Monterey

16-17 August 2013

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Lot 112

1915 Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP Silver Ghost London-Edinburgh Tourer in the style of Holmes

  • Chassis no. 23ED
  • Engine no. 88E

Sold for $660,000


40/50 hp, 7,428 cc L-head inline six-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, solid front axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, live rear axle with cantilever leaf-spring platform suspension, and rear-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 143 in.

  • An original London-Edinburgh chassis
  • Formerly owned by Joe Loecy
  • Outstanding quality and craftsmanship


Sir Frederick Henry Royce was embarking on largely uncharted territory when he set out to design a six-cylinder engine in 1906. In Britain, only Napier espoused the concept, and the vitality of longer crankshafts was of concern. Royce went back to basics and placed two sets of three cylinders on a common crankcase, which set back-to-back so that the third and fourth pistons rose and fell together. Pressure lubrication was a forward-looking feature.



Production began in 1907, the most famous of the genre being a silver Barker-bodied tourer that was built for Managing Director Claude Johnson. Christened “Silver Ghost,” its name was later appropriated for the entire 19-year model run of what was officially called the 40/50 HP, from its horsepower rating. Autocar opined on its ghost-like behavior, “At whatever speed the car is being driven on its direct third there is no engine as far as sensation goes, nor are one’s auditory nerves troubled…by a fuller sound than emanates from an eight-day clock.”



Johnson’s Silver Ghost took part in the 2,000-mile Scottish Reliability Trial, winning a Gold Medal. He then subjected it to a further extended test, covering 15,000 miles in repeated London-Glasgow journeys, after which it was disassembled and examined for wear. All parts were found to be within tolerances, exceptional for that stage in the development of the motor car. The car still exists, now restored, and it is estimated that it has covered nearly 600,000 miles.



The legendary London-Edinburgh model resulted from a 1911 challenge, again by archrival Napier. Napier’s distributor, Selwyn Francis Edge, entered a 65-horsepower car in an RAC-observed run from London to Edinburgh and drove entirely in high gear. Rising to the challenge, Rolls-Royce responded with a nearly standard Silver Ghost chassis clad in attractive, lightweight tourer bodywork. Higher compression and a larger carburetor were the only mechanical modifications made.



The Rolls easily outshone the Napier on fuel consumption, and in a timed run at the Brooklands track, it bested its rival, with 78.26 to 76.42 mph. It was driven by Ernest Hives, who would later become Rolls-Royce’s chief engineer. The same chassis, with a single-seat body and high ratio axle, was clocked at 101.8 mph in the flying mile at Brooklands the following year. The fame of its achievements and the aesthetics of the close-coupled tourer body resulted in production of a small number of similar models in ensuing years. Not surprisingly, the London-Edinburgh style has become a favorite with collectors.



The car shown here, a genuine London-Edinburgh chassis, was ordered by the British Admiralty on February 21, 1915, and it was delivered on April 28. Silver Ghosts were frequently used by His Majesty’s forces during World War I as staff cars, supply vehicles and, when appropriately clad, armored cars. Chassis 23ED was eventually shipped to the United States through importer R.W. Schuette. It was discovered by prominent Ohio collector and Rolls-Royce enthusiast Joe Loecy in the 1970s, and it remained in the same family for over 30 years.



A restoration was planned over the years, and appropriate replacements for missing parts were found or remanufactured to exacting original specifications. In particular, the London-Edinburgh Tourer body, in the correct original design and style created by Holmes, of Derby, was supplied by the British coachbuilders Crailville Ltd., of Southall, Middlesex. Established in 1975, Crailville Ltd. specializes in the construction of period-correct bodies for classic cars, as well as the design and fabricating of custom coachwork for modern automobiles. Crailville is the first of very few restorers accepted into the Guild of Master Craftsmen, and they have produced bodies and restorations that have won awards at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.



The full restoration of 23ED began in earnest in 2007, when the car was subjected to a complete mechanical rebuild, including engine, transmission, axles, and chassis. A new stainless steel exhaust system has been fitted, as well as an electronic overdrive for effortless touring. Many components from the original chassis and driveline were lost or used for other projects over the years, but correct replacements, even if by number but not originally delivered with the car, were located, numbered, and dated correctly for the car, restored, and installed. The end result is that the finished product is as close to the appearance of the original as possible.



The body, in the close-coupled London-Edinburgh style, has the delightful flying wings of its famous progenitor. It is finished in archetypal silver, which is nicely contrasted by the leather interior. A handsome canvas top is fitted for motoring on inclement days. Appropriate accessories include an Elliott speedometer, mirrors, and electric side-lamps and headlamps. Everything is exquisitely detailed, and the car is road-tested and ready to show or tour.



This is a wonderful example of one of the most sought-after “parallel bonnet” Rolls-Royces.

Addendum

Please note that contrary to the catalogue description, this is car does not have a London-to-Edinburgh chassis, although it has been rebodied in that style.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

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California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

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+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

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+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

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+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

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+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

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+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more