1914 Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP Silver Ghost Landaulette by Barker
Sold For $577,500Inclusive of applicable buyer's fee.
- An extremely rare “parallel bonnet” Silver Ghost with its original chassis, engine, and coachwork
- Formerly of the Henry Ford, Moser, and Solove collections
- Documented in John Faisal’s The Edwardian Rolls-Royce
- Fully restored by award-winning Silver Ghost expert Steve Littin
- One of the finest surviving Silver Ghosts
40/50 hp, 7,428 cc L-head inline six-cylinder engine with cylinders cast in two blocks, three-speed manual transmission, live front axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs, live rear axle with cantilever leaf springs, and rear-wheel mechanical brakes. Wheelbase: 143.5 in.
According to copies of its build sheets, which are on file, Silver Ghost chassis number 25EB was recorded as being “on test” on January 28, 1914, and was then delivered to Barker of London to be fitted with its open-drive limousine coachwork. The design of this body was in many ways typical of formal cars of the period, with a high roofline featuring large windows around the rear compartment, clearing the way for the towering ladies’ millinery and men’s top hats favored at the time, as well as a sliding division window twixt the enclosed passengers and the chauffeur in the open. Barker gave the design its own flair, however, with a carriage-style curved molding running through the front doors, which themselves are curved up into the cowl. These touches lighten the appearance of the car and give it a distinctive grace.
FROM NEW YORK TO DEARBORN
The completed Silver Ghost was delivered to its original British owner, D.E. Cameron Rose, on May 28, 1914, and registered as LL 4138. It remained in the U.K. not long, however, as it was subsequently acquired and imported to New York by Robert W. Schuette, the U.S. Rolls-Royce distributor at the time and, conveniently, also the American agent for Barker. Schuette subsequently sold the Rolls to Helen Brice, of 3 East 80th Street in New York City.
An East 80th Street neighbor to Carnegies and their ilk, Helen Brice was the fortunate daughter of Calvin S. Brice, who had built dual fortunes in the ultimate industries of his era, railroads and banking, and then profitably sold out to “Commodore” Vanderbilt. The vast sums collected from this venture afforded the Brices a lifestyle among the finest East Coast families of the era, including ownership of the historic Gilded Age Beaulieu House as a “summer cottage” in Newport. Miss Brice herself was painted by John Singer Sargent in 1907.
Miss Brice used her Silver Ghost on a regular basis until early 1934, at which point she and her chauffeur, Francis Cox, came to the conclusion that it was advisable to trade it in for a more modern automobile. A slightly used 1932 Lincoln was seen as a suitable replacement, and the Rolls was traded in at the dealer at 1710 Broadway. Mr. Cox was apparently sentimental about the car, however, and in a moment of rare foresight wrote a letter to “Mr. Henry Ford, Dearborn, Michigan,” suggesting that the Silver Ghost, as an elegant example of original coachwork on a great chassis, would be appropriate for Ford’s new museum. Apparently Mr. Ford agreed. Shortly thereafter, Cox received a letter back from Ford’s representative, Frank Campsall, notifying him that “we have arranged to have this car forwarded to Dearborn for our museum.” Photographs on file show the car prior to its shipment from New Jersey to Michigan, still wearing its 1934 New York registration plates, to join one of America’s great early collections.
The Silver Ghost was put on display at what was then known as the Edison Institute, later to become today’s The Henry Ford, and remained on display there until 1971. At that point, it was deaccessioned and sold to Bernard Paul Moser, a well-known collector and enthusiast from Solvang, California. In keeping with its history of long-term ownerships, it remained with Mr. Moser until his passing in May 1992. When sold the following year to Chris Lambert, it was noted to have the original leather front seat upholstery and much of the original broadcloth rear compartment trim, and the body was finished in the original green and black varnish.
The car next passed to DeNean Stafford III and then to British enthusiast Jonathan Proctor, in whose ownership the body was refinished in Burgundy. It then returned to the U.S. and was sold to the late Richard Solove, who commissioned Steve Littin’s renowned Vintage and Auto Rebuilds, of Chardon, Ohio, to restore the car between 2004 and 2005. It was the first—and remains, thus far, the only—comprehensive restoration that the Silver Ghost ever had.
The car’s structural woodwork was reportedly found to be sound, with only a piece of wood requiring replacement. The top had been modified without the landaulette rear quarters by a previous owner, which was easily reversed by Mr. Littin, with proper catches and hinges acquired from early Rolls-Royce expert John Faisal. According to Mr. Littin, the only major restorative work actually required was the car’s refinish in its present cream color and new, correct rear seat upholstery. Only very light engine work was required, essentially detailing and refinishing, and the wood-spoke wheels, as well as the inner inlaid wood panels, remain the originals to the car as delivered in 1914.
The result, with CAV electric lighting, a “double Elliott” speedometer, dual side-mounted spares, and a rear luggage rack, is every bit the opulent carriage that it was when new, and it remains highly impressive in its every detail. The car is documented in John Faisal’s The Edwardian Rolls-Royce and is depicted on display at The Henry Ford in John Webb de Campi’s Rolls-Royce in America (p. 21). In addition, it is offered with a detailed file that includes the aforementioned build card copies, documentation from The Henry Ford, and receipts for gentle professional mechanical servicing and sorting from its present ownership.
Few Silver Ghosts remain with their original coachwork on the original chassis. Fewer still have been so looked after, since very early in their lives, as to survive with so many of their factory original components intact that only sympathetic restoration is required. Helen Brice’s car is one of those, a wonderfully “pure” Silver Ghost that we are inestimably proud to offer today, allowing a new owner to join the ranks of men such as Richard Solove, DeNean Stafford, Bernard Paul Moser, and Henry Ford himself!