In the context of its day, a Silver Ghost was a truly awe-inspiring sight. Today, it remains the most influential automobile from the earliest days of motoring. 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 early history of Rolls-Royce in America is inextricably intertwined with that of the Brewster & Co. Coachworks, which contributed some of the most elegant, sporting and attractively proportioned bodies fitted to any Rolls-Royce chassis. At the turn of the 20th Century, Willie Brewster was the pre-eminent American coachbuilder, and by 1914, he became a Rolls-Royce agent, importing chassis from England and building bodies for his well-established and discerning clientele. Then in 1925, Rolls-Royce bought the company, making Brewster its primary supplier of coachwork in America. Eventually, well over 400 Springfield-built Rolls-Royces were Brewster-bodied.
The bespoke, custom-ordered coachwork that graced Derby-built chassis did not fit American buying patterns and from the beginning Rolls-Royce offered standard coachwork, usually painted and trimmed to order. Bodies were ordered from a number of independent coachbuilders in quantities of up to twenty at a time. They were badged "Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Work" and were built by Brewster, a.o.
'Playboys' were replacement bodies built by Brewster alone. When Rolls-Royce of America found themselves with too many limousines, they would remove the limousine bodies from the chassis and have Brewster fit Playboy Roadster bodies. The name Playboy was used long before the magazine of the same name was ever published. On the Silver Ghost chassis, Brewster constructed about 15 Playboy bodies.
I am not a natural flatterer, I like to think that I "tell it like it is", politely I hope. So when I tell you that I am very impressed by the contents of your website, it is just not English politeness. I of course love the subject matter but you deal with it in an energetic and respectful manner. I am overwhelmed by the research that has gone into compiling the list of coachbuilders/bodybuilders for Europe and North America. I have never heard of the vast majority of them.
Congratulations on an excellent website.
- N. Maltby of Car Scene International
We use Coachbuild.com almost daily as our main reference source!
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We use Coachbuild.com all the time for references!
- Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance
We are very impressed by your website!
- Bicester Heritage UK