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Coachwork by Rolls-Royce Custom Coachworks
*Please note that this car is titled as a 1926, which denotes the date of manufacture and not the date of sale.
Formerly the Property of William B. Ruger
Rolls-Royce in America
On October 18, 1919, Rolls-Royce of America, Inc., was launched in Springfield. In 1921, the first American Rolls-Royce, the Springfield Silver Ghost, was completed. Gradually the American car adopted refinements more suited to the American driver: left-hand drive, three-speed transmission, American Bosch or Westinghouse six-volt electrical systems, fuel pumps rather than the British sibling’s “Autovac,” drum headlamps, and tubular bumpers.
Most American Silver Ghosts were bodied by two coachbuilders: Rolls-Royce Custom Coachwork or Brewster and were available in a variety of styles, from formal limousines and town cars, to enclosed sedans and open sporting styles like this Piccadilly. Many Rolls- Royce enthusiasts believe the American cars’ chassis and bodies are superior in build quality to the British examples despite a successful blending of the best of British and American designs. In later economically challenged years, Rolls-Royce of America was gradually liquidated until the doors were finally closed in October 1936.
One of the most popular American Rolls- Royce car bodies was the Piccadilly roadster, a two-seater convertible with side curtains and a comfortable “rumble” seat. Archival sources indicate about 79 Silver Ghosts and 20 Phantom I Rolls-Royce cars were fitted with the sporting Piccadilly body.
Rolls-Royce occasionally selected one of the later series models to use as a trials car. As newer, more innovative components became available, the company would test them at the factory. Many times, as in the case of this example, some of those tests were so successful they were incorporated into the newer models.
S335RL was manufactured in June 1926, used for two years as a company demonstrator and trials car, then completely refreshed before being sold to its first owner, A.J. Davis of St. Louis, Missouri, on December 28, 1928. The list price was $13,450, twice the average American’s annual income in 1928. Edward M. Bergen, the second owner, bought the Piccadilly in 1937. Subsequent owners were John B. Davis of Florissant, Missouri, and then Carroll Vail, also of St. Louis and then-president of the Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club. Mr. Vail sold it to Conrad Karras of Great Notch, New Jersey, and Naples, Florida, who took the car on the 1973 Alpine Tour. Dennis Nicotra of Woodbridge, Connecticut, bought the car in 1986. In 1987, S335RL was acquired by noted Rolls-Royce collector and small-arms manufacturer William B. Ruger, in whose care it remained until it was sold from his estate in 2002. The 75-year-old car was then mechanically restored, which included fitting two new cylinder blocks at Frank Cooke’s Vintage Garage. Brakes, kingpins, front axle, and gearbox were also rebuilt. The next owner, Lyle Patterson, Mr. Ruger’s collection manager, entered the Piccadilly Roadster in the 2003 European Alpine Tour, then several Florida concours events, including Amelia Island and Boca Raton, in 2009.
In 2006, a new stainless steel exhaust system and an overdrive were added so the car could be used for modern touring. The front seats were re-trimmed in black leather, and the body was refinished in black over gray with black wings.
Recently serviced, this reliable, stunningly handsome Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Piccadilly Roadster is ready for its fortunate new owner to tour, display, and to ultimately enjoy.