• Nick Fernandez

1912-1913 Rolls-Royce 40/50HP Silver Ghost “London to Edinburgh” Torpedo Tourer

Sporting, sensationally styled, and as reliable as the proverbial Swiss-watch, it is little wonder that the London-Edinburgh Silver Ghost has been coveted throughout the century since its introduction.


Chassis number 1701, the car that gave the new model its "London-to-Edinburgh" name, was just the second chassis built to a new specification with a massive torque tube to carry the propeller shaft, strengthened rear axle casings and, in the case of the first two cars in the series, inverted semi-elliptic rear springs. The 1701 carried an elegant light tourer body by Holmes of Derby Ltd., carriage builders since the nineteenth century. With engine compression ratio upgraded, a larger carburetor and a skimpy wind-cheating body, 1701 was later to record a spectacular 101mph over the flying half mile at Brooklands with Edward W. Hives (later to become Chairman of Rolls-Royce) at the wheel. Not only could Rolls-Royce satisfy the market that demanded the most comfortable formal cars built in the best traditional coach-building traditions, but here was a sporting car with few, if any equals, from a miniscule and exclusive peer group of manufacturers.


All these much publicized promotional exploits were driven by the similar stunts promoted by arch self-publicist S.F. Edge at the helm of Napier, perhaps Rolls-Royce's most serious rival for the luxury car market. That Rolls-Royce were more effective in their marketing exploits and their engineering-excellence is substantiated by Edge's retirement from Napier in 1912. Shortly after, Napier withdrew from motor car manufacture in 1924. Arguably, the introduction of the new "London-to-Edinburgh" Silver Ghost was one of the final nails in Napier's coffin.



The London to Edinburgh and return run—some 800 miles travelling north mainly via The Great North Road and returning down the west side of the country—had captured the headlines and Rolls-Royce's subsequent order book, with a raft of new more sporting owner-drivers, undoubtedly put pressure on the manufacturing facilities at Derby.


Contemporary Rolls-Royce advertising in 1911 featured Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Chassis no.1701 and its remarkable London to Edinburgh and return journey that year, describing the feat in the following terms:


The car.... was a standard Six-Cylinder Rolls-Royce chassis of 40/50h.p.


The trial... was to demonstrate that the car could travel from London to Edinburgh and back entirely on the top gear, that at the same time it could show an exceptionally economical petrol consumption, and yet attain considerable speed when required.


The result...... the car travelled from London to Edinburgh and back on top gear on a petrol consumption of 24.32 miles per gallon, afterwards without alteration or adjustment attaining a speed of 78.26 miles per hour on the Brooklands track.


Almost as soon as the company's demonstrator "1701" had completed the original "Top Gear" run between the British Capitals, they wisely sought to capitalize on this success; arguably, the model recalibrated the essence of the brand, echoing the early successes in the Tourist Trophy and other events.


Of the more than 6,700 Silver Ghosts delivered in their epic 19 year production run, only 188 of the "London-to-Edinburgh" cars were built. The first production models were delivered to the coachbuilders in the Spring of 1912 and the last, no. 2699, in October 1913. Of course, that is before one accounts for the numerous cars lost to the ravages of two world wars, making survivors, such as this car extremely rare.



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