Late in 1906, the 40/50-hp model was introduced at the London Motor Show on the stand of C.S. Rolls and Company. The new model was destined to achieve a status few automobiles would ever equal in the history of motor vehicles. The Silver Ghost, as it later became known, swiftly established Rolls-Royce as the ultimate in luxury motoring?so much so that the company rightfully touted every vehicle as "The Best Car in the World". Silver Ghost production continued for 18 years, totalling nearly 8,000 cars with 6,173 built in England plus 1,703 Springfield models. This included the staff cars and armour-plated combat versions which saw service during WWI.
Due to the war effort, the supply of Rolls-Royces available to the public became limited; such was the case in both the UK and US factories. During the summer of 1914, Rolls-Royce became entrenched in the production of aircraft engines, and the building of automobiles for civilian purchase came to a virtual standstill.
Documented in John Fasal's definitive book The Edwardian Rolls-Royce, chassis 2BD's first owner was one Captain H. Whitworth of Beverley, Yorkshire, UK. His Silver Ghost had been delivered to Hamshaw in 1915 for its coachwork, following testing at Rolls-Royce. The next owner of record was the du Pont family, via Rolls-Royce distributor Robert W. Schuette. The early history that has long been associated with this car entails Mr. Alfred I. du Pont, whose second wife Alicia wanted a new Rolls-Royce limousine, and it was King George V who ensured they received the car as a courtesy. Mr. du Pont, who was in control of the family business, supplied large quantities of gunpowder to the British military. The King, well aware of the du Pont family support, saw to it that the suitable car was made available to them, an appropriate show of gratitude to the family, who received their Silver Ghost at their family estate in Wilmington, Delaware. At the time, the du Ponts were among America's wealthiest families. Alfred was a graduate of Phillips-Andover and the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining the family business as a director and, later in life, losing and re-building a personal fortune and investing in Florida real estate.
Du Pont passed away in 1935, 15 years after Alicia. #2BD remained in the general Delaware area as the next owner of record was A. Atwater Kent, Jr., a prominent Philadelphian whose father founded the famed manufacturing company heavily involved in radios and electronics. Subsequent owners included noted Rolls-Royce collector James C. Leake of Oklahoma in 1983.
The car then spent time abroad, back in the UK in the collections of Sam Macdonald-Hall of Essex and Terry Cohn of Churt, Surrey. It returned to the United States in 1993 to become part of the noted Richard Solove Collection in New Albany, Ohio. Prior to its return to the United States, Solove had the vehicle meticulously and sympathetically restored by David Hemmings while still in England. More recently, the car has been part of the large private collection of Houston attorney John O'Quinn.
Silver Ghost #2BD is nothing short of opulent. It is replete with the finest workmanship typical of expert carriage builders of the era. Fittings are brass rather than nickel, and the dark olive (almost black) exterior is beautifully detailed with gold pinstriping. Six painted wire wheels with brass hubs and a handsome wicker trunk are provided. Inside are carved ivory door handles, bevelled glass windows, cut crystal lamps, an inlaid wood folding table, two jump seats and door pockets. Communications to the chauffeur are via a tubular intercom. The chauffeur's compartment is upholstered in button-tufted black leather, while the passenger compartment is lavish in beige cloth with embroidered silk window pulls and trim-work, including rear compartment shades and sliding divider. Perhaps most notable is the elegant, pleated cloth rosette headliner that billows cloudlike overhead. C.A.V. lighting, triple Elliot speedometer and a set of leather-wrapped flasks in the right rear armrest add to the exquisite details of this magnificent machine.
In 2007 it was brought to the Gooding & Company auction held in Pebble Beach, Ca where it was estimated to sell for $700,000 - $900,000. It was offered without reserve. As bidding concluded, the lot had been sold for $1,100,000 including buyers premium. In 2011 the car was offered by RM Auctions with an estimate of 520.000 to 700.000 Euros.
Source: RM Auctions & Conceptcarz.com.
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