The world’s oldest surviving Rolls-Royce, which dates from 1904, was sold today (3 December 2007) by Bonhams for 3,521,500 GBP breaking two world records. This is the highest price ever paid at auction for both a Rolls-Royce and a veteran car (pre-1905).
Below is an excerpt from Bonham’s the auction catalogue:
Rolls and Royce had agreed to develop and produce a range of twin-cylinder, three-cylinder, four-cylinder and six-cylinder cars, all clearly developed from Royce three prototype twins. The plan was to build nineteen 10hp cars although only seventeen were finally constructed. These cars, designated Type A, featured a twin-cylinder engine with three-bearing crankshaft and twin camshafts operating overhead inlet valves and side exhaust valves. The 1.8-litre engine drove through a cone clutch to a three-speed sliding gearbox with shaft final drive.
The Type A 10hp models were prefixed 20, production cars beginning with chassis no. 20150, more correctly we believe known as a Royce as there is no known reference to Rollsâs involvement with that car. 20151 can be considered to be the first Rolls-Royce motor car following the marketing agreement between Rolls and Royce. The engine for this car was tested on 21st August 1904 and the car delivered to sewing machine magnate, Paris E Singer, a friend of Rolls. 20152 came off test on 27th September 1904 and notably was the first car to sport the classical Rolls-Royce radiator shape. This Barker-bodied car was delivered to Joseph Blamires of Huddersfield. 20153 came off test on 10th October 1904, carried coachwork commissioned from Cann of Camden and was delivered to a Lt. Col. Moffatt of Tidworth, Wiltshire.
Bonham’s Sale of 20154
Car no. 20154 came off test in November 1904 and was the third car to wear the Rolls-Royce radiator and the fourth car to carry the Rolls-Royce name. It was developed as a show car and Barker were commissioned to build the Park Phaeton coachwork with two occasional rear seats. It was this car that was selected for exhibition at the ‘Salon de L’Automobile’ in Paris, an exhibition that ran from 9th to 25th December that year. Exhibited alongside 20154 on that stand were the first Royce, also driven to Paris, along with 15hp and 20hp cars, shown in an unfinished state, along with a six-cylinder 30hp engine.
By 1930 the car was upgraded to a later-style streamlined body, updating its general appearance, a domed radiator cowl mounted over the original classical Rolls-Royce radiator. In this state, it was discovered in 1950 in a farm building at Seacroft, near Leeds, by the late Oliver Langton. A four year restoration was embarked upon, Oliver using his own skills and those of his ace-engineer brother Eric to restore the car to its former glory.
Called the ‘the oldest known surviving Rolls-Royce in the world’ by Bonhams, they sold 20154 at their Important Collectors’ Motor Cars, Collectors’ Motorcycyles and Fine Automobilia Auction Dec 3rd 2007 in Olympia, London.