110 years ago, the first Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost began a sensational long-distance drive of more than 2,000 miles between London and Glasgow and back. It spectacularly proved the qualities of the new 40/50 hp model presented in 1906 and established the unique reputation of Rolls-Royce vehicles.
In 1906, the London Motor Exhibition showed the new six-cylinder model of the recently founded company Rolls-Royce Ltd. for the first time. The 40/50 hp model was to be the only model which the young company wanted to focus on in the future, and its bosses were searching for a promotional advertising message which would prove the high quality of their still largely unknown product.
Claude Johnson came up with the idea of a long-distance journey which would best demonstrate the quality and reliability of the new model. To do so, he selected a 4/5-seater tourer chassis and had it painted with an aluminium colour which shimmered like silver. Lights and fixtures were coated silver, which gave a totally new, unusual look compared with the brass lamps which were common at the time. In addition to that, he placed a silver platelet on the dashboard with the inscription “Silver Ghost”. The effect of this car was spectacular.
Under the strict supervision of the Royal Automobile Club (RAC), on 3rd May 1907 driver Claude Johnson and three other passengers together with their luggage started in Bexhill near London, with their turnaround point in Glasgow. On 14th May, they returned after 2,000 miles on rather poor country roads, without a single breakdown. The trip was covered using only the third and fourth gears: Third gear was used to handle start-ups and inclines, and the fourth gear was used for everything else. The splendid torque of the six-cylinder was already enough from walking speed. This was a genuine selling point in times of unsynchronised transmissions. Similar to modern endurance tests, the car was taken apart and inspected in the most detailed way when it reached its goal. But nothing more than minor wear and tear to the differential and the piston rings were found. The average consumption of only 11.3 litres per 100 kilometres is still astounding.
Born series winner.
Just one month later, the Silver Ghost won a gold medal at the Scottish Reliability Trial for speed on hills, reliability and fuel consumption. On 1st July it competed in the hunt for the world record for the longest non-stop journey, which was 7,089 miles at the time. Besides damage to the tyres, nothing was allowed to be repaired on the way, and maintenance work and exchange of parts was only allowed during breaks at night. On 8 August 1907, the journey ended after 14,371 miles - the Silver Ghost with the number plate AX 201 had covered the stretch from Glasgow to London an incredible 27 times.