1926 Rolls-Royce Springfield Silver Ghost
Make : Rolls-Royce
Model : Springfield Silver Ghost
Coachbuilder : Brewster (Left Hand Drive)
Body Type : Playboy Roadster
Colour : Yellow
Trim : Beige Leather Piped Brown
History : Claude Johnson, the business genius at Rolls-Royce was somewhat of a visionary and saw the future potential of the American car market long before production began of Rolls-Royce motor cars in the United States. Following much persuasion by Johnson, C.S. Rolls set foot on American soil for the first time in the autumn of 1906. His brief but eventful stay in America included a meeting with the famous Wright Brothers, who he was later to forge a strong friendship with. It also included his 20 horse power winning the silver medal at The Empire City oval track, beating off the likes of a 30 horse power Packard and a 60 horse power Renault. Following this success Rolls’ attention turned to the American Auto Show where he not only exhibited his 20 horse power to wide acclaim, but established the Rolls-Royce Import Company, with new acting agents based in both Manhattan and Ottawa, Canada. Two months later his successful stay was brought to an end and he returned to England, with four Rolls-Royces sold and the ground work laid for what was to become a famous chapter in the history of the company. By 1913 it was agreed that Rolls-Royce should acquire its first premises on American soil, renting space in one of the buildings belonging to coachbuilders Brewster in Long Island New York. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 cut off the supply of new cars but as peace returned, so did prosperity and by 1919 almost 400 Rolls-Royce motor cars were present in New York, owned by some of the city’s wealthiest and most important families. Noted admirers of the marque included the Bloomingdales and the Guggenheims’ to name but a few. In 1919 Claude Johnson returned to America following the company’s decision to set up a production plant in the United States. The finance was put in place and the search for a suitable location began. The American market was now the largest and most important car market in the world, with more cars sold in America per annum than the rest of the world combined. Cars brought into the US were also subject to substantial importation taxes, so the natural and logical move in order to satisfy the huge demand at a more cost effective price was to join the American market on their own soil. Later that year the decision was made to purchase the old American Wire Wheel Corporation plant in Springfield Massachusetts. It was an ideal location to cater for the vast potential clientele in both Boston and New York, two of America’s major cities. There was also an abundance of skilled labour in the Springfield area, with many locals trained in precision metal work. The site also had excellent transportation routes, being situated on a railroad which facilitated shipping and receiving goods. The new site had 150,000 square feet of floor space and was considered to be ideal for its purpose. By November of 1919 Johnson had formed Rolls-Royce of America Inc but it wasn’t until well into 1921 that the first American built Silver Ghost chassis were ready to be sold. Over fifty staff from the Rolls-Royce works in England were relocated with their families to Springfield and they began by replicating the Derby built chassis. But before the 200th chassis had been completed a number of changes were implemented, with American parts being introduced. One off bodies were available to American buyers in typical English coach building fashion, but the majority of cars were built to standard designs by “Rolls-Royce Custom Coachworks.” These bodies were constructed by a number of companies, largely built in batches of twenty or more. Production quality of the coachwork however was first class, finished with aluminium bodies and steel fenders in most cases, quite different from the British style of construction. The coachwork produced at this point in history by Brewster is rightly considered by many to be some of the most stylish of all time, and in our opinion few came better than the Playboy Roadster. It should be noted at this time that the Playboy Roadster coachwork by Brewster was not officially offered as an option to prospective buyers of new Rolls-Royce motor cars. It was instead produced in highly limited numbers, with just fifteen bodies fitted to Silver Ghost chassis in total. It was offered as an alternative design to be fitted at a later date; usually once more formal coachwork had been removed and discarded. Chassis No S306PL which we are currently offering for sale was completed in August of 1926, fitted originally with a Pickwick saloon body to the order of Mr Kerr of New York. It remained this way until 1932 when it was returned to the factory for the Playboy Roadster coachwork to be fitted (body number B7293) whilst still in Mr Kerr’s ownership. The car changed hands for the first time in 1937 when purchased by Mr Elliot Robertson who owned the Alder Shoe Stores in New York City. It was then owned by the Mr James Rainey of Milford Connecticut from 1939 until 1947 until changing hands when purchased by Dr Carl Beam, a professor of biology at Stanford University in California. Chassis No S306PL changed hands again in 1951 when purchased by Mrs Barbara Backmann of Pacific Grove in California before returning to Connecticut in 1957 when acquired by Mr Walter Florian in a partially dismantled state. In 1972 the car was purchased by Mr Arnold Haber of Nashville Tennessee who kept the car until 1986. During Mr Haber’s ownership, the car was restored and then exhibited at the 1974 RROC Concours, winning first place in the “Late Ghost Class.” The car was also judged at the 1977 Concours where it placed second in the same category. S306PL was sold by Mr Haber in 1985 to Mr Jack McKibbon of Gainesville and shown again at the National RROC Meeting, held in Toronto on this occasion where it placed third in class. The final change of ownership prior to our acquisition occurred in 2002 when the car was purchased by a collector in Texas who restored the car in order to use it on long tours in the United States. It has subsequently been very well maintained by a knowledgeable engineer. Since its arrival in the United Kingdom, the first time the car has ever left the United States, we have made the necessary cosmetic enhancements and conducted a thorough mechanical review to ensure reliability, correct performance and continued enjoyment for the next fortunate owner. Chassis number S306PL is fitted with twin side mounted spare wheels, a dickey seat in the rear deck and a tail mounted trunk which contains fitted luggage, making the car ideal for touring. In our opinion the Playboy Roadster by Brewster was a landmark design, highlighting all that was great about the production of Rolls-Royce motor cars in the United States, with this particular example being one of the best of very few that remain to this day.
Very good condition.
Technical Data : Three speed manual gearbox, 6 cylinder in-line engine, 7.4 litres displacement, 7,428cc capacity.