The Silver Ghost Association (SGA) is dedicated to the preservation and use of Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost automobiles. Described as the most significant car ever built, the Silver Ghost was produced from 1907 through 1926. Thousand of unique examples of this automobile remain on the road today and are used extensively by their owners, a testament to their design and construction.
The model name Silver Ghost can initially be confusing to some. The first widely produced automobile manufactured by Rolls-Royce, it refers to both a car model and to one specific car from that series.
Originally and simply called a “40/50”, the chassis of this car was first produced at Royce’s Manchester works and later produced from 1908 at the Derby factory (still in use for aviation engine production) and between 1921 and 1926 in Springfield, MA, USA. While the name “The Silver Ghost” was originally given to chassis no 60551 and other cars were given individual names as well, the title “Silver Ghost” was taken by the press, although the Company did not recognize the series as such until the introduction of the new Phantom range of cars in 1925.
The Silver Ghost car established Rolls-Royce’s claim of making the “Best car in the World, ” a reputation that lasts to the this day and makes the name Rolls-Royce one of the most recognized trademarks in existance.
The Silver Ghost was a logical progression of the development of motor cars by Royce and introduced as a Rolls-Royce model after Royce’s infamous collaboration with Rolls in 1905. The car has a new side-valve, six-cylinder, 7000 cc engine with the cylinders cast in two units of three each. The cars were originally fitted with a four speed overdrive transmission. When engine displacement was increased to 7400 cc in 1909, a three speed transmission was fitted, later changed to a four speed transmission in 1913. Two spark plugs were fitted to each cylinder, with each set fired by a a trembler coil (later ignition coil and distributor) and magneto. Continuous development of the engine allowed power output to be increased from 48 brake horsepower to 80 brake horsepower at 2,250 RPM. Electric lights were fitted to the cars, replacing older technology oil or acetylene lamps. The substantial chassis has rigid axles and leaf springs on all corners. Early cars has only brakes on the rear wheels with a transmission brake acting on the drive shaft. Later cars had a dual brake system on the rear wheels with front brakes finally appearing on the English cars in 1923 and American cars thereafter.
Production of the cars ceased during the war, but because of their durability and reliability relative to their peers, the chassis and engine were successfully used in a range of armored cars, made famous by Lawrence of Arabia’s exploits in the deserts of the middle east. Following the war, the decision was made to start production of an identical car in the United States and Rolls-Royce of America opened a factory in Springfield, MA.
Despite the continuous improvements made by the company, by the early 1920s the performance and quality of some of Rolls-Royce’s competitors started to approach that of the Silver Ghost and sales began to decline. The car was replaced by the new Phantom (today referred to as a Phantom I) in 1925 in Great Britain and in 1926 in the United States.
In all, a total of 7,874 Silver Ghost cars were produced from 1907 to 1926 including 1,701 built in the Springfield, MA plant. It is estimated that remarkably, nearly 1,500 survive today.