17 Silver Ghosts to recreate London to Edinburgh epic

| 25 Aug 2011

To celebrate the centenary of the famous Rolls-Royce London to Edinbugh endurance drive, 17 Silver Ghosts will set off from the RAC Club on Pall Mall on Sunday 11 September – 100 years to the day after the original run – to recreate the epic adventure.

The original stunt – taking up a challenge from rival Napier – was part of Rolls-Royce's bid to stack up its claim to produce the best car in the world by disptaching chassis 1701 to drive nearly 800 miles from London to Edinburgh and back, in top gear, with performance and fuel consumption figures that trounced its rivals.

Chassic 1701 will be one of the cars taking part in the recreation organised by 20-Ghost and Royal Automobile Club member Nick Naismith, and will be on display at the Royal Automobile Club until 5 September before being prepared for the event.

Naismith said: “1911 was a very important year for Rolls-Royce. The Prince Henry Tour and the London to Edinburgh trial helped create the Silver Ghost’s reputation as ‘the best car in the world’. As the oldest Rolls-Royce club in the world, the 20-Ghost Club has been planning the re-enactment of the Prince Henry Tour and the London to Edinburgh trials for the past two years. The Royal Automobile Club has been very helpful with organisation for the start of the London to Edinburgh event and kind enough to allow us the use of the Pall Mall clubhouse for the night before the trial.”

The Silver Ghosts taking part in the recreation will do so under similar conditions – carrying passengers, measuring fuel consumption and reliability and only using the direct top gear. They will use as much of the original Great North Road Route (now mostly the A1) as possible.

They will leave at 6am Sunday morning to avoid the worst of the traffic in London, but should face challenges no greater than those overcome by their forebears. As Naismith said: “The 1911 trial nearly came to grief when a donkey and cart got in the way when climbing the hill at the Archway, I think that in 2011 traffic lights rather than donkeys will be the problem.”

Here is some background info:

On July 7 1910, Claude Johnson, General Managing-Director of Rolls-Royce accepted a challenge laid down by rivals Napier to drive the 799 miles from London to Edinburgh and back in top gear only, with four passengers and luggage, under RAC observation. The 65bhp Napier ‘Silver Bullet’ managed the feat with an average of fuel consumption of 19.3 mpg and a top speed of 76.42 mph at Brooklands.

Johnson saw the opportunity to top this performance and create the first line of sporting Silver Ghosts. The 45bhp, six-cylinder Rolls-Royce covered the route (which travelled via Grantham, Doncaster, Newcastle, Alnwick and Bedford) without any mechanical failures, dashing Napier’s figures with an average fuel consumption of 24.3mpg and a top speed of 78.26mph over the flying half-mile.

Driving the whole journey in top gear was only achievable because of the huge 7.5-litre, low-compression ratio engine allowing drivers to slip the oil lubricated, leather-lined clutch enough for the car to pull away smoothly from standstill or even on a slight incline. Chassis 1701 later returned to Brooklands with more streamlined bodywork and secured an astonishing speed of 101.816mph, making it the fastest Rolls-Royce built at the time.