Amelia Island | Lot 184
1909 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Roi des Belges "The Silver Fairy" in the style of Barker
$1,000,000 - $1,250,000 USD | Not Sold
| Amelia Island, Florida
9 March 2018
- A very rare 134½-in. “short-wheelbase” Silver Ghost
- Original 7.4-liter engine and factory four-speed overdrive transmission
- Best in Class, 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
- Extensive cosmetic and mechanical restoration by marque expert Steve Littin
- Complete original drivetrain with a painstaking recreation of the original Barker body
- Featured in Jonathan Harley’s The Silver Ghost: A Supernatural Car
- A legendary example, famed in Rolls-Royce circles; perfect for tour and show
The origin of the 40/50 HP model’s “Silver Ghost” moniker was in the nickname of Rolls-Royce managing director Claude Johnson’s personal automobile, which was painted silver with nickel trim. Its popularity led several other wealthy owners to apply similar nicknames to their cars, some of which have become among the most famous examples of the model, including “The Silver Dawn” and the car offered here, “The Silver Fairy,” nicknamed by original owner John Henry Thomas, a botanist and well-known photographer.
Mr. Thomas took delivery of his car on 4 August 1909. “The Silver Fairy” was built on the 134½-inch-wheelbase “short” chassis, resulting in considerably sportier and more dramatic proportions than the standard configuration. Its body, a handsome Roi des Belges, was mounted by the London coachbuilders Barker, in their classic style, albeit with more “close-coupled” lines to suit the shortened chassis.
The car was rebodied for Mr. Thomas in 1911, and remained in his ownership until 1924, when, after over 300,000 miles, it was traded on a new Silver Ghost.
In November 1958, the late Joe Loecy, an early American Rolls-Royce partisan in Cleveland, Ohio, purchased the car and imported it several months later from Major C.G. Cardew, a garage operator in Harrogate. With Mr. Loecy’s considerable talents, he set about restoring it with a duplicate of the original Barker Roi des Belges body. Afterwards, the car was maintained by the Loecy family for over four decades, including winning 1st in Class at the 2002 Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club National Meet, before joining its current owner’s superb collection of Silver Ghosts in 2004.
The owner sent the car to noted marque specialist Steve Littin, now of Vintage & Auto Rebuilds in Chardon, Ohio, one of the foremost Silver Ghost authorities in the U.S., who recalls it as having never been fully taken apart mechanically, and retaining every piece of its original mechanical components. Mr. Littin performed total mechanical and cosmetic freshening, including refinishing the car in its lustrous cream paintwork with grey coachlines, a charcoal grey leather interior, and extensive use of polished wood trim, with a black canvas top and correct polished nickel brightwork. Typical of Mr. Littin’s work, the detailing is exceptional and virtually flawless, with correct period fittings that include Lucas gas lamps with cut glass lenses, a “Cobra” horn, a running board-mounted tool box, and rush mats. The dashboard fascia retains its correct oil pressure gauge, as well as a “Double Elliott” speedometer and trip odometer, while the distinctive steering wheel contains the proper timing and spark control switches. The original and rare Warland dual rim wood spoke wheels were reinstalled and have been fitted with 895 × 135 beaded edge tires.
The car was judged Best in Class at the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, but it is not merely a showpiece. As the owner enjoys driving his Ghosts as their manufacturer intended, the car was fitted with an electric starter and 12-volt electrical system. An air pressure-type fuel delivery system was installed by the factory in 1911 and remains in place today. Completely restored and expertly rebuilt, the original engine lives up to the Silver Ghost’s reputation for being strong, silent, and responsive, able to smoothly accelerate from a “parade crawl” to top speed, largely in high gear. The car is described by Mr. Littin as being “mechanically excellent, as it has been for the last 10 years.”
Simply put, RM Sotheby’s has seldom offered a Silver Ghost of such superb provenance and quality, in so unique and correct a specification, as the Silver Fairy. It is a Rolls-Royce with few equals.