Motoring | Features

Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost

They’ve been wafting effortlessly along for over 100 years. One model in particular catches Imran Malik’s eye. It’s the Rolls-Royce 40/50hp, better known as the Silver Ghost

  • By Imran Malik, Sub Editor, wheels
  • Published: 16:06 August 9, 2012
  • Wheels

Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost
  • Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.

Rolls-Royce doesn’t just build cars, it builds dreams. It’s been creating magnificently plush rides ever since engineer Frederick Henry Royce joined forces with entrepreneur and businessman, Charles Stewart Rolls way back in 1904. Together, they fashioned the peak of design, technology and ambiance.

Even though they might have looked rather rickety in their heyday, the waftability that the cars are famed for was present even then. They were so smooth and quiet that you could hear yourself blink. The Silver Ghost, launched in 1906, was the grandest car that you could find on the road.

The levels of craftsmanship and quality that it brought with it were just not present elsewhere. Cars back then were noisy and would vibrate so hard that your hair would fall out. The Ghost, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. With a hand-polished engine featuring a pressurised oiling system and wrapped in a tough aluminium alloy crankcase, it made for a serene driving experience for those fortunate enough to be on board.

Rather than use chains to drive the ignition, Rolls-Royce fitted the car with gears made from phosphor bronze and nickel steel, also polished by hand. A Royce-designed twin jet carburettor helped the 7.4-litre six-cylinder motor to breathe and overheating was never an issue. A four-speed gearbox could be had for the Ghost, which also featured a direct-drive third and overdrive fourth gear.

Its chassis was way ahead of its time thanks to a live rear axle carried in three-quarter elliptical springs. The front had a solid axle and semi-elliptic leaf springs, and this set up gave drivers the impression of floating along.

Royce was the brains behind much of the engineering feats of the car, but required the promoting and marketing brilliance of Rolls, who entered the Ghost in the prestigious Tourist Trophy Race in 1906. It won the event by a huge 27 minutes of its nearest competitor and was then entered in the far more gruelling Austrian Alpine Trials, and it proved its mettle once again.

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Silver Ghosts were then supplied to British Royalty to further enhance their prestige. It was a master stroke as the world began to sit up and take notice of these durable, reliable and stylish cars. By 1911, the Ghost was the height of luxury and cost up to ten times that of an average professional’s annual salary at £1,500 (Dh8,573). Back then, you could buy a house in the country for that. Today, a Phantom would set you back a cool Dh2mil. Some things never change.

The Ghost, which could be had with a landaulette body, champagne holder and picnic basket, was originally called the 40/50hp, but renamed by owners to its more familiar moniker. A total of 8,416 were built between 1907 to 1926 and a mint, 101-year-old surviving example, which goes by the name ‘Chassis 1557’ is to be auctioned next month in the UK. It’s expected to fetch in the region of £550,000 (Dh3.14m) a figure most of us can only dream of splashing out on a car. But like I said, Rolls-Royce doesn’t just build cars...

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