In March 1906, Rolls-Royce Limited was registered as a company, and that same year, the Honorable Charles Stewart Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce created the 40/50-hp six-cylinder Silver Ghost, a model that in the minds of many automotive historians remains the most revolutionary automobile ever built. In the context of its day, a Silver Ghost was a truly awe-inspiring sight. At a time when many had not seen - let alone owned - an automobile, here was a truly majestic creation.
Frederick Henry Royce was an incomparable engineer; the Silver Ghost offered the power and refinement of a six from the very beginning. More than that, its abundant torque and virtually silent operation astounded anyone fortunate enough to drive one. If the performance of the Silver Ghost was startling, it was the legendary quality of the Rolls-Royce that made its owners happy and kept them coming back. The history of the automobile is littered with good products that failed in the market, and it was here that the Honorable Charles Stewart Rolls made his contribution. A consummate marketer, he was also an automotive enthusiast, racecar driver and an aviator. Rolls understood the publicity that would follow from success in competition, and he set about promoting the new Silver Ghost in the world's most important automobile events.
The Tourist Trophy Race was one of the most prestigious events of the era and was won by Rolls and Royce in commanding fashion in 1906, when the pair beat their nearest competition by 27 minutes. This was followed by the famous 15,000-mile reliability run of 1907, where the original Silver Ghost finished the event and required only minor work to restore it to as-new specification. There was also the grueling Austrian Alpine Trials where the Silver Ghosts dominated their competition and plowed over Alpine passes that had proven impassable by lesser cars.
At the same time, Rolls demonstrated an early grasp of the concept of product placement. The company supplied cars to the British royal family and, in so doing, cemented the image of the marque among England's high society. Even today, a Silver Ghost is remarkably refined, often outperforming cars a dozen or more years newer.
The Silver Ghosts pictured in this gallery are clothed with a Limousine Landaulet body by Barker. Like many other coachbuilding styles, the Landaulet (or Landaulette) was transferred from horse-drawn carriages to motor carriages. It was a body style with a convertible top for the back seat, with the front seat either roofed or open. Since a Landaulet was always intended to be a chauffeured vehicle, the style was never popular in the mass market. They are sold mostly to celebrities, dignitaries, and those responsible for transporting celebrities and dignitaries. Thus, a body style truly fit for a Rolls-Royce.
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