Amelia Island

9 March 2013

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Lot 118

1926 Rolls-Royce Springfield Silver Ghost Playboy Convertible Coupe by Brewster

  • Chassis no. S400RK
  • Engine no. 28004
  • Body no. B-5781

Sold for $313,500


40/50 hp, 7,428 cc L-head inline six-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, solid front axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs and live rear axle with cantilever leaf springs, and four-wheel servo-assisted mechanical brakes. Wheelbase: 143.5 in.

  • Extensive, recent mechanical rebuild
  • Formerly owned by theater magnate Walter Reade


Rolls-Royce came early to America. In 1906, C.S. Rolls himself brought three cars to race at New York’s Empire City track. An exhibit at the annual auto show followed, where three cars were sold. In 1913, a New York depot was set up with coachbuilders Brewster & Co., who bodied the majority of the imported chassis. In 1919, Rolls acquired a factory in Springfield, Massachusetts, and began to manufacture the Silver Ghost. In addition to Brewster, American Rolls were bodied by many other prestige coachbuilders, a number of them under the hallmark of Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Work. Included in this bevy of eastern craftsmanship were such companies as Biddle & Smart, Willoughby, Merrimac, and Holbrook. In order to have cars ready for customers who wished to buy “off the showroom floor,” a range of standard designs was prepared, to be built by the aforementioned firms. Included were the Pall Mall tourer, the Oxford seven-passenger tourer, the Piccadilly roadster, and the Mayfair and Riviera town cars.



Initially the same as its British counterpart, the Springfield Silver Ghost chassis evolved over the years to adapt to its adopted country. First were component substitutions: American Bosch ignition in place of the Watford magneto, American wheels replacing Dunlops, and eventually all electrical equipment was of local manufacture. By 1924, six-volt electrics had been adopted, and the following year, the chassis was reconfigured for left-hand drive. At the same time, the four-speed, right-hand-shifted gearbox gave way to an American-style three-speed with center change. Subtle changes were also made to the suspension to soften the ride.



Chassis S400RK was delivered March 11, 1926, to a Mr. D. Armstrong, of Greenwich, Connecticut. At that time, it was clothed with a Willoughby-built Mayfair town car body. At some point, it was traded back to Rolls-Royce of America, joining an inventory of “pre-owned” cars that the factory maintained for sale. Many of these were enclosed styles: limousines, town cars, and sedans. When the supplies of these models grew too large, the company would sometimes remove their bodies and substitute sportier coachwork. A good example is the Playboy Convertible Coupe built by Brewster.



Just 28 were built, 15 retro-fitted onto Silver Ghost chassis, S400RK among them, and the remainder to Phantom Is. The Playboy had a jaunty look and a snug cockpit with roll-up side windows. Less lavishly appointed than the well-known Picadilly roadster, however, they lacked some amenities, like a side door to the rumble seat.



Rolls-Royce records show S400RK was sold to Walter Reade, with the Playboy body, by successor company J.S. Inskip on June 9, 1934. At that time, the Mayfair body remained “undisposed of.” Walter Reade Sr. (1884–1952), the “Showman of the Shore,” was a New Jersey theater owner who built up a chain of movie houses in the greater New York area. After his death, the company was taken over by his son, Walter Reade Jr., who expanded the Walter Reade Organization into distribution of foreign-made films. The Walter Reade Theater at New York’s Lincoln Center is named in his memory. In June 1959, S400RK was purchased by Bob Wilhelm, of Flint, Michigan.



Imported into Belgium several decades ago, it resided in a little-known private collection before being purchased by the immediately preceding owner. Within the last few years, substantial mechanical renewal has been undertaken by British marque specialists Taylor’s, of Chichester, West Sussex. This included an engine rebuild involving new cylinder blocks, valves, high-compression pistons, an exhaust manifold, and a reground crankshaft. Invoices totaling in excess of £75,000 for the period of 2007–2012 are on file.



A fine example of the Playboy Convertible, with celebrity provenance, this Springfield Silver Ghost is ready to be enjoyed by a new owner.

Addendum

Please note this title is in transit.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

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Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

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Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

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Cameron Smyth

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Cameron Smyth joined RM Sotheby’s as a Car Specialist in 2015, working out of our corporate office and providing assistance on c... read more

David Swig

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Don Rose

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Ian Kelleher

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Jake Auerbach

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Kurt Forry

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Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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Michael Squire

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Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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Peter Wallman

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Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007 following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, where he was based out ... read more

Shelby Myers

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Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

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Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more