The new 40/50 h.p. Rolls-Royce model exhibited at the 1906 Olympia Motor Show had attracted much interest and favourable comment. But managing director Claude Johnson realised that more was needed to bring the car to the attention of the wider public.
Johnson selected the twelfth chassis built at the Cooke Street works in Manchester, 60551, and had it bodied by Barker & Co. in silver with green upholstery. External fittings would be plated in silver. The chassis was tested for 80 miles by chief tester Eric Platford and was “off test” on 13 April 1907.
In the Edwardian tradition, Johnson gave the car an appropriate name: “The Silver Ghost” – a name that would only be used for this one car, not the model, until after production had ceased in 1925.
Johnson immediately organised trial runs for the press. The 20 April 1907 issue of The Autocar reported that “The running of this car at slow speeds is the smoothest thing we have ever experienced, while for silence the motor beneath the bonnet might be a silent sewing machine…”
The next trial was to Scotland. Our Slider image was taken on 3 May 1907 when the Silver Ghost was driven from London to Bexhill then north to Glasgow, accompanied from Hatfield by a White steam car; both cars were under RAC observation. The two cars followed the proposed route of the 1907 Scottish Reliability Trial and returned to London on 14 May. The Silver Ghost completed 2,000 miles and then, back at the Bexhill track, recorded a range of speeds between 54.94 mph and 3.4 mph in direct third gear – proof of the flexibility that customers were seeking, incapable as many Edwardian motorists were of changing gear on the move.
Reports of the performance of the White steam car have sadly eluded us. They would have been of interest, since the White was recognised at the time to be one of the best and most reliable cars of any type.
Picture courtesy of the Richard Roberts Archive