London | Lot 168
1926 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Piccadilly Roadster by Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Work
£280,000 - £320,000 GBP | Not Sold
| London, United Kingdom
7 September 2016
- The most sporting open coachwork on the Springfield Silver Ghost
- Delivered to Hollywood screenwriter Oliver H.P. Garrett at Paramount Pictures
- Formerly of the renowned Robert Atwell Rolls-Royce collection
- Well-maintained restoration by the famed Reuter Coach Works
- A wonderful automobile for Silver Ghost Association and RREC rallies
40/50 hp, 7,428 cc L-head inline six-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, solid front axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs and live rear axle with cantilever leaf springs, and four-wheel servo-assisted mechanical brakes. Wheelbase: 3,658 mm
As with the cars built at Derby, the majority of the American Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts produced in Springfield, Massachusetts, carried closed coachwork that was heavy and formal, albeit beautifully constructed and finely detailed. Lightweight sporting bodies for the Silver Ghost were rare indeed, but they did exist, most prominently the Piccadilly Roadster coachwork provided by Massachusetts bodymaker Merrimac under the Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Work label.
One hundred and five examples of the Piccadilly were produced for Springfield Silver Ghosts, followed by another 45 on the successor Phantom I chassis. Not all of these were used on new cars. The dramatic, dashing, athletic lines of the Piccadilly made it a popular choice for Rolls-Royce dealers saddled with used limousines and sedans, which proved difficult to resell; mounting an attractive roadster body was a way to get a low-mileage chassis to a new owner.
The car offered here, chassis S295PL, was originally fitted with a Stratford Convertible Coupe body by Brewster. Its original owner, unfortunately, is not recorded, but it is likely to have been delivered through a West Coast American salesroom, as on 5 May 1929, it was acquired by Hollywood director and producer Joseph von Sternberg. Von Sternberg is best remembered as the mentor and lover of the legendary actress Marlene Dietrich, whom he brought to the United States from Germany and helped to propel to international stardom.
Following its use by Von Sternberg, the car was returned to the Los Angeles dealer, which mounted the current Piccadilly Roadster body in 1932. It was then sold to yet another well-known Hollywood figure of the period, Oliver H.P. Garrett. A highly regarded screenwriter who contributed to Gone with the Wind and penned scripts to such classics as A Farewell to Arms and Manhattan Melodrama, Mr Garrett took delivery at his business address at Paramount Pictures, where the car undoubtedly cut quite a figure on the studio lot!
The car was sold in the late 1960s by Benjamin H. Duggin of Conroe, Texas, to Robert Atwell of Kerrville, the foremost collector of Springfield Rolls-Royces, known for his focus on the most desirable, one-off, and limited-production body styles. According to Mr Atwell’s son, Rich, it was one of two Rolls-Royces acquired from Mr Duggin, the other being the famous Pall Mall Tourer that belonged to Mrs Howard Hughes. The roadster was subsequently restored by New York’s Reuter Coach Works, the foremost American restoration shop of the era, including the signature Reuter Red finish that it still wears today.
In 1979, Mr Atwell donated his award-winning Silver Ghost to the San Antonio Museum of Transportation. It was displayed in the museum until 1994 and was then acquired by an enthusiast in Pennsylvania. More recently, the car was owned by the Belgian collector André Plasch of Brussels, for whom it was extensively improved mechanically by Wildae Restorations of Braunton, receipts for which, totalling nearly £100,000, are on file. Since then it has attended numerous events, being driven to many under its own power; indeed, the consignor notes that he actually drove the car to London from Belgium following his acquisition. The restoration has a wonderful, mellowed patina about it, and with the left-hand-drive and central gearchange of the Springfield model, the interior is surprisingly comfortable for a two-seater automobile, even for taller drivers.
A wonderful American Rolls-Royce, this car boasts decades of known, fascinating ownership history with great enthusiasts and noted Hollywood figures—which, combined with its most sporting body style, makes for an irresistible combination.