Cars of 1998
The Earl of Rocksavage and his wife Sybil have been motor car aficionados. Over the years they bought eight Bugatti motor cars – the first of these had been acquired in 1918 during the final months of the Kaiser-War as a pre-owned motor car. Previous owner had been F. Henry Royce from 1916 onward who opted on the small-sized 4-cylinder car because during the period of hostilities authorities had reduced his petrol allowance to merely one gallon per week (see details in "Car of the Month September 2022").
The car he had taken from Royce certainly must have made a real impact on his Lordship – it was in perfect condition because it had been dismantled repeatedly and put together again with certain improvements by the chief-engineer of Rolls-Royce and his team. It is known the Earl of Rocksavage ordered a brand-new Bugatti Type 22 immediately after World War I. He became supplied with chassis-number #777, reportedly the first car from this model-series with 4 valves per cylinder delivered in the UK. It cannot be denied though with a wheelbase of but 2,550 mm the 2-Seater’s tiny dimensions forced to accept compromise as regards passengers’ comfort and accommodation for luggage was almost nil.
However, the subject of coin was nothing the Earl of Rocksavage had to consider seriously. He had a keen interest in both ends of the spectrum so to speak. Repeatedly he had bought Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost motor cars and during the same year he acquired his new Bugatti Type 22 he did order a new Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. He specified a high speed Alpine Eagle chassis with high geared rear axle and high compression engine. The factory records of that car from 1919 with chassis-number #12LW reveal the customer insisted on special attention to quick acceleration and wanted particularly stiff springs for fast driving on the Continent. The 4/5-Seater Open Touring Body fitted by Barker, relatively heavy, didn’t comply exactly with what Lord Rocksavage and his wife had wished for. Hence during the early 1920s the coachwork was substituted by 2-Seater Skiff by Offord & Sons. The Skiff adopted design features from boat-building and in its new form #12LW did rank among the sportiest Silver Ghost that ever have been made. A photo from a February 1922 issue from the ‘Autocar’ showed Lord Rocksavage’s Silver Ghost at the garage of ‘Le Canadel’ in the south of France. ‘Le Canadel’ was the home of F. Henry Royce during winter-time; a construction-bureau was attached in a separate building. It is a fair guess Lord Rocksavage and F. Henry Royce knew each other well, a friendly relationship can be assumed.
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At some point during following decades the Skiff body was taken off and instead a strict 2-Seater was mounted. Reportedly that came from a 1908 Franklin (a US-produced sports car). By combining the 1919 chassis of #12LW with that 1908 coachwork an attractive result was achieved. What is more important – this still remained a powerful sports car with impressive acceleration. Any ‘cognoscenti’ will agree the Bugatti experience of Lord Rocksavage had influence on his next Rolls-Royce to become distinctly sporting.
Acknowledgement: Steve Hubbard (UK). Fellow-author Steve Hubbard has compiled what is THE STANDARD REFERENCE BOOK on post-war R-R Silver Ghost. More than 5,000 cars from this model series were produced after World War I and the 3-volume tome “The Vintage Silver Ghost” provides incredible detail on 1,536 pages with some 800 photographs. Not inexpensive at ca. 500 GBP; available from the author; any order submitted to email@example.com will be forwarded appropriately.
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