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Car of the Month - February 2020
Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, 1923, #267BG, "Piccadilly"
2-Seater Drophead Coupé by
Rolls-Royce Custom Coachwork


Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost

2020 is the year to celebrate the CENTENARY OF 'ROLLS-ROYCE OF AMERICA'. Research on what date would be correct as regards the start of "Rolls-Royce of America" had started long ago; in the meantime the demise of a few of the experts involved has to be lamented. It is but fair to mention the late John Webb deCampi, author of the book "Rolls-Royce in America" and Robert D. Shaffner, a founding member of "The Phantom III Technical Society". Several others though have been contributing to that discussion, too, (which began during at a time when `correspondence’ meant mailing letters) as regards the correct date to be set for the start of “Rolls-Royce of America’. There were various candidates for such a date, of course, depending on which from the activities by Rolls-Royce on American soil would be considered as THE significant one. However dates for the "official start"  of Rolls-Royce of America's car manufacturing were narrowed down to a choice of two: Either the 18th October 1919  formation of the Delaware Corporation of "Rolls-Royce of America, Inc." - with the purpose inter alia " manufacture and sell automobiles..." Or 1st February 1920 when at the factory at Hendee Street, Springfield, Massachusetts, five employees of Rolls-Royce of America, Inc., started " check and order tools from English prints...". The latter was accepted as the day when "action started" to make ‘Springfield’ Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, i.e. Rolls-Royce motor cars produced in the USA.

Rolly-Royce Silver Ghost

Utmost care was imperative to guarantee a quality-standard identical to that of Rolls-Royce cars from production in England. The carefully selected US-employees did show a spirit of "Let’s beat the British" – and the result of their competence, diligence and work ethic is recognised nowadays by certain collectors as testament of having achieved their goal. It had been no mean effort that in a comment slightly camouflaged Ernest Hives after having been sent from England to the USA had come to the same conclusion; he later became CEO of Rolls-Royce and was elevated to Peerage as Lord Hives.

Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost

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Let us return to the start of production of the Springfield Silver Ghost, a designation coined as per the location of production. – In April 1921 the first Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost made at the factory in Springfield/Massachusetts, USA, was "off test", i.e. finished. It had taken quite some time to equip the factory and train employees to be ready for production complying with the levels set by Rolls-Royce. From then onward an increasing number of Rolls-Royce 40/50 H.P., better known as Silver Ghost, have been produced at the US-plant. As mentioned the standards as regards quality of materials and workmanship were on a par with those that had been fundamental in gaining the enormous reputation of  products made in England. During the infant stages of Springfield-production the US-cars' layout was absolutely identical with those of their British brethren. 

Rolls-Royce of America delivered – the same procedure as in England – a rolling chassis which a customer then ordered to be bodied by a coachbuilder of his/her choice. After a short period though an alternative was offered more favourably suited to conditions of the American automobile market. There customers did expect to acquire a complete motor car which did permit so to speak "to drive out of the dealer’s showroom and participate in traffic". Sensitively Rolls-Royce of America, Inc., almost instantly reacted to their customers' desire: Rolls-Royce Custom Coachworks was installed and that department of the motor car manufacturer arranged for a choice of a range of designs of solid and elegant variants of coachwork. A selection of top-class coachbuilders were commissioned to erect such bodies to the order of Rolls-Royce Custom Coachworks (a small number were built in-house at the Springfield factory, too). 

Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost

From the production of Rolls-Royce of America, Inc., at their US-plant in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, the Silver Ghost, #267BG, became finished with attractive "Piccadilly" coachwork, i.e. in the form as a 2-Seater Drophead Coupé as per drawings and specifications by Rolls-Royce Custom Coachworks. In 1923 the automobile was delivered to a customer from Auburn, New York. Decades later the car did come into the custody of an enthusiast from Switzerland. Ever since this Springfield Silver Ghost, #267BG, did benefit from having been subject of painstaking careful service and maintenance – at a level not different from that 100-year-old US-motto "Let’s beat the British" – hence the car is running "as precise as a Swiss clock".

Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost

Addendum: US-Presidents & The Silver Ghost

Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost
US-president Woodrow Wilson embraced and encouraged new technology. He was president when the Panama Canal opened in 1914 and inaugurated Air Mail service.  Wilson initiated an interstate highway system, did appear in one of the first filmed campaign advertisement, used a microphone for the amplification of his voice, and witnessed the birth of radio. He has been the US-president who established the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which decades later became NASA. Wilson was keen on automobiles and did propose the first National Highway legislation. Upon leaving the White House in 1921, friends purchased his favorite Pierce Arrow from the government for his further private use. On 28th December 1923, his last birthday, from his Princeton friends Wilson received as a present a new Rolls-Royce Springfield Silver Ghost, chassis-number #80JH.

Rolls-Roace Silver Ghost
In 1928 US-Präsident Calvin Coolidge's transport when attending a conference in Havana, Cuby,  has been a motor car from US-production - a 1926 Rolls-Royce 'Springfield' Silver Ghost, chassis-number #S338RK. Bodied by Rolls-Royce Custom Coachworks as an 'Oxford' Tourer that motor car had been acquired by General G.M. Morales, president of Cuba, and was employed as State Motor Car.