1913 Rolls-Royce 40/50-hp Silver Ghost London-to-Edinburgh sport-tourer, chassis 2380. Photos courtesy Bonhams.
The six-cylinder Rolls-Royce 40/50-hp chassis earned its London-to-Edinburgh nickname the hard way: by completing the grueling there-and-back 800-mile run exclusively in top gear. In less than two years of production, roughly 188 London-To-Edinburgh Silver Ghost models were built, including chassis 2380, a 1913 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost London-to-Edinburgh sport-tourer, twice gifted to the Ford Museum (now The Henry Ford) in Detroit, Michigan. On October 2, chassis 2380 sold for a fee-inclusive $1,001,000, topping the Bonhams Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum sale in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
When production of the Rolls-Royce 40/50-hp models began in 1907, the “Silver Ghost” nickname had not yet been coined, and the London-to-Edinburgh trial was still four years off. Still, the model helped to establish the brand’s reputation as one of the world’s finest automobiles, despite the fact that the company provided cars sans coachwork. Proclaiming that its specialty was “engineering excellence,” Rolls-Royce expected buyers of the day to use existing coachbuilders for the bodywork of their choice.
Early 40/50-hp models were powered by a 7.0-liter L-head inline six, though displacement was increased to 7.4-liters in 1910. Following the London-to-Edinburgh run, Rolls-Royce models carrying this nickname were equipped with larger carburetors, a high-compression engine and revised gearing, all designed to emphasize the “sport” in “sport-tourer.” Already known for building comfortable and luxurious cars, Rolls-Royce quickly gained a reputation for performance as well.
Boston lawyer Charles G. Walker was chassis 2380’s first owner, and he specified the car be delivered with a Barker & Company body, a larger “colonial-style” fuel tank, and additional ground clearance to combat the rutted and muddy roads of the day. It isn’t clear how long Walker retained possession of his London-to-Edinburgh Silver Ghost, but the car’s next owner of record was fellow Bostonian Lucius James Knowles, grandson (and namesake) of the inventor of the modern loom.
Knowles’s role as president of New England textile manufacturer Compton & Knowles frequently drew him overseas for business, sometimes for extended periods. On one such trip, in 1920, Knowles contracted influenza and died in London, leaving his socialite wife, Laura McGinley Knowles, to raise their son Lucius. Two years later, Laura married Colonel Pierpont Langley Stackpole.
In 1941, Lucius, now grown, visited Detroit in preparation for his upcoming wedding. During his stay, Lucius arranged a trip to the Ford Museum, and was duly impressed by the facility. Seeking a new home for the family’s beloved but aging Rolls-Royce, Lucius penned a letter to the Ford Motor Company, saying, “I have recently spent some time in the Ford Museum at Dearborn where I was much interested in the exhibits of old Automobiles. I have a Rolls-Royce of the year 1913, which has been in the family for some time and I should be pleased to donate it to the Museum if it should be acceptable. It is a two-seated sport car with a chauffeur’s dickey in the back. Rather than have it thrown away, I thought I would inquire if you would accept it and I should send it out at my expense, if you should like to have it.”
The answer was yes, and for the next 27 years the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost London-to-Edinburgh tourer remained among the museum’s holdings. The late 1960s saw a shift in focus, with an emphasis placed upon American cars, and in 1968, the Rolls-Royce was sold to Dr. Samuel L. Scher for $7,000.
During its time at the Ford Museum, the original Barker body went missing, so Scher substituted a Wilkinson body from his collection before re-gifting the car to the museum. Again, it remained on display until its next owner, Millard Newman, a collector known as “Mr. Silver Ghost,” bartered a 1927 LaSalle for the Rolls-Royce.
Newman returned the car to the road, participating in numerous rallies and tours behind the wheel, before selling it to Phillip A. Peterson in the spring of 1983. Under his stewardship, the car was mechanically restored by Robert Jefferson and Sport Classics of Brookfield, Massachusetts, and Peterson kept detailed notes of the entire process.
In 1989, the Silver Ghost sold to Nic and Birti Moller, who continued to research the car’s history while driving it in events on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1993, the Mollers used the car to compete in the 80th Anniversary of the Great Alpine Rally of 1913, part of a European tour that itself would add over 2,000 miles to chassis 2380.
The Mollers kept the car until 2004, when it sold to the consignor, Dr. Veasey Cullen Jr. He, too, drove the car as much as possible, also showing it at concours events and Rolls-Royce Owners Club meetings across the country. In addition to numerous best-in-class awards, chassis 2380 has twice captured the Scher Trophy for the Best Silver Ghost at the Rolls-Royce Owners Club National Meet, in 1984 and 2016.
1963 Chevrolet Corvette convertible.
Other cars in the top-10 included a 1924 Bentley 3-Liter Speed Model four-seat tourer, which sold for $200,000; a 1913 Stevens-Duryea Model C6 five-passenger touring, which sold for $170,500; a 1910 Regal Underslung Model N roadster, which sold for $165,000; a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 230N roadster, which sold for $149,600; a 1910 Stoddard Dayton 10C Raceabout/4-seat roadster, which sold for $106,700; a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette 327/360hp convertible, which sold for $82,500; a 1952 Alvis TA21 drophead coupe, which sold for $63,800; a 1954 Chevrolet Corvette, which sold for $57,750; a 1927 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Phantom I chassis, which sold for $56,100; and a 1960 Chevrolet Corvette convertible, which sold for $56,100.
For complete results from the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum sale, visit Bonhams.com.