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The Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost;The collection

Museum and gallery staff put their favourite artefacts on display

Week 5

The Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

Visitors to the museum can admire a wide variety of cars, but the one that makes the most impact is the 1909 Silver Ghost.

It was originally a seven-seat tourer that was supplied to Colonel Fergusson of Dundee. He returned the car to Derby in 1912 to have the bonnet line raised, along with a few other modifications.

Not a great deal is known of its subsequent history, except that it was used as a hearse and as a breakdown truck before it was driven down to Beaulieu from Berwick-on-Tweed in the 1950s. The engine required no attention apart from a replacement cam follower and a new set of piston rings.

This particular model of Rolls-Royce took part in a 15,000-mile trial in June 1907, observed by the Royal Automobile Club. Not content with establishing its reliability, the team handed the car to RAC engineers for detailed examination.

The mechanics who stripped the engine down could find no measurable wear on any of the the major components. The cost of parts required to bring the car back to "as new" condition was pound;2 2s 7d. This report ensured the success of the model for many years to come.

Autocar reported in 1907 that "there is no realisation of driving propulsion; the feeling as the passenger sits either at the front or back is one of being wafted through the landscape".

The Rolls-Royce legend began in 1904, when Charles Stewart Rolls, a car salesman to the aristocracy, lamented that there were no British cars of a high enough quality to sell to his customers. He confided in Henry Edmunds, a friend of Thomas Edison, who advised him to make contact with a certain Frederick Henry Royce, who manufactured electric cranes for a living but made cars as a hobby.

The two men met at the Midland Hotel in Manchester on May 4, 1904. After trying one of Mr Royce's cars, Mr Rolls knew his search had ended. Thus started one of the most famous alliances in the history of motoring.

The National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, Hampshire SO42 7ZN. Tel: David Corbett, education officer, 01590 612345

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