1915 Rolls-Royce 40/50 Silver Ghost Limousine by H.A. Hamshaw

€520.000 - €700.000

Villa d'Este

Chassis No.
Engine No.
50 bhp, 7,428 cc in-line L-head six-cylinder engine, four-speed manual gearbox with direct drive fourth gear, worm and nut steering, foot-operated brakes with rear drums, live axle front suspension with semi-elliptical leaf springs, live axle rear suspension with cantilever leaf springs. Wheelbase: 3,500 mm (138")

- Offered from the Estate of John M. O’Quinn

- One of about five Rolls-Royces bodied by H.A. Hamshaw, Ltd.

- Ex-du Pont family, A. Atwater Kent, Jr.; later part of Richard Solove collection

- Original configuration – chassis, running gear and coachwork

H.A. Hamshaw, Ltd. and the Silver Ghost

H.A. Hamshaw of Leicester in the UK had its origins in the mid-19th Century when the firm of Parr & Hamshaw was first established. In about 1880, Harry Hamshaw bought out his partner and went on to create a business of building prestigious carriages. During the early 1900s, the firm began both selling and bodying cars, exhibiting their work at the Olympia shows from 1919 to 1928. Hamshaw primarily exhibited cars for which it held agencies – Wolseley, Vauxhall, Humber and Sunbeam. Most interesting are the five or so Rolls-Royces, including this car, that the firm is known to have bodied.

Late in 1906, the 40/50-hp model was introduced at the London Motor Show on the stand of C.S. Rolls and Company. The new model was destined to achieve a status few automobiles would ever equal in the history of motor vehicles. The Silver Ghost, as it later became known, swiftly established Rolls-Royce as the ultimate in luxury motoring–so much so that the company rightfully touted every vehicle as “The Best Car in the World.” Silver Ghost production continued for 18 years, totalling nearly 8,000 cars with 6,173 built in England plus 1,703 Springfield models. This included the staff cars and armour-plated combat versions which saw service during WWI.

Chassis 2BD

Due to the war effort, the supply of Rolls-Royces available to the public became limited; such was the case in both the UK and US factories. During the summer of 1914, Rolls-Royce became entrenched in the production of aircraft engines, and the building of automobiles for civilian purchase came to a virtual standstill.

Documented in John Fasal’s definitive book The Edwardian Rolls-Royce, chassis 2BD’s first owner was one Captain H. Whitworth of Beverley, Yorkshire, UK. His Silver Ghost had been delivered to Hamshaw in 1915 for its coachwork, following testing at Rolls-Royce. The next owner of record was the du Pont family, via Rolls-Royce distributor Robert W. Schuette. The early history that has long been associated with this car entails Mr. Alfred I. du Pont, whose second wife Alicia wanted a new Rolls-Royce limousine, and it was King George V who ensured they received the car as a courtesy. Mr. du Pont, who was in control of the family business, supplied large quantities of gunpowder to the British military. The King, well aware of the du Pont family support, saw to it that the suitable car was made available to them, an appropriate show of gratitude to the family, who received their Silver Ghost at their family estate in Wilmington, Delaware. At the time, the du Ponts were among America’s wealthiest families. Alfred was a graduate of Phillips-Andover and the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining the family business as a director and, later in life, losing and re-building a personal fortune and investing in Florida real estate.

Du Pont passed away in 1935, 15 years after Alicia. 2BD remained in the general Delaware area as the next owner of record was A. Atwater Kent, Jr., a prominent Philadelphian whose father founded the famed manufacturing company heavily involved in radios and electronics. Subsequent owners included noted Rolls-Royce collector James C. Leake of Oklahoma in 1983.

The car then spent time abroad, back in the UK in the collections of Sam Macdonald-Hall of Essex and Terry Cohn of Churt, Surrey. It returned to the United States in 1993 to become part of the noted Richard Solove Collection in New Albany, Ohio. Prior to its return to the United States, Solove had the vehicle meticulously and sympathetically restored by David Hemmings while still in England. More recently, the car has been part of the large private collection of Houston attorney John O’Quinn.

2BD is nothing short of opulent. It is replete with the finest workmanship typical of expert carriage builders of the era. Fittings are brass rather than nickel, and the dark olive (almost black) exterior is beautifully detailed with gold pinstriping. Six painted wire wheels with brass hubs and a handsome wicker trunk are provided. Inside are carved ivory door handles, bevelled glass windows, cut crystal lamps, an inlaid wood folding table, two jump seats and door pockets. Communications to the chauffeur are via a tubular intercom. The chauffeur’s compartment is upholstered in button-tufted black leather, while the passenger compartment is lavish in beige cloth with embroidered silk window pulls and trim-work, including rear compartment shades and sliding divider. Perhaps most notable is the elegant, pleated cloth rosette headliner that billows cloudlike overhead. C.A.V. lighting, triple Elliot speedometer and a set of leather-wrapped flasks in the right rear armrest add to the exquisite details of this magnificent machine.

This is, without question, one of the most outstanding examples of an early Rolls-Royce extant today. The car is believed to remain in its original configuration as built new, including its chassis, running gear and coachwork. The stunning yet rare body by Hamshaw shows that the firm was as capable of building luxurious, formal bodies as its more prolific competition. An opportunity to acquire a vehicle of this stature and provenance is rare indeed and is, possibly, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

As part of a large private collection, this car has seen limited exercise. RM strongly advises the successful bidder carry out a thorough service before driving the car on the open road.


Please note that this car is eligible for import into the UK at 5% VAT.

Lot Number

Suggested lots in Villa d'Este 2011


6 December 2017

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Sotheby's 10th Floor Galleries, New York, New York

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18 - 19 January 2018


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