The new model was equipped with a six-cylinder engine, cast in two units of three cylinders each, with side valves and a capacity of 7428 cc. Fed by a single carburettor, it produced 48 brake horsepower at 1,500 rpm. The seven-bearing crankshaft had full pressure lubrication, and the centre main bearing was made especially large to remove engine vibration. Another feature was the use of two spark plugs per cylinder. The rear drive transmission operated through an open propeller shaft and a three-speed manual gearbox, The suspension used a forged rigid axle, with semi-elliptic leaf springs in the front, and three-quarter elliptic leaf springs in the back connected to a transversal elliptic spring, and friction shock absorbers. The steering was worm and nut, and to bring this two-ton model to a halt there was a foot-actuated transmission-mounted service brake with hand-operated two-wheel drum brakes.
Rightly considered, in its time, the “best car in the world”, the Silver Ghost remained in production between 1907 and 1925, with minor mechanical changes, reaching the number of 6173 chassis made in England. In 1921, Rolls-Royce opened a manufacturing line in the United States, which lasted until 1926, where a further 1703 chassis were produced – these became known as the Springfield – Silver Ghost.
The name Silver Ghost came about as the nickname for a demonstration car, commissioned in 1907 by Claude Johnson, Rolls-Royce’s Commercial and Marketing Director. Intended to advertise the British brand, the original model had bodywork by Barker in the “Roi-des-Belges” style and was painted in shades of aluminium. The “Silver Ghost” suggested not only quiet running but also smooth rolling. During the First World War, Rolls-Royce stopped development of the model, supplying only the mechanicals for military use. When it resumed normal civilian life, the model was somewhat outdated, hence the decline in sales. The Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost was replaced by the New Phantom, or Phantom I.
This Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, chassis number 1707, in the Museu do Caramulo collection, was the first to be imported to Portugal by the brand’s dealer in Lisbon, José Rugeroni, who sold it to an Englishman, Frank Pidwell, who lived in Santiago do Cacém. He registered it on 17th November 1911, with registration number S-323. At the time, luxury models were sold as rolling chassis, with the bodywork being chosen and paid for by customers who preferred the distinctive customisation process. It is unknown where and by whom this Rolls-Royce was built, in the elegant form of the Open Touring Phaeton, with an original wavy windscreen and receiving large and powerful nickel-plated headlights, with built-in acetylene generator. Christened the Spirit of Ecstasy, Rolls-Royce’s renowned radiator figure only began to equip all factory models in mid-1911, shortly after this particular example was built. The Silver Ghost was an uncreative but exceptionally well designed and tested car.
In August 1962, João de Lacerda discovered it in Santiago do Cacém. He bought it and, in Lisbon, at Harry Rugeroni’s garage – son of José Rugeroni – he restored it to its former glory. Being one of the most important models in the Museu do Caramulo’s collection, this charismatic Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost still has artillery-type wheels, not removable and, therefore, the beaded-edge tyres have to be mounted in place, which is particularly difficult given its rigidity. To overcome this difficulty, the car came equipped with a Stepney Wheel – the spare wheel invented by Walter and Tom Davies in 1904 for the Stepney Iron Mongers company – which made it possible, in the event of a puncture, to attach a rim with a spare tyre to the punctured wheel, thus being able to drive a few kilometres to the next garage.
On 28 November 1962, the model was classified by the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain, with the number 988, being considered the oldest Rolls-Royce in operation in Continental Europe.