Upon its debut in 1907, the Rolls-Royce 40/50 horsepower “Silver Ghost” was considered to be the most advanced motorcar money could buy. With Henry Royce’s impressively over-built 7,428cc side-valve inline six-cylinder engine as the centerpiece, the Silver Ghost was a true engineering marvel and a great leap forward in automobile design. The magnificent engine was both incredibly strong but was also light weight thanks to the use of an alloy crankcase. While competitors struggled to achieve reliability due to their long, flexible crankshafts; Royce’s design utilized a crank that was shorter, stronger and supported by seven oversize main bearings. At the factory, Rolls-Royce mechanics assembled the 40/50hp using precise machine work and hand-polishing of mating surfaces to ensure smooth and smoke-free operation – a characteristic that was virtually unheard of for the time. Features such as pressurized oiling, fixed heads to eliminate leaks, and a twin ignition system via magneto or distributor were advancements that established the Silver Ghost as the world standard for fine motorcars. Of course, the Ghost was more than just the engine; the chassis was similarly overbuilt to withstand virtually anything an owner could throw at it. Such was its strength that a vast majority of the approximately 6,500 Silver Ghosts built over its 18 years in production still survive today.
Given its remarkable quality, a Silver Ghost 40/50hp chassis would often outlive its original body. Similarly, as an owner’s tastes changed with the times, a body may be eschewed in favor of something newer and more fashionable. Our featured example, chassis 85TG (P-Series), is a rare exception in that it still wears its original five-passenger touring body by Grosvenor Carriage Co. of London. Grosvenor is best known for its close work with Vauxhall in the pre-war period, though they also supplied a handful of bodies for Daimler and Lanchester. It is not known if any other Rolls-Royces ever wore a Grosvenor body, but this is believed to be a one-off design. The coachwork is clean and charming with many interesting details such as the close-fitted wings, the low-slung body sides, dual windscreens and running board toolbox.
According to copies of the Schoellkopf card and RROC historical documents, 85TG was originally delivered wearing this Grosvenor coachwork through Paddon Brothers, to a French artist named Maxwell Norman. Norman soon sold the car to his family physician, Dr. Chario who reportedly used the car in Capri for two years. After its time in the Italian sunshine, it was shipped to Long Island, New York and stored for some time before being acquired by Harold Priest of Gleasondale, Massachusetts. It then passed to F.R. Schreiter also of Massachusetts and in 1947, who then sold it to William Gregor of Flint, Michigan who drove 85TG home from New England and began a complete chassis, mechanical and cosmetic freshening. The car was enjoyed regularly by Gregor in club events such as the AACA and RROC, then stored until 1960 when it was acquired by Jack Skaff, another Flint local. Mr. Skaff sold the car to Calvin T. Zahn of Ann Arbor, Michigan; an avid enthusiast and collector of important early motorcars. With Mr. Zahn, the Ghost found a long term home and was cherished by his family for the next 57 years.
Today, this Silver Ghost is handsomely presented in a dark gray livery with six matching wheels, over a black interior and newly restored black top. The original Grosvenor body is in remarkably good condition, with excellent paint highlighted with polished nickel fittings and fine detailing. The body features a number of lovely details such as the polished alloy bonnet, dual side-mount spare wheels, running-board tool-boxes, a period trunk, large Klaxon horn, and fine original nickel Lucas King of the Road lamps.
The included build sheets show 85TG was originally trimmed with “antique grained black leather” which is how the car presents today. It is very possible that the seats are original, as they are of this unusual correct-type material and appear to match the original door and kick panels. Original instruments include the Waltham speedometer, clock and minor instruments, as well as supplemental gauges added later in the car’s life when it was used as a trusty touring machine. An array of dash plaques are worn like badges of honor celebrating 85TG’s exploits through the years. They include one for the 1960 CCCA Grand Classic and another proclaiming 85TG as a recipient of the coveted AACA “Foo-Dog Trophy” in 1949; a prize established in 1945 by AACA President D. Cameron Peck to honor an outstanding Rolls-Royce automobile in a National Meet.
Mechanically, the engine and chassis present in fine order with the car is very enjoyable out on the road, with the feel of a well-loved touring veteran. This remarkable Silver Ghost would be a compelling choice for AACA events, Rolls-Royce Owner’s Club tours and CCCA CARavan tours, as it enjoys a rich and fascinating history with all three of these storied organizations. With its high-quality and unique coachwork and handsome presentation, this Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost is simply overflowing with character.