Strictly speaking, only one Rolls-Royce is named Silver Ghost: the unique, silver-painted, 40/50 hp open tourer with silver trim that was used in 1907 for a 15,000-mile (24,000-km) reliability trial. The title has, however, been retrospectively applied to all examples of the 40/50 hp made between 1906 and 1925-the model that established Rolls-Royce as the maker of "The Best Car in the World."
Beautifully engineered, it offered unparalleled smoothness and refinement for the era, together with effortless high performance. One respected critic described the 40/50 hp as being "a triumph of workmanship over design"-a cruel but not wholly inaccurate assessment. The meticulous quality of engineering insisted upon by the perfectionist Henry Royce was what established the marque's reputation. Many items were created in-house, not least of which a Royce-designed distributor and carburetor.
When electric starting was introduced in 1919, Royce also designed his own starter and dynamo. But the engine was conservative in its construction, as was the chassis-which only gained front brakes in 1924. This was part of a servo-assisted mechanism that was notably efficient.The 40/50 hp was sufficiently robust to have formed the basis for an armored car during and after World War I. Its chassis was donated to the Phantom I that replaced it in 1925. This was in effect a "Silver Ghost" with a new overhead-valve engine.
The front of the Silver Ghost is dominated by the "tombstone" radiator shell; this never received the Palladian vertical slats later associated with Rolls-Royces. The "letter-box" slot in the windshield hinges open for visibility in stormy weather. The high roof accommodates gentlemen wearing top hats-and ladies with the generously sized headwear of Edwardian times.
Pioneer motorist and automobile dealer Charles Rolls was highly impressed by the first cars built by electrical engineer Henry Royce. They decided, in 1904, to market the vehicles as Rolls-Royces. This arrangement continued after Rolls's death in a flying accident in 1910.
When Rolls met Royce