It was originally bought for $1,000 in 1912 (almost $93,000 in today’s money) but has now gone under the hammer for $4,705,500, making it the most expensive Rolls Royce ever sold at auction.
Unique: This 100-year-old Silver Ghost Rolls Royce has sold for a world-record price of $5 million after a furious bidding war at Bonham’s.
Through the roof: The lengthy auction saw two enthusiasts dueling for the pristine car as the bidding went up in increments of 100,000, smashing past the $2 million estimate.
In great nick: The six-cylinder, 7.3-litre car comes with perfect provenance and is still purring smoothly, doing about 15 miles to the gallon. What it lacks in gadgetry, the British-made classic more than compensates for with an extraordinary level of luxury that leaves its modern-day counterparts looking a little unsophisticated. Its gleaming interior fittings are made of silver and ivory, while the door panels are embroidered silk, with brocade tassels attached to silk window shades for privacy.
The passenger footrest hides a full picnic set for four, a China tea service, complete with an alcohol-fuelled burner and a kettle to heat the water, and a set of six decanters – three in sterling silver and three in leather-wrapped glass.
The sale took place at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in West Sussex on Friday. Auctioneers had expected it to sell for around $2 million and were astonished when the bidding between two rival collectors topped $4 million. James Knight, from Bonham’s auctioneers, said: “There were three bidders, then one of them dropped out at $2.3 million and we thought it would end there.”
Traveling in style: The design chosen by its original owner echoed the luxurious ‘ Pullman ‘ Railway carriages pioneered by American George Pullman.
Luxurious: The elegant passenger compartment (left) complete with 29 beveled glass windows and (right) the stylish steering wheel.
“But then another bidder entered and the bidders were dueling. It went up in increments of $50,000, and then $100,000, and then back down to $50,000. It went on and on and on and was the longest car sale I have ever witnessed.” It was pure theatre. Everyone was very respectful but when the price reached a milestone, like $3 million, there was an intake of breath. “The bidders were dueling and when the hammer came down there was spontaneous applause.” It was fitting because the car is celebrating her centenary.
The car was commissioned by Rolls Royce connoisseur John M. Stephens, who also bought the first Silver Ghost the luxury car-maker produced in 1906. The body was built by former royal carriage-maker Barker’s of Mayfair , which had previously built coaches for King George III and Queen Victoria.
Standing the test of time: The 7.3-litre, six-cylinder engine is still purring smoothly and is capable of doing around 15 miles to the gallon.
Mark of history: A plaque bearing the vehicle’s chassis number of 1907.
Touch of class: The original owner employed the services of the best coach-making company, Barker and Co. Ltd, to do the bodywork.
Classic designs: One of the car’s brake lights. The Rolls – Royce still had its headlights, carriage lights, rear lights and inflatable tires when it went up for sale. The car even had an early speedometer – an important addition given that a 20 mph speed limit was introduced in 1912.
Unlike most car enthusiasts of his time, Mr. Stephens, from Croydon, South London, asked the makers not to include a glass division window between the driver and the passengers as he wanted to drive it himself rather than rely on a chauffeur.
The car’s distinctive cream and green design echoed the luxury ˜Pullman Railway carriages of the time, and it was known as a Double Pullman Limousine. But it was nicknamed ˜the Corgi Silver Ghost in the 1960s after the toy-maker based its Silver Ghost toy car on this model.
Mr. Stephens’s car is believed to be the only one of its kind to survive with its full interior and bodywork, as many Rolls Royce from the era were converted into ambulances during the First World War.