I spent Christmas afternoon browsing through the stupendous Fasal/Goodman work on The Edwardian Rolls-Royce — I have weighed some heavy books in my time but these two volumes must hold the record at just under one stone. The magnificent plates depicting almost every one of the pre-1918 Ghosts (or more correctly R-R 40/50s) and the 1903-07 cars are the epitome of the wealth and dignity of that long-gone age. But not all the illustrations are side views of these great cars which earned for their makers the title of “Best Car in the World”. These cover Royces seen in Russia, China, India, Chile, America, Australia, Argentina. Canada and Spain etc, as well as posed before proud British stately homes, long ahead of the paying public being admitted to same.
But I tended to study the more “active” pictures. The Ghosts with pet names, in trial and test, at a Calcutta wedding, or serving in unusual guises, as railway engine, armoured car, fire-engine, ambulance, hearse, guncrew quarters, Mowlems’ mobile air-compressor and breakdown truck. Fasal has flushed them all out, in astonishingly well-reproduced pictures. Interior shots of the Derby factory and other R-R premises are interesting, even those 40/50s that became charabancs, one with six wheels, get in, and I found fleets of cars, some including other makes, even to an Albion truck and Model-T Ford with the imposing Ghosts.
Celebrities abound naturally; I was fascinated to see Charles Jarrott leading an MCC Exeter Trial in a 1911 Royce, and the Hon Charles Rolls towing his Short-Wright biplane with another of these cars. Students of the coachbuilder’s art will be enthralled, but for me the Show Stands, “Silver Rogue” at Brooklands, and Lord Montague’s “Dragon Fly” at the 10th anniversary of the 1000 Mile Trial, “Silver Phantom” during the Scottish Trials, the twin rear wheels on Tom Sopwith’s 1909 Minerva-bodied coupe and a works lorry, a 1910 Ghost on a 1931 Cairo/Cape expedition and a close-up of the legendary R-R “rolling-road” test-rig, were equally intriguing. Max Miller’s 1952 cutaway drawing of a 40/50 engine is reproduced but it is noted that it is not, as The Autocar thought, that of the original Silver Ghost (AX 201) but of the 900 to 1200 series cars. This enormous research work exudes elegance, except for the war years, when R-R 40/50s are seen serving King and Country. Stupendous! I wish it well.