Model history: Around sixty cars of various types were produced when Henry Royce started to work on a new six cylinder car, designed to rival the finest vehicles on offer. The Type 40/50hp would start a tradition of super luxury Rolls Royces that remains to this day. Best known as the Silver Ghost, the car combined this luxury with a very refined six cylinder engine. Production would last for almost three decades, underlining the excellence of its design.
In the first decade of the 20th century engine design was still very primitive, but with the six cylinder engine found 40/50hp Rolls Royce took a major step forward. There were other straight six engines available, but those either suffered from a flexing crankshaft or were very long to accommodate a strengthened crankshaft. Henry Royce designed a press lubricated crankshaft, which was mounted on seven bearings, creating a perfectly balanced six cylinder engine. Today's designs differ only in detail from the crank designed by Royce.
Displacing just over seven litres, the 'six' was installed in a simple ladder frame, but special attention was paid to prevent chassis flex. Bolted on the engine was a huge four speed gearbox, which was equipped with an overdrive. Suspension was by live axles and semi-elliptic leaf springs. Two drums on the rear axle took care of the braking. A completed chassis was first shown at the 1906 London Motorshow in Olympia, where their closest rivals only had four cylinder vehicles on display.
Production started in a new factory, in Derby, early in 1907. One of the first cars produced was equipped with an all silver Barker body and was extensively used to market the 40/50hp by driving it on 2000 mile public trial. This specific car was nicknamed 'The Silver Ghost', a name that was soon adapted for the 40/50hp model. The marketing efforts paid off and the Silver Ghost quickly was a hit among the rich and famous. When the British production finished in 1925 well over 6000 examples were produced. Between 1921 and 1926 Rolls Royce also produced 1703 examples in the United States.
This Silver Ghost with chassis 54PB was completed in April of 1914 for a Belgian customer. The bare chassis was shipped to Brussels and it most likely stayed that way until after the Great War. By 1919 the car was clothed by Carrosserie Schebera in Berlin with a striking Skiff body. It was once described as the most unusual body ever fitted on a car by Schebera. The Shapiro on the coach-builders plate was in reference to a wealthy businessman, by the name Jacob Shapiro, who was managing director of the company founded by Ernst Schebera in 1911.
In 1926 the one-off Skiff appeared in Egypt where it remained until it was repatriated to London in 1956. In 1985 the Silver Ghost joint the vast Barrymore collection. RM Restorations touched up the car in 2004 but it remains in mostly original condition, including most of the bright-work. A year later the car was entered at Pebble Beach in the special Skiff class. Since then it has appeared at various events throughout the United States and is also featured in Phil May's seminal work Twenty Silver Ghosts; The Incomparable Pre-WW I Rolls Royce.
For the first time in many years the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Shapiro-Schebera Skiff will be offered on October 28 in the RM Auctions Automobiles of London sale. Considering its unique body and highly original condition, it is no surprise that it is estimated to sell for £450,000-£600,000.