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Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost at Centenary.jpg
Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost
Production 1907 - 1926
Body Style

The Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost refers both to a model of cars and to one specific car from that series. Originally named the "40/50 h.p." the chassis was produced at the Manchester and later Derby factories. Chassis no. 60551, registered AX 201, was the car that was originally given the name "Silver Ghost."

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In 1906, Rolls-Royce produced four chassis to be shown at the Olympia car show; after a great deal of public interest, the managing director, Mr. Claude Johnson (often described as the hyphen in "Rolls-Royce"), ordered the car painted silver, with silver-plated fittings. 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 15,000-mile 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 negligible. The Silver Ghost is considered the most expensive car in the world; the current value is set at 20 million.

The reputation of Rolls-Royce was set, and the 40/50 very successful. 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, RR continued with the paranormal theme of naming cars, and the Ghosts remain one of the most evocative symbols of their time.

In all, a total of 8416 Silver Ghosts were produced from 1907 to 1926, many of them still running to this day. AX201, the most priceless of all, 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.

The car at first had a side-valve, six-cylinder, 7036-cc engine (7428-cc from 1910) and usually a four-speed transmission although 3-speed units were fitted from 1909 to 1913. The seven-bearing crankshaft had full pressure lubrication. Two spark plugs were fitted to each cylinder with a choice of magneto or coil ignition. Early cars only had brakes on the rear wheels, but from 1923, four-wheel, servo-assisted brakes became optional. Continuous development allowed power output to be increased from 48 bhp at 1,250 rpm to 80 bhp at 2,250 rpm. The substantial chassis had rigid front and rear axles and lef springs all round.

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Design quirks and oddities

  • The Silver Ghost has arguably the reputation as the "Best car in the world" – a phrase coined not by Rolls-Royce, but by the prestigious publication Autocar in 1907.
  • During World War I, the 40/50 hp chassis was used as the basis for the Rolls-Royce Armoured Car.
  • 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 and many a home has a model, photo, painting, ashtray or toy somewhere.
  • Hawk-eyed enthusiasts and Rolls-Royce afficionados would note that the Rolls-Royce 100EX and the Rolls-Royce 101EX concept cars as well as the Rolls-Royce Drophead took their styling after the 1924 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Boat Tail Speedster.
  • A special edition of the Rolls-Royce Phantom, called the Phantom Silver was released in 2007 to mark the centenary of the Silver Ghost.


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See also


The BMW Group

BMW | Rolls-Royce | Mini

Current Models: Phantom (VII) · Drophead · Phantom Coupe · Ghost

Historic Models: Silver Seraph · Silver Spur / Flying Spur · Silver Spirit · Silver Shadow · Silver Cloud · Silver Wraith · Silver Dawn · Silver Ghost · 10 HP · 15 HP · 20 HP · 20/25 · 30 HP · 25/30 Wraith · Camargue · Corniche · Phantom I · Phantom II · Phantom III · Phantom IV · Phantom V · Phantom VI · Armoured Car · Legalimit

Concept Cars: 1EX · 100EX · 101EX · 200EX Concept

Specials: FAB 1 · Cloudesque · Silver Ghost Boat Tail Speedster · Silver Spur Hooper Landaulette · Phantom II Star of India

Spirit of Ecstasy

Sir Henry Royce and Charles Rolls Corporate website A brand of BMW AG

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