Upon its debut in 1906, the Rolls-Royce 40/50 horsepower “Silver Ghost” rendered virtually every contemporary automobile obsolete overnight. It was undoubtedly the most advanced motorcar money could buy, raising the bar for automotive refinement and quality. Henry Royce’s astonishing 7,036cc side-valve inline six-cylinder engine was central to the Ghost. The mighty six was durable yet lightweight thanks to the extensive use of aluminum alloy, particularly in the large crankcase. While competitors struggled to achieve reliability due to their long, flexible crankshafts, Royce designed a shorter, stronger crank supported by seven oversize main bearings. Rolls-Royce engineers and machinists assembled the 40/50hp with surgical precision, finely fitting each component and hand-polishing mating surfaces to ensure turbine-smooth, smoke-free operation – characteristics 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 Gold Standard for motorcars.
Rolls-Royce endowed the Silver Ghost with a suitably overbuilt chassis to flatter its superb engine. Over the eighteen-year production run, the design underwent numerous refinements, gaining significant improvements, including four-wheel brakes, revised suspension, improved steering, and much more. It is a true testament to the quality of these cars that so many of the approximately 6,500 Silver Ghosts produced still survive today. Given its remarkable durability, a Silver Ghost 40/50hp chassis would often outlive its original body, sometimes several times over. Even as many Silver Ghosts have surpassed the century mark, a global community of dedicated aficionados continues to enjoy them on the road, and few veteran cars compare to the experience of piloting a mighty Silver Ghost.
Chassis number 25EB is a highly desirable pre-WWI Ghost with a fascinating history, which owes its survival to the second owner’s chauffeur, whose deep fondness for the car grew from his nearly twenty years at the wheel. Published information and factory records show that 25EB was built to updated specifications, including the larger 7,428cc engine, cantilever rear springs, and torque tube axle. Rolls-Royce delivered the car to the famed London coachbuilder Barker where it received this opulent Limousine Landaulet coachwork. Barker was established in 1710 by one of Queen Anne’s Officers of the Guards and rose to be one of England’s most respected and revered coachbuilders. When chassis 25EB arrived at the Barker workshop, the firm had more than 200 years of experience creating the world’s finest bodies. This formal design utilizes a high roofline with large windows, a sliding division window, and an opening rear passenger compartment, executed with Barker’s typical attention to detail.
When Barker completed the coachwork, the car was delivered to the first owner, D.E. Cameron Rose of Edinburgh, Scotland, on May 28, 1914, and registered LL 4138. The Ghost remained with Rose for only a short time before being acquired by the American Rolls-Royce dealer and Barker Agent, Robert W. Schuette of New York, New York. He sold 25EB to Helen Brice, the socialite daughter of industrialist and politician Calvin S. Brice.
Miss Brice was the Ghost’s first long-term owner, using it regularly until 1934. That is when she and her Chauffeur, Francis Cox, decided to trade the Ghost in for something more modern, finding an acceptable replacement in the form of a 1932 Lincoln. Mr. Cox, feeling nostalgic for the car that served as a faithful tool for so many years, did not want to see it suffer the fate of an old used car. He felt the car deserved a dignified future, and he boldly wrote a letter to Henry Ford, suggesting the Rolls-Royce would be a fine addition to Ford’s new museum being constructed in Dearborn. Surprisingly, a representative from Ford wrote back, informing Mr. Cox that “we have arranged to have this car forwarded to Dearborn for our museum.”
With 25EB’s fate secured, Ford collected and shipped it to Dearborn. Photos from the period show it in excellent condition, still in its original configuration and wearing the original Barker body. Documentation from 1935 further describes the car’s condition to great detail, and indicates the engine number as 89.M, which remains in the car today. Chassis 25EB was exhibited in the new Edison Institute – which later became known as the Henry Ford Museum, and today, The Henry Ford. Documents from this time include copies of a title and affidavit in the museum’s name. It was proudly displayed at the museum until 1971, when it was deaccessioned and sold to Benjamin Paul Moser of California.
Ben Moser was well-known as a prolific dealer and astute collector of highly significant classic cars. Most of Moser’s finds quickly passed on to his clients, though he had a particular affinity for high-horsepower European brass and Rolls-Royces. Ben was quite fond of 25EB, as it stayed in his private collection until his passing in 1992. A 1993 auction listing for the Moser collection noted it retained much of its original upholstery and was finished in the original colors of black and green.
From the Moser auction, 25EB passed through the hands of several noted collectors and was refinished in maroon along the way. In the early 2000s, it came into the care of Richard Solove of Columbus, Ohio, a longtime Rolls-Royce enthusiast and collector. In 2004, he handed the car to one of the world’s foremost Silver Ghost experts, Steve Littin, for a comprehensive yet sympathetic restoration. He found the engine was in excellent order, needing only detailing and service. Incredibly, just one piece of structural wood required replacement, and the most significant work was making the Landaulet top fully functional again. Littin went so far as to source the original, serial-numbered hardware from John Faisal in the UK. The body was then refinished in its current cream livery and trimmed using period-correct upholstery materials.
Richard Solove sold the Ghost in 2007, and it passed through the hands of other highly-respected collectors. The most recent owners acquired 25EB in 2019 and returned the car to Steve Littin for extensive detailing and servicing ahead of the car’s debut at the 2021 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it scored 3rd place in a highly competitive class.
As offered today, 25EB epitomizes the majesty of the Edwardian Rolls-Royce. That it has survived more than a century in its original configuration, with original components intact, reflects the Silver Ghost’s unparalleled quality and Barker’s exquisite craftsmanship. Of course, it may not exist today were it not for a devoted Chauffeur urging Henry Ford himself that this is a motorcar worthy of his attention.
Offers welcome and trades considered