Supercars Feature – 1908 Rolls-Royce 40/50 Silver Ghost
Here’s an investment for one with enough longevity to reap the benefits. Purchase a 1908 Rolls Royce 40/50 Silver Ghost, and wait a century. Then, sell it at a Gooding & Company auction for a cool $1.43 million. That’s exactly what happened in Pebble Beach, Calif. in 2007, when just four remaining Silver Ghosts hit the auction block.
The auctioned Silver Ghost featured some prized amenities, like a set of Lucas King of the Road acetylene headlights, a cranked windshield, weather protection panels and a rear seat sunscreen. It had a dark blue exterior complemented by red, diamond-tufted leather upholstery. It also included two jump seats in addition to three rows of fixed seating.
Origins of the Silver Ghost
The moniker “Silver Ghost” first came about when the 12th 40/50 was produced. All the fittings were silver-plated, and aluminum paint was used on the coachwork. Thereafter, all the 40/50s became known as Silver Ghosts.
The Rolls-Royce Company had been established in 1904 when an engineer named Frederick Henry Royce partnered with an entrepreneur, Charles Stewart Rolls. The Silver Ghost is widely acknowledged as perhaps the purest expression of Henry Royce’s early commitment to the finest in design, construction and materials.
The Rolls Royce engine that powered the Silver Ghost was a seven-liter V6 mated to a four-speed manual. It was rated at 40 to 50 horsepower, hence the 40/50 designation. It was so quiet that it was claimed that the loudest sound was that produced by the clock. The vehicle included a solid front axle supported by leaf springs, and the live rear axle was carried in elliptical, three-quarter springs. A foot pedal allowed operation of a transmission brake, and the hand brake was connected to twin drums in the rear.
A 40-day Excursion
The legendary reliability of the 40/50 quickly grew in 1907 when Claude Johnson embarked on a trip to Scotland during which the intent was to keep the engine running for 10,000 miles straight. At the 629-mile mark, rough roads caused the petrol switch to move to the “off” position. However, the 40/50 rambled on across the countryside for 40 days and nights. Ultimately, the car traveled 15,000 miles without the engine stopping. When the vehicle returned to the shop, it required parts costing a grand total of £2, about $10, to return it to the original specs.
The 40/50’s reputation only grew as it prevailed in the Austrian Alpine Trials, the Spanish Grand Prix and other rallies and races. The Silver Ghost became the ultimate in elegant transportation for royalty around the world. During World War II, a Silver Ghost was pressed into service as an armored car in the desert. Col. T.E. Lawrence, who came to be known as Lawrence of Arabia, praised the vehicle by proclaiming, “A Rolls in the desert is above rubies.”