The Edwardian Rolls-Royce

John Bolster's "Veteran Types" article last December, on his 1911 "Silver Ghost" Rolls-Royce, car has aroused a lot of interest. Mr. W. A. Taylor, of Banwell, writes as follows of some early Rolls-Royce exhibits at Olympia: -

John Bolster's article on the 1911 Rolls-Royce was extremely interesting, and I am very glad to see you are reviving the "Veteran Types" articles.

We have recently dug up in the recesses of my father's motor-house the Olympia Show catalogues for the years 1905-1908, and 1912. May I quote verbatim the Rolls-Royce data for their exhibits for these years?

It is interesting to note that the title of the firm in 1905 and 1906 was C. S. Rolls & Co., in 1907 and thereafter Rolls-Royce Ltd.

1905 Show. — One 6-cylinder 30-h.p. Rolls-Royce chassis, 1906 type with patent Rolls-Royce gearbox, four forward speeds and reverse, direct drive on the 3rd speed.

One 6-cylinder 60-h.p. Rolls-Royce, 1906 type, limousine body.

One 8-cylinder 20-h.p. Petrol Landaulette, "Par Excellence," special Rolls-Royce 8-cylinder engine. Special Rolls-Royce "Legalimit" car, built for Sir Alfred Harmsworth, Bart., 8-cylinders. Specially designed to travel on the flat at a speed not exceeding 20 m.p.h., and to ascend hills at a speed not less than 20 m.p.h. without changing gear.

The light 20-h.p. standard Rolls-Royce car on which Mr. Percy Northey gained second place in the race for the Tourist Trophy, 1905.

1906 Show — The 20-h.p. Rolls-Royce car which won the Tourist Trophy, September, 1906.

30-h.p. 6-cylinder Rolls-Royce Single Limousine (Barker).

40-50-h.p. 6-cylinder Rolls-Royce (1907) Chassis.

40-50-h.p. 6-cylinder Rolls-Royce Pullman Limousine.

1907 Show. — 40-50-h.p. 6-cylinder Rolls-Royce Side-entrance Touring Car. The famous "Silver Ghost," the car which holds the World's Record for a non-stop run, having covered a distance of 14,371 miles without any involuntary stop, under the observation of the Royal Automobile Club. This car also won a gold medal in its class in the Scottish Automobile Club's Trials last June. The working parts are exhibited separately on the Stand.

40-50-h.p. 6-cylinder Rolls-Royce chassis. In general design is similar to the "Silver Ghost," with some notable improvements. Price £985.

40-50-h.p. 6-cylinder Rolls-Royce Limousine Landaulette, Price £1,325.

40-50-h.p. 6-cylinder Rolls-Royce Limousine Landaulette. Price £1,260.

1908 Show.— 40-50-b.p. 6-cylinder Rolls-Royce chassis. Price £985. 40-50-h.p. 6-cylinder Rolls-Royce ("Silver Rogue"). Side-entrance 4-seated "Roi des Belges" body. This car is the actual one which competed in the recent 2,000 miles Trial of the R.A.C. Price £950.

40-50-h.p. 6-cylinder Rolls-Royce, limousine body, with enclosed driver's seat. All the side windows are made to open, and the supporting pillars being made to turn upwards into the roof, forming an almost complete open-and-closed carriage at will. Price £1,365.

1912 Show.— 40-50-h.p. 6-cylinder Rolls-Royce D-fronted Limousine; body built low with domed roof, by Cockshoots, of Manchester; extension folding canopy covered with Paride to roll up to the front of roof when not in use, and deflector folding windscreen; painted a rich dark blue picked out in black; trimmed with superfine woollen cloth and silk laces to match; silver-plated mountings. Price £1,345, Tax 20 guineas.

40-50-h.p. 6-cylinder Rolls-Royce enclosed Limousine, body by Barker & Co., with frameless windows and dome roof; painted a rich shade of green, with black mouldings, relieved with fine lines of emerald green; upholstered in drab cloth and laces to match. Price, £1,420. Tax 20 guineas.

40-50-h.p. 6-cylinder Rolls-Royce flush-sided Phaeton of original design, embodying low and racing lines, yet giving ample room inside; body by Sir Wm. Angus Sanderson & Co.; painted "RollsRoyce" green without any relief whatever; it is upholstered in green leather to match the paint work; a Cape hood and glass screens are also fitted; the whole effect of the car suggests luxurious and superb elegance. Price £1,250. Tax 20 guineas.

If any Edwardian enthusiast would like any other quotations from these catalogues, I shall be only too pleased to look them up and give them.

I wish I had the 1904 catalogue. I should very much like to know how many types, and what types, were produced in 1905. Can anyone tell me?
I am, yours, etc.,
W. A. Taylor.

Mr. Watson suggests that the type designation "Silver Ghost" applied only to the 40/50-h.p. car of 1907 and that this car appeared in that year, not in 1906. Although the post-1907 show catalogues do not seem to have instanced the "Silver Ghost," Mr. Watson is incorrect on the former count, because down to 1925 the s.v. 40/50-h.p. car was certainly called by this type-name. Another very interesting letter from Mr. P. L. B. Hills, of London, concerns a 1908 40/50h.p. car:—

Readers of John Bolster's admirable article on the 1911 Rolls-Royce might be interested to see the enclosed photo of an older (1908) model. The chassis number of this particular car was 714 (the original "Silver Ghost" was 701). The original body had no doors to the front seats, and was so heavy that the overdrive top gear could only be used downhill or with a following wind. The body shown dates from 1911, and the original acetylene lights were replaced by electric ones in 1920.

The main external difference from Bolster's car is the fixed wooden spoked wheels, with Stepney rim for spare. The Stepney could be fitted fore or aft; but the front wheels were 880 by 120 mm., while the rear were 895 by 135, and as it was a good tyre that lasted 3,000 miles in those days, a good stock of spares of two different sizes had to be kept.

The overdrive top was 1.98 to 1, 3rd (direct drive) being 2.98. I fear Bolster is somewhat optimistic in putting the maximum speed at 70. An uncle of mine had a 1911 three-speeder, which we reckoned would do an honest 60. The (belt-drive) speedometer on the older car could be pushed up to 65 on the over-drive, given a long straight stretch, plenty of nerve and no traffic (one tended to need both sides of the road as well as the middle). I was always given to understand that this engine peaked at 1,200 r.p.m., which, if the wheel size is the same as Bolster's, would be 61 1/2 m.p.h. on the overdrive.

The petrol tank on this car was under the front seat, with a one-inch diameter filler-cap kept airtight by a rubber washer. The drill, was to pump up air pressure before starting, a mechanical pump then taking over the job while the engine was running. Starting was child's play: from cold, three pulls-up on the handle, then switch on the buzzer, twiddle the hand throttle, and away she went. Once hot, the compression would hold up to three hours, and she started by switch-and-twiddle alone.

The clutch, as Bolster says, was a treat, as long as the pedal was kept fully depressed at night by a chock; otherwise, the lubrication was squeezed out of the leather, and heartbreaking squeaks and jerks followed.

I learnt to drive this car when it was seven years old and I twelve. Gear-changing, once one mastered the centrifugal governor on the throttle, was easy, and the expert did not need the clutch. Maintenance, however, was a little excessive by modern standards, the chassis requiring 63 grease-caps to be filled once a week. It would be interesting to know how many of these old cars are still on the road —

P. L. B. Hills.