1923 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Playboy Roadster

The Rolls Royce Silver Ghost is the standard of the world for pre-war motorcars. First appearing in production form in 1907, the Silver Ghost proved itself time and again for its exceptional reliability and quality. The 7.2 liter (later 7.4 liter) side valve inline six was a marvel of robust construction while delivering nearly silent operation. Especially when compared to other machinery of the same period, the Silver Ghost is a true marvel of sophisticated engineering and build-quality. Thanks to its well-publicized successes in reliability trials, demand grew quickly, particularly in America, and production was expanded in 1921 to a new assembly plant in Springfield, Massachusetts. Initially, Springfield cars were basically the same specification as their British-built counterparts, but as time went on, Springfield cars gained many of their own unique parts and components, such as American Bosch electrics, unique wheels and for the very last examples a US-specific gearbox with central shift.

Chassis Number 355XH is an exceptional car with a well-known and extensive history dating back to new. In 1923, it was sold new to “Tack” Hardwick, a Harvard graduate and star quarterback of the 1912 championship winning Harvard football team. After he graduated Harvard, he went on to a distinguished military career as an artillery officer in World War I, and upon returning from war, joined the prestigious Boston trading firm of Benton and Stone. Hardwick was still in his twenties when he ordered 355XH, originally fitted with a Pall Mall touring body.

By the 1930’s the car transferred out of Hardwick’s ownership and it was displayed in the showroom of the Tom Mix dealership in Boston. It was purchased for $1750 by a young man from Delaware, Fred Roe. Mr. Roe was clearly taken by his Rolls Royce, as he went on to become one of the five founding members of the Rolls Royce Owners Club! Roe acted as both president and technical vice president for the club. An extremely knowledgeable automotive enthusiast, he even went on to write what is considered the seminal book on the Duesenberg marque.

355XH passed through several more enthusiast hands, including Everett Pauls and Cort Pauls, both former RROC club officers. It was while in Everett Pauls’ hands the car received its current body. The original Pall Mall touring body was fairly well worn by that point so a rakish and sporty Playboy body was fitted. Thankfully, the original body was saved and it still exists today on a Springfield Silver Ghost chassis at the Heritage Plantation Museum in Sandwich, MA. This Playboy body is unique in that is features a low, rakish beltline for a very sporty look. Though most Playboy roadsters feature roll up windows, 355XH’s low-cut doors do not allow for them, however it does have provisions for side curtains. According to information supplied by the car’s current owner, the Playboy body, built by Chalmers, still wears its original factory fenders and bonnet.

Subject to a full nut-and-bolt restoration by Rolls Royce specialist Pierce Reid of The Vintage Garage in Stowe, VT, 355XH now presents in exceptional condition, with beautiful finishes throughout. The engine was rebuilt using proper Hepworth pistons, new bearings and fully refinished hardware. All wear items have been thoroughly refreshed. Chuck Niles at American Honeycomb re-cored the radiator and the fuel system was completely cleaned and sealed. Along with the engine rebuild, the chassis was completely renewed with fresh kingpins, rebuilt hubs, brakes, new drums, et al. It has been comprehensively restored to ensure it will remain reliable and usable for decades to come. In keeping with the mechanical restoration, the cosmetics are likewise outstanding. Finished in extremely attractive two-tone gray with a red coach stripe, the quality is first rate. Polished wheel discs over red painted wire wheels and blackwall Michelin tires make a bold and attractive statement on this fine sporting roadster. It is well accessorized with dual sidemount spares, wood running boards with “boot scrapers”, drum headlamps with matching dual cowl lamps, and a trunk rack.Even the Flying Lady mascot is a correct original Springfield piece. The gorgeous interior and top were fully restored by Petter Davidson to an extremely high standard. The gorgeous gray leather and dark gray canvas top complement the paintwork splendidly. Along with the upholstery, the top frame was completely restored with new steam-bent bows and polished stainless hardware. A matching top boot is included as is a comprehensive original tool kit.

Silver Ghosts are renowned for their fine road manners and this example is no exception. The Ghost is highly sought-after by RROC and CCCA touring enthusiasts because few other veteran cars offer the same level of performance, reliability and ease of use. Fresh and strikingly beautiful, 355XH is in show-quality condition, though it will also make an exceptional touring car thanks to the comprehensive nature of the restoration. With its fascinating history, beautiful looks and quality mechanicals, Silver Ghost 355XH is surely one of the finest Playboy Roadsters available today.

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