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Coachwork by Kellner
First in Class and Best of Show Nominee at the 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance®M.M. Castanheira, Lima & Rugeroni Ltd., Lisbon, Portugal (acquired new in 1914)Private Collector, England (acquired circa 2000)Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2009)
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, 2015 (First in Class, Most ElegantOpen Car, Revs Program at Stanford Award, Best of Show Nominee)Concours d’Elegance of America, 2017 (First in Class, Chairman’s Trophy)Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club Annual Rally & Concours d’Elegance, 2018 (Francis Eden-Little Trophy for Best Silver Ghost)Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, 2019 (Most Elegant Rolls-Royce)
Introduced at the Olympia Motor Show in 1906, the Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP model singularly forged the firm’s reputation as “The Best Car in the World,” validated by a lengthy production run through 1926 with 6,173 examples built at its Derby factory. More commonly known as the Silver Ghost, it was revered for its reliability, silent operation, and driving ease, characteristics that have endured for more than 100 years. Most sought after are the prewar Silver Ghost models, particularly those very few examples carrying original open coachwork. The example offered here features Kellner’s signature torpédo design fitted to the highly desirable Colonial London-to- Edinburgh chassis, delivering a driving experience commensurate with its dashing coachwork.
The early history of chassis 67RB is well documented, equipped with engine no. 102Y. As a Colonial London-to-Edinburgh chassis set up for touring, it benefited from mechanical upgrades including the large, high-performance carburetor and 22" radiator, the high-compression engine, stronger springs, and C-type steering. By 1914, the Silver Ghost chassis refinements included a desirable four-speed gearbox and use of double rear brakes, mated to this example’s longer 143.5" wheelbase chassis. Factory build records on file report an on-test date of April 1, 1914, and dispatch date of May 4, 1914, to Kellner Frères of Paris for coachwork, before ultimately destined for its original owner in Lisbon, Portugal.
The Parisian coachbuilding firm founded by Georges Kellner was established in the 19th century as a manufacturer of carriages, and Kellner’s son Georges Jr. facilitated its transition to motorcars. With assistance by designer J. Frank de Causse, Kellner is often credited as the creator of the torpédo body style. In John Fasal, Bryan Goodman, and Tom Clarke’s The Edwardian Rolls-Royce, Kellner designs fitted to 1914 Silver Ghost chassis totaled 26 examples, of which 10 were open body styles, including the one presented here with torpédo coachwork (body no. 4472).
Delivery of 67RB was to M.M. Castanheira, Lima & Rugeroni Ltd. of Lisbon, Portugal, who simultaneously purchased a second 40/50 HP model, chassis 26RB, which was sent to Brussels, Belgium, for coachwork by Van den Plas. Following WWI, the firm was renamed Rugeroni & Rugeroni Ltd., serving as the Rolls-Royce agents in Lisbon. In 1920, Rugeroni & Rugeroni Ltd. acquired a third Silver Ghost, chassis 49 TW, fitted with Park Ward coachwork. This later Ghost, 49 TW, was crashed in 1931 and sent to Paris for extensive repairs and modifications, including fitting 49 TW with a prewar-sized radiator and a lower steering column. These modifications allowed the Kellner torpédo body from 67RB to be fitted for some years on chassis 49 TW. Subsequently, 67RB was fitted with a rather crude shooting-brake design. The three Rugeroni Silver Ghosts remained in Portugal until the early 2000s, with 67RB making its way to England shortly thereafter.
Chassis 67RB’s current owner, familiar with this car’s history, acquired its chassis in 2009, hoping to someday locate its original Kellner coachwork. In 2011, Silver Ghost expert Steve Littin of Vintage & Auto Rebuilds Inc. of Chardon, Ohio, was consulted on the restoration of 49 TW in the Netherlands. Following extensive research covering the history, ownership, and whereabouts of each Kellner-bodied Silver Ghost, it was determined that the Kellner coachwork now found on 49 TW was the original coachwork for the sister car of the other Rugeroni Silver Ghost, chassis 67RB.
The consignor, a long-term and passionate collector of prewar Silver Ghosts, was able to acquire the original Kellner body in 2012, and delivered his chassis to the Netherlands where, after 80 years, body no. 4472 and chassis 67RB were reunited. Placement of the original body on the 67RB chassis was completed in just four hours, requiring no modifications, with all holes, fittings, and contact points aligning perfectly.
Now configured in its original form, a painstaking, cost-no-object restoration was performed by Steve Littin over a three-year period. Upon completion, 67RB made its stunning debut at the 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance® where it deservedly was recognized with numerous accolades. It placed first in its class and was also the recipient of two noteworthy special awards: Most Elegant Open Car and the Revs Program at Stanford Award, presented to the most historically significant automobile on the show field. Even more significantly, 67RB was a Best of Show nominee that year.
Finished in a lustrous black, the gleaming paintwork adorns its flowing exterior panels, complemented with matching leather and canvas top, and black-painted Dunlop wire wheels. The overall presentation makes for a decidedly sleek appearance. Accentuating the striking torpédo coachwork are exterior details including the correct French Bleriot lights with full electric systems, and twin horns, one of which is a six-tube Le Testophone. Additionally, the Silver Ghost features an exceedingly rare Quadruple Elliott speedometer, tachometer and altimeter, dual side-mounted spares, and running board-mounted tool chest, complete with all original tools and driving accessories, restored to as-new condition.
Fittingly, the interior of 67RB is equally exquisite, designed to accommodate two passengers in both its front and rear compartments. The driver and front passenger seats are presented with a full complement of gauges monitoring all mechanical systems. Its rear occupants are ensconced in an intimate compartment surrounded by exquisite cabinetry filled with extensive vanities, travel accessories, and drinking accoutrements. The rear compartment bulkhead matches additional wood cabinetry on the inside of each rear door, and the entire passenger compartment is capped by a matching wood frame which surrounds the interior, a pleasing contrast to the black paintwork.
Chassis 67RB enjoyed subsequent recognition around the world, including a class win and the Chairman’s Trophy at the Concours d’Elegance of America in 2017, the Francis Eden-Little Trophy for Best Silver Ghost at the 2018 Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club’s Rally & Concours d’Elegance, and the Most Elegant Rolls-Royce Trophy at the 2019 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. Aside from its many concours wins validating its pedigree and the authenticity of its restoration, 67RB was certified by FIVA in 2019. Mindful of its touring prowess as a London-to-Edinburgh chassis, discreet enhancements were incorporated including a self-starter, turn signals, and brake lights. Chassis 67RB comes complete with extensive tools, vanities, build sheets, and documentation of its fascinating history.
Rolls-Royce production temporarily ceased after 1915, resuming in 1919, and those cars built immediately prior to the war are the most desirable and sporting. Currently, the Silver Ghost Association lists just 26 examples of 1914 Silver Ghosts in its roster, with precious few of those retaining their original coachwork. As the model that firmly established the Rolls-Royce reputation for excellence, an early 40/50 HP is a must for any serious collector, and this offering is a rare example combining the best elements of the Silver Ghost experience: the London-to-Edinburgh chassis, exotic and original torpédo coachwork by Kellner, and an award-winning restoration. Its next owner can look forward to enjoyment on challenging tours as well as admiration in concours competition.