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Car of the Month

Strive for Perfection

Rossfeldt: Rolls-Royce and Bentley / From the Dawn of the 20th Century into the new Millennium


Car of the Month - April 2015
Rolls-Royce 20 H.P. "Grey Ghost", 1905, #24263
Roi de Belges by Barker


Rolls-Royce 20 H.P.
1905 Rolls-Royce 20 H.P. 2Grey Ghost2, #24263, Roi de Belges by Barker (some sources state "Tonneau" as body type) with Eric Platford in the driver's seat. Used as car for officials in the Gordon Bennett Race Trials in the Isle of Man. Photo taken May 1905 at entrance to Glen Helen.

Arguably is the most famous designation opted for during Rolls-Royce's history has been "Ghost"? However it was not the legendary 1907 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, #60551, that has been the first Rolls-Royce with the name "Ghost". Fact is that two years prior to "The Silver Ghost" the first Rolls-Royce with 4-cylinder in-line-engine, i.e. Rolls-Royce 'Heavy' 20 H.P., #24263, had been christened "Grey Ghost". It has been the first Rolls-Royce car ever on which a name was bestowed. Hence 2015 marks the 110th Anniversary of the "Ghost".

That particular motor car played a significant role during the infant stage of the new marque. For the first ever public exhibition of Rolls-Royce cars on English soil there were several cars shown on C.S. Rolls' stand at February 1905 Olympia Show in London. In addition the 20 H.P. "Grey Ghost", #24263, was in attendance outside the exhibition hall as a demonstrator. A few months later in 1905 the Rolls-Royce 20 H.P. "Grey Ghost", #24263, was used by Charles. S. Rolls to conduct fuel trials in preparation for the Tourist Trophy Race on the Isle of Man. A photo of the Grey Ghost with C.S. Rolls behind the steering wheel did appear in "The Autocar, 6th May 1905".

As per Rolls-Royce's parlance from that time #24263 was a Rolls-Royce "Heavy" 20 H.P. with 109" wheelbase. Coachwork was by Barker in the form of a Roi de Belges Tourer (paintwork: French Grey, trim: red). After a 'mixed career' as the company's demonstrator and trials car the Rolls-Royce 20 H.P. "Grey Ghost", #24263, towards the end of 1906 was sold to a customer. Before delivery of "Grey Ghost" front and rear windshields were added plus a collapsible tonneau cover with extension that could be fitted to protect the rear seats' occupants in inclement weather.

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Rolls-Royce 20 H.P.
1905 Rolls-Royce 20 H.P. "Grey Ghost", #24263, Roi de Belges by Barker acquired towards the end of 1906 by Capt. the Hon. Guy Ward (here behind the steering wheel) as a present for his fiancče Miss Peacock.

"Grey Ghost" was acquired by Capt. the Hon. Guy Ward as a present to his fiancče Miss Peacock. There is a charming anecdote: The new owner was absolutely inexperienced as regards motorized transport hence the company’s test driver Harry Fleck on delivery in December 1906 taught the Hon. Guy Ward and his fiancče Miss Peacock how to drive the car. Ward was anxious to exercise his new skills – and when descending a hill suffered a mishap. "Grey Ghost" received a substitute for the broken curved exhaust pipe made by a "talented local blacksmith" because the female in this party politely and irresistibly insisted on proceeding with the tour. The young lady then drove impeccably fine with no further incident. Good reason perhaps for further research if "Grey Ghost" might qualify for the honour of having been the first Rolls-Royce ever that was bought to fulfil a woman's desire?

Rolls-Royce Ghost
2013 Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II, #SCA664S02FUX41353 (pre-series model). For a model from the present range Rolls-Royce again has chosen the designation "Ghost". That is now offered in its 2nd series.