in November of the preceding year. Dr Howson Rae kept '1543' until 1945 when the car passed to Stanley Sears, the noted Rolls-Royce collector from Bolney, who sold it to W F 'Fred' Watson, former President and Secretary of the 20-Ghost Club and owner of the 1913 Radley Ghost. During Fred Watson's ownership the car was restored (in 1950) by H E Griffin, engineers and motor coach builders of Haywards Heath, West Sussex. In 1972 the car was acquired (it is believed) by Victor Crabbe, who would own it for the next 20 years as part of his private collection of motor cars of similar outstanding quality.
In 1976 a further extensive overhaul was embarked upon. The car was repainted by Peter Lee (Ewell) Ltd; the woodwork veneer painstakingly restored by Jordan & Cook of Worthing; the wooden wheels rebuilt by Potter and Hurford; the wiring renewed by B Gorman & Co of Epsom; and the engine overhauled by Brunt's of Silverdale. During this period of its life '1543' appeared at many important Rolls-Royce gatherings including the Royal Silver Jubilee Tribute at Windsor and Ascot in 1977.
In 1993 the Silver Ghost was acquired by Raymond Lutgert of Tampa, Florida, from whom it was purchased by the vendor's father in 1995. After collecting the car from Tampa, the vendor's father drove it north to Massachusetts (a distance of over 2,000 miles) before having it shipped back to the UK. The only problems on that journey were a couple of punctures. Since then 'Tulip' has appeared at several R-REC Annual Rallies and on numerous R-REC and 20-Ghost Club events. It is estimated that it has covered some 10-15,000 miles in total over the course of the last 25 years. Apart from regular servicing, the Ghost has required no attention to either the mechanicals or coachwork; has suffered no breakdowns and has never 'failed to proceed'.
The tulip-backed semi-open-drive limousine coachwork is superbly finished in deep red with black wings and fine coachlines. The chauffeur's compartment is traditionally trimmed with deep-buttoned black leather upholstery, while the instrumentation consists of a brass clock, speedometer, and dashboard-mounted fuel pressure gauge. The windscreen opens and there is a speaking tube for communication with the rear compartment, whose fittings would not look out of place in the finest drawing room. The rear seat and two side-facing occasional seats are upholstered in button-back cloth with silk blinds in each of the passenger windows and curtains to the division's curved glass quarter windows. All rear windows have bevelled glass and the drop-down side windows and partition have tapestry pulls, which match the passengers' sling handles. The door panelling and headlining are outstanding in burr walnut cross-banded in satinwood with a courtesy lamp in the roof. A cocktail cabinet, full-width vanity tray, scent bottles, flower vase, and rear clock complete the opulent accoutrements.
Driving equipment includes a pair of Rushmore acetylene headlights with running board-mounted generator; Lucas 'King of the Road' side and rear oil lamps; a pair of magnificent French opera lamps; an Autovox horn; and an electric klaxon. The wooden spoked artillery wheels are properly shod with Dunlop 895x135 beaded-edge tyres, and a detachable rim and spare tyre are carried. A luggage rack is provided for the long distance motor tour. All fittings including the radiator are of brass.
'1543' has featured in the following books on the marque:
Rolls-Royce: 75 Years of Motoring Excellence by Edward Eves
The Book of the Silver Ghost by Kenneth Ullyett
The Classic Rolls-Royce by G N Georgano
Those Elegant Rolls-Royce by Lawrence Dalton
R-REC Bulletin (number '119' front cover)
Twenty Silver Ghosts by Melbourne Brindle
Rolls-Royce Fantasia by David Weston
The Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Profile Publications No. 91
Boasting a continuous and impeccable provenance, '1543' appears to have been kept in excellent mechanical condition throughout its life and certainly in post-war years has been owned by the most discerning of enthusiasts. It is recognised as belonging to an elite selection of Edwardian-era Silver Ghosts, its outstanding formal coachwork setting it apart from its contemporaries. Certain to delight the fortunate next owner, '1543' will continue to be recognised by Rolls-Royce connoisseurs as the epitome of Edwardian coachbuilding and engineering excellence.