1909-1926 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost
The first mechanical change to the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost came in 1909, when an increase in stroke brought displacement to 7.4 liters and the original four-speed transmission was replaced by a three-speed unit. By 1911, when Rolls-Royce prepared a car for the London-Edinburgh run, compression was 3.5:1 and carburetion increases had brought horsepower to 58. The Ghost reverted to a four-speed transmission in 1913, when cantilever rear suspension was adopted.
That was the year when Rolls-Royce was able to claim an honest 80 mph for the light, open-bodied Ghosts built for the Austrian Alpine Trials, where they finished ahead of all other rivals. Incidentally, the beautiful London-Edinburgh tourer survives, and recently changed hands at a Florida auction for $1,3000,000 -- a bargain compared to two other, less distinguished examples which sold for $2,005,000 and $2,600,000.
Limited production continued during the Great War, when many new and some old Ghosts were fitted with armored bodywork for running battles against the Turks in the Middle East, under such commanders as Allenby and Lawrence of Arabia. Others were used as staff cars and ambulances. Inflation saw the chassis price rise to £2,100 ($10,165) after the war, although this now included a chain-driven self-starter and four-wheel brakes with a servo assist. Brake horsepower of the 1919 and later models rose to 70.
In 1920, Rolls-Royce of America, Incorporated, was founded at Springfield, Massachusetts, in a plant purchased from the American Wire Wheel Company. The object was to build cars for the American market while avoiding high import tariffs, and the subsidiary enjoyed good success until the Depression closed it down in 1931. Silver Ghosts were built at Springfield beginning in 1921.
Retaining their English right-hand drive, they offered the 7.4-liter engine rated at 80 bhp. In 1925, Springfield finally switched to left-hand drive, by which time the cars were developing 85 bhp at 2,300 rpm and could do 70-plus mph with the high-speed (3.25:1) rear axle ratio. Two huge wheelbases, of 144 and 150 1/2inches, were available, and bodies were supplied by the cream of American coach builders, chiefly Brewster. Of the 2,944 Springfield Rolls-Royces built over 11 years, 1,703 were Silver Ghosts.
Paul Woudenberg, in his Illustrated Rolls-Royce and Bentley Buyer's Guide (1984), writes that the American Rolls had "no glaring weaknesses and, given regular maintenance and lubrication, has nearly unlimited life. The American Ghost has been given much attention in the Flying Lady, publication of the Rolls-Royce Owners Club, especially in the years after 1952, and owners will find back issues of this magazine (still available) a valuable guide in maintenance and troubleshooting."
He adds that while the domestic version lacked the four-wheel brakes of the later British cars, it did feature valve covers, an important improvement over the exposed valves of the English models. The domestics can be recognized at a glance by their drum headlamps, tubular bumpers, and American componentry such as electrics, as well as left-hand drive after 1925.
Finally, since Brewster built the vast majority of American bodies (and was itself bought by Rolls-Royce of America in 1923), the Springfield cars carry a far more uniform line of bodywork.
The Silver Ghost was superseded in Britain by the Phantom I in 1925, after a long and distinguished career. UK production since 1906 amounted to 6,173 chassis, making 7,876 altogether.
On our final page, you will find the specifications for the 1907-1926 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.