IN writing this little essay, I feel that a few words of introduction are necessary, to excuse its infliction on customers who are not normally interested in ” old, gentlemen’s mobile drawingrooms.”
To me there is nothing more marvellous than a real ” blind,” especially on a fast solo motor-eyele, but I cannot stand speed on the public roads in the passenger’s seat of a car. Enquiry among my friends has confirmed that, except among the very young, the dislike of being driven fast is universal. Furthermore, for a typical journey on England’s inadequate and over-crowded roads, the frenzied driver of the super-sports will hardly have time to order drinks before the sedate luxury-wagon glides noiselessly up. But the greatest recommendation for such machines, now and in the immediate future, is that an ultra-smooth clutch, flexible engine, even and progressive brakes, and correct weight distribution, all result in an incredible tyre mileage.
One can only discuss the various RollsRoyce models in general terms, because the continuous progress in design .which each model has undergone gives a different character and performance from cars of similar type but varying age.
The “Silver Ghost ” was introduced in 1900, and was still in production 19 years litter. No car produced since that famous ii lode! has been more silent, because the Ghost,” as turned out by Rolls-Royce, Ltd., was probably as nearly silent as any reciprocating engine will ever be. I once took a no,-;ty lidl in the road through trying to start the engine of my ” Ghost ” with the handle when it was already running.
It is not generally realised that the ” Silver Ghost ” is. for its size, a very light car. All the parts are of extremely fine construction, and the big engine is not nearly so heavy as it looks. Most of the poor things are utterly swamped by enormous bodies, of fabulous weight and wind resistance, but with a light body, a modicum of acceleration is available. These are the most delightful cars to drive, the light, high-geared steering being beautifully sensitive, and the engine, having almost the torque of steam, will start the car smoothly from a standstill on top gear. The governor throttle is fascinating to play with, and my car will nearly always start “on the switch,” without recourse to handle or starter. Few enthusiasts are in a position to run a 7i-litre private car, but with a light van
body a great deal of use can be. found for these everlasting and surprisingly economical chassis. But please be kind to them, because they are still, in their way, the best cars in the world. Late in 1025 the side-valve 114 by 121 mm. engine of the ” Ghost ” gave way to a push-rod o.h.v. job of 108 by 140 trim., known originally as the “New Phantom,” and, subsequently, as the ” Phantom I.” This car was appreciably rougher than the “Ghost,” and had not a markedly superior performance to the Some people expressed surprise when John Bolster went over to a Twenty Royce and enthused over what is quite a slow car. So we asked him how it
was. Here is his answer.—Ed.
faster versions of the side-valve car. In 1929, however, the “Phantom II” appeared, and this was considerably faster, with an aluminium head having the two plugs per cylinder on opposite sides, instead of all in a row as in the earlier engine, the inlet and exhaust manifolds being separated similarly. Almost every detail of the engine was different, and the gearbox, with closer ratios, was now in unit, and had the mechanical brake servo on the opposite side. (The last few “Phantom Is” had some of the Mk. H features.) An entirely new chassis frame had semi-elliptic springs all round, and Hotchkiss drive. The short-chassis, highcompression model, known as the “Continental Phantom H,” is still thought by many to be the world’s finest high-speed touring car, and I, personally, feel that no gentleman’s collection is complete without one.
Nevertheless, time marches on, and the latest of the 40/50-h.p. models, the “Phantom III,” appeared in the middle 1930s. With its vee 12-cylinder engine and independent front suspension, it was faster than its predecessor both on the straight and round the bends. Ridiculously heavy coachwork was often fitted to these cars, but with a reasonable body, the acceleration was magnificent.
The small Rolls-Royce will probably be of more practical interest to the enthusiast. This car was introduced shortly after the Kaiser’s war. It was called the ” Twenty ” (21.6-h.p. R.A.C.), and had a push-rod o.h.v, engine of a little over 3-litres capacity. The earliest cars had a three-speed box and rear brakes only, with an engine giving less power than the subsequent models. They are often dismissed as being inferior to the later” Twenties,” but no less an authority than L. C. McKenzie has informed me that the earliest “Twenties,” when running with their original pistons, were the smoothest engines ever fitted to any car.
The four-speed ” Twenties ” had mechanical servo brakes, which were the equal of any present-day brakes. The chassis was a normal-looking affair, with semi-elliptic springing, but for some reason that I am unable to explain, this model is quite the safest car I know on slippery roads. Some good ideas were incorporated, such as the spare magneto, which does not normally rotate, but can be coupled up in a moment by the touch of a finger. The starter, whose ingenious clutch saves the gear teeth from shock, is also found on Rolls-Royce aero engines, and the radiator shutters are a convenience.
The last ” Twenty ” was delivered late in 1929, and it was then replaced by the ” 20/25,” -whose increased bore gave a 3i-litre, 26-h.p. car, though the engine had not altered externally. A 6-in. wheelbase increase gave even more room for coachwork. The ” 20/25 ” had those most effective shock-absorbers, whose gearbox-operated pump increased their damping at high speeds, and in 1933 an effective synchro-mesh gearbox was introduced. Eventually, another step-up in the bore took place, and the ” 25/30,” a 30-11.p., 41-litre car, added acceleration to the virtues of the smaller Rolls-Royce.
Performance figures are not the attraction of the baby Royce, but, as a matter of interest, the 1921 car would do an honest “sixty,” and the 1936 model, when not over-burdened with colossal carosserie, would just about achieve “eighty.”
Last of all came the ” Wraith.” Its 30-h.p. engine has a new head, with inlet and exhaust ports on opposite sides, and a very large frame, with independent front suspension, permitted the mounting of bodies of a size previously associated with the 40/50-11.p. car. There is quite a demand for these motor cars, but they are still to be had if one has about £4,000 to spend !
To revert to poor men’s motor cars, the old ” Twenty ” is about as cheap a car to run as one can imagine. The petrol consumption always averages over 20 m.p.g., even on short runs, and the tyre wear is very slight. The car is made like a watch, and seems absolutely everlasting. I ran an old ” Twenty ” for several years before having to buy any spare parts, and was then amazed at their cheapness. But, remember, that the delightful running of these cars is due to meticulous workmanship, and if you let Bert, the blacksmith, mess about with your engine, she’ll run as roughly as any cheap old junk.
Although these chassis, by their reliability and delicacy of control, still satisfy those of us who do not require a fast car, some of the bodies which have been perpetrated upon them are really horrible. Beauty is but skin deep, but some people are unwilling to drive a car which provokes screams of “Gpr blimey I She’s an old ‘un,” from the loungers at every street corner. For this reason, new bodies of modern appearance have been built on these cars, and two firms, the Southern Motor Co. and .1. Compton, have specialised in this work. One of my ” Twenties ” has a Compton body, and quite apart from its very distinguished appearance, it saves me hours in cleaning. Smooth lines and chromium plate certainly make a difference when one has to wash one’s own car.
I cannot conclude my remarks without pointing out my inadequacy for the task which I have attempted. An article signed McKenzie or Craner, for instance, would carry some authority, and Mr. Sears, who collects Rolls-Royces as lesser men collect stamps, could tell us a thing or two.