All Right, All Right!!
I AM hastily penning this to try to stem the flood of letters which will have been prompted by she remark in last month’s Editorial that the New Phantom Rolls-Royce was the first new model from the famous Company since the side-valve 41050. I was writing in the context of the big Rolls-Royce chassis but I should of course have interposed that there had been the six-cylinder Rolls-Royce Twenty in 1922. Regular readers of these columns will know that I am very much aware of this smaller between-wars Rolls-Royce, if only from my long review of John Fasal’s excellent book all about it and the subsequent article based on it. On the other hand, there were those who refused to accept this 20 h.p. Rolls-Royce as a product worthy of the Derby manufacturer or of Mr. (later Sir) Henry Royce, in the form in which it first came out. Because of its push-rod overhead-valve coil-ignition engine, three forward speeds, unit construction of engine and gearbox, central gear and brake levers, and semi-elliptic
back springs, the Silver-Ghostorientated dismissed this smaller Rolls as an imitation Buick. It was not until it was given a four-speed gearbox and a right-hand gear lever that it was accepted as a true chip-offthe-old-block and by then the Phantom II had appeared. However, the Rolls-Royce Twenty did cause a great deal of interest, and later controversy, at the time of its introduction. It was W. Miles Thomas (later Baron Thomas of Remenham) who encountered the mystery car in Chichester before it had been officially released to the Press and who persuaded a chemist to lend him a camera and film, with which he took illicit photographs of Goshawk II, this second prototype. These appeared in The Motor of September 14th 1921, as shown on page 68 of Final’s book. Two pictures were used, one showing that the car had semi-elliptic back springing, the other being of the complete car. There is someone shown in the act of cranking up the engine, which I would have thought might have infuriated Henry Royce even more than the leakage of Information (which included the incorrect statement that this was four-cylinder car). I have often wondered whether Thomas had someone with him who posed at the Continued on 1707 front of the car while the snap was taken, or Whether The Motor superimposed the figure of this impudent manna Thomas’s print. In my long exPerience I have evidence that such faking was ..inetiznes resorted to. For example, I know c’f a case in which The Autocue stuck cut-out Pitiores of racing cars on a print of the Brooklands’ banking to illustrate a race report in 1924, another in which The Motor used a of a Bugatti at Montlhery, captioned being at the Nurburgring after its number had been suitably altered, and a picture in Speed
showing two 21/2-litre Maseratis racing side-by-side round the Fork hairpin at Brooklands, achieved by printing-up a second picture of the car and sticking this on the original print before re-photographing it, although I think this was just a little joke on Editor Alan Hess’s part. Coming back to the introduction of the new Rolls-Royce Twenty, the story broke in October 1922, after rumours had been circulating which were similar to those that later preceded the announcement of the Model-A Ford in 1927. Rolls-Royce Ltd. took a full-page advertisement
in The Autocar telling the World that it “was now prepared to accept orders by cablegram, telegram or letter for their new 20 h.p. six-cylinder car, produced to meet the demand for a can of moderate horse power, but of superlative design and manufacture”. In that some issue of October fish 1922, The Autocar published a four-page description of the new small Rolls, with ten illustrations, adopting the very unusual procedure of allowing “F. H. Royce, designer and Chief Engineer to Rolls-Royce Ltd.” to write it.
I apologise to Twenty buffs for not saying this in last month’s leader. — W.B.