The Silver Ghost established the Rolls-Royce claim of making “the best car in the world,” a reputation that has lasted for over one hundred years. And this 1923 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Mayfair Town Car reminds us of the hand-crafted carriage trade; it was the archetype of personal transportation for the privileged class.
With its enclosed rear compartment designed for the owner and spouse, this all-weather Town Car provided a secluded space to match its riders’ position in business and society. If needed, two auxiliary jump seats folded up against the front wall of the private compartment.
On the other hand, the driver or chauffeur had a removable roof covering and a bench leather seat. A roll-down partition window separated the driver from the passenger compartment, further enhancing the snob appeal of the Town Car. A speaker behind the driver even enabled the passengers to give directions and orders without lowering the partition window.
By showcasing the driver, the mysteriousness of the passengers evoked images of elegance, wealth and extravagance. The Rolls-Royce Town Car was a status symbol that was among the most costly of the era with its many custom features in the rear compartment. Its cloth, overstuffed upholstered seats (very much like comfortable sofas), fine interior silvered hardware including handles and cranks, and special wood trim further enhanced the individuality of the original owner’s whims.
Originally this model’s chassis was simply called a 40/50 and began life at Royce’s Manchester, England works. After 1908, it was produced at the Derby factory, which is still in use for aviation engine production. Then, between 1921 and 1926, it was made in Springfield, Massachusetts in the USA.
The name The Silver Ghost originally christened chassis no. 60551, emphasizing its ghost-like quietness. Other cars were given their own individual appellations, but the phrase Silver Ghost was picked up by an enamored press, turning it into the name of an entire automotive series instead of just one specific car.
This model began with a new side-valve, 6-cylinder, 7,000 cc engine with the cylinders cast in two units of three each and were originally fitted with a 4-speed overdrive transmission. Then, when engine displacement was increased to 7,400 cc in 1909, a 3-speed transmission was used, and then later changed to a 4-speed transmission in 1913. Two spark plugs were fitted to each cylinder, with each set fired by a trembler coil (later an ignition coil and distributor) and magneto.
Continuous development of the engine allowed power output to be increased from 48 brake horsepower to 80 brake horsepower at 2,250 rpm. Electric lights were fitted to the cars, replacing older-technology oil or acetylene lamps, and the substantial chassis had rigid axels and leaf springs on all corners. Early cars only had brakes on the rear wheels, with a transmission brake acting on the drive shaft. Later cars had a dual-brake system on the rear wheels, with front brakes finally appearing on the English cars in 1923 and on American cars soon after.
Production of the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost ceased during World War II but, because of its durability and reliability relative to its peers, the chassis and engine were successfully used in a range of armored cars made famous by Lawrence of Arabia’s exploits in the deserts of the Middle East.
Following the war, the decision was made to start production of an identical car in the United State, and Rolls-Royce of America opened a factory in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Despite continuous improvements made by the Rolls-Royce automotive company, by the early 1920s the performance and quality of some of its competitors started to approach that of the Silver Ghost, and sales began to decline. The car was replaced by the new Phantom (today referred to as the Phantom I) in 1925 in Great Britain and in 1926 in the United States.
In all, a total of 7,874 Silver Ghosts were produced from 1907 to 1926, including 1,701 built in the Springfield plant. Remarkably, it is estimated that nearly 1,500 of them survive today.
Rolls-Royce motorcars are renowned for their engineering, beauty and history of each individual car. Few other marques have such comprehensive and complete ownership records or details about engines, chassis and bodies fitted to them.
And this wonderful Silver Ghost is no exception. It was previously owned by Dr. Morris Franklin, RROC Silver Ghost Head Judge. Before his passing, Dr. Franklin drove his Ghosts enthusiastically throughout the world and had recently driven this car from Georgia back to his home in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Franklin’s passion for this striking Town Car led him to contact the Rolls-Royce Foundation to research its full history. We have several documents, articles and photos available to share with anyone interested, and RRF documents will be given to the new owner.
A few interesting facts:
● It was first owned by Mrs. Rachel Feigenspan Stengel, widow of a famous New Jersey brewer.
● It was built by the coachbuilder Holbrook Company in 1923, body number 768.
● It began as a right-hand drive.
● Chassis 149JH was fitted with engine number 22-218.
● Holbrook vehicles received 20 coats of paint, all done by hand, which took several weeks.
● The name Mayfair was taken from a posh London district of that era, and the classic Mayfair design of the Rolls-Royce Mayfair was an open-drive limousine de ville.
● This vehicle has had only four owners from new and has traveled all over the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia and has won many awards.
This elegant Town Car underwent an engine rebuild by Vintage & Auto Rebuilds of Chardon, Ohio (invoices available). Since that time, it has completed several Silver Ghost tours and one Millennium Tour in Florida.
This elegant Town Car was fitted with new Universal tires in April, 2021. It has also been equipped with an overdrive to bring the RPMs down when its driver desires more speed. The front leather is new, and it has recently been detailed, so it’s ready to show at the next RROC event or to drive at the next Silver Ghost Association tour.
Described as one of the most significant cars ever built, these motorcars still remain on the road today and are used extensively by their owners . . . a testament to their resilient design and stylish appeal.
No doubt, this exceptional 1923 Silver Ghost with its well-documented history and excellent performance, distinctive design and intimate sporting character, will also give its new owner many miles of driving and touring pleasure.