20-21 January 2011


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Lot 146

1921 Rolls-Royce 40/50HP Silver Ghost Phaeton by Barker

Sold for $379,500

40/50 hp (taxable), 7,248 cc side-valve six-cylinder engine cast in pairs, three-speed manual gearbox, front semi-elliptic leaf springs, live rear axle with platform cantilever rear suspension, and rear-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 142.5"

- From the Estate of John M. O’Quinn
- An original higher-performance “Alpine Eagle”-specification chassis
- Displayed at Calcutta in 1921 and featured in period in The Autocar
- First owned by H.H. the Maharajah of Charkhari
- Re-bodied by Barker & Co. with polished alloy Torpedo Phaeton coachwork in 1926
- Restoration completed in 1995; a multiple concours winner

In the context of its day, a Silver Ghost was a truly awe-inspiring sight. Today, it remains the most influential automobile from the earliest days of motoring. At a time when many had not seen – let alone owned – an automobile, here was a truly majestic creation.

Frederick Henry Royce was an incomparable engineer; the Silver Ghost offered the power and refinement of a six from the very beginning. More than that, its abundant torque and virtually silent operation astounded anyone fortunate enough to drive one.

If the performance of the Silver Ghost was startling, it was the legendary quality of the Rolls-Royce that made its owners happy and kept them coming back. The history of the automobile is littered with good products that failed in the market, and it was here that the Honorable Charles Stewart Rolls made his contribution. A consummate marketer, he was also an automotive enthusiast, racecar driver and an aviator. Rolls understood the publicity that would follow from success in competition, and he set about promoting the new Silver Ghost in the world's most important automobile events.

The Tourist Trophy Race was one of the most prestigious events of the era and was won by Rolls and Royce in commanding fashion in 1906, when the pair beat their nearest competition by 27 minutes. This was followed by the famous 15,000-mile reliability run of 1907, where the original Silver Ghost finished the event and required only minor work to restore it to as-new specification. There was also the grueling Austrian Alpine Trials where the Silver Ghosts dominated their competition and plowed over Alpine passes that had proven impassable by lesser cars.

At the same time, Rolls demonstrated an early grasp of the concept of product placement. The company supplied cars to the British royal family and, in so doing, cemented the image of the marque among England’s high society. Even today, a Silver Ghost is remarkably refined, often outperforming cars a dozen or more years newer.

An original “Alpine Eagle”-specification chassis, 50UG was fitted with the higher compression engine, higher speed gearing and “D” rake steering and levers. The car was off test on September 3, 1921 and immediately sent to Hooper & Co. where a Touring Phaeton body was fitted. It was a striking car, finished in ivory with a black chassis, under-fenders and wheels, as well as apple green leather.

According to noted Silver Ghost expert and author John Fasal, 50UG was built for Rolls-Royce of Bombay and shipped on board the S.S. “Nankin” together with a Barker Cabriolet (126 AG) on November 4th, 1921 for the Calcutta Motor Show held on December 19th, 1921. Both cars were featured in the December 17 issue of The Autocar.

At the Motor Show, 50UG was acquired by H.H. the Maharajah of Charkhari. According to Fasal, the Maharajah presided over the state of Bundelkhand in Central India, succeeded to the throne in 1920 and “was entitled to an 11-gun salute.”

On March 31, 1926, factory records indicate that His Highness returned the car to the factory, where the car’s stunning polished alloy Torpedo Phaeton coachwork was constructed by Barker and installed. The original build sheets for this body clearly state that the body finish is to be “polished aluminium [sic] throughout.” Additional notes specify a number of other special features:

- Footboards in aluminum
- Folding armrest to front seat
- Folding armrest to rear seat
- Auster rear screen (windshield)
- Hood irons nickel-plated
- Nickel-plated luggage grid and guard rail
- Carpet to front floor
- Dashboard finish nickel
- Polished aluminum mudguards between chassis and platform steps

Other original equipment includes matching Lucas “King of the Road” headlights and fender lights, dual side-mounted spares with accessory Rolls-Royce rear view mirrors, aluminum tool box and running board compartments and a Boa horn in addition to the electric Klaxon horn mounted within the engine compartment.

The car was discovered years ago, still in India and still wearing its period Barker polished alloy coachwork, showing approximately 10,000 miles on its odometer. The provenance of the car is truly remarkable, with the original build sheets confirming virtually every detail of the car.

The prior owner acquired 50UG in 1990 and immediately commissioned D&D Restorations to undertake a complete restoration. The quality of the car was such that, during the restoration, no panel replacement was required. As a result, it required nothing more than a thorough polishing to restore it to its former luster. After completion of the restoration in 1995, the car was triumphantly shown at a number of events, where it never failed to win. Awards included:

- Class Winner, 1995 RROC National Meet (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
- Best in Class, 1995 Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance
- Best in Class, 1999 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance
- Class Winner, 2000 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
- Best in Class, Barrymore Award, Most Silent Ghost, 2003 RROC National Meet (Newport, Rhode Island)

Prior to its last sale in early 2007, a road test and mechanical evaluation was completed, with the vendor demonstrating a cold start, while standing outside the car. The engine fired immediately and settled into a smooth idle. Once warmed up, the car ran well, with exceptionally smooth clutch action and an excellent gearbox. The steering, while heavy at rest, was quite light and maneuverable once underway. Under the prior owner, a regular maintenance program by noted Silver Ghost restorer Steve Littin had ensured that the car remained in peak operating condition. In early 2007, the late John M. O’Quinn acquired the Silver Ghost, and it joined his very large and diverse private automobile collection, where it has benefited from proper storage and limited use.

Undoubtedly, the offering of 50UG represents an unparalleled opportunity to acquire a Silver Ghost with impeccable provenance and a fascinating history. Not only was it built for and sold at the Calcutta Motor Show, its original owner sent 50UG back to England to be fitted with one of the most extravagant bodies of the era. Even today, it is not difficult to imagine the sensation – whether in London or in India – that this stunning Silver Ghost would have created.

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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California, United States

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

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

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

Barney Ruprecht

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Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

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California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

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California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

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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California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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United Kingdom

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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Ontario, Canada

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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United Kingdom

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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United Kingdom

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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Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

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California, United States

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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United Kingdom

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