History of eachpre-1940 Rolls-Royce model

True enthusiasts who have a pre-War Rolls-Royce would enjoy our programme of Tours, Rallies, and Social Events. For more information go to 'About the Club' above, where there are photos of a few of our past events, and a tab for an enquiry about Joining.


The first Rolls-Royce was a twin cylinder of 10hp made from 1904 to 1906. This was shortly followed by  a 3 cylinder 15hp and the four cylinder 20hp which  came 2nd in the Tourist Trophy race in 1905 and won it in 1906. Also available was the V8 Legalimit and the 6 cylinder 30hp. Of these early cars the best was the 4 cylinder 20hp of which 40 were built and those that survive are light, quite fast cars that are a pleasure to drive. However, few of any of these very early models have survived and they are in a very rarefied market.


For further information or queries regarding this model, please use the Contact Us form to send a message to the designated early Rolls-Royce 10 HP, 15 HP and 20 HP specialist in the Club.


This car was introduced in late 1906 with a 7 litre engine, subsequently increased to 7 ½ litres, and remained in production in the UK until 1925 and USA until 1926. As a result of competition in the Austrian Alpine Trials of 1912, 1913 and 1914 significant improvements were made to increase the cooling capacity, replace the 3 speed gearbox with one of four speeds and increase the size of the brakes. The resulting car was so good that it earned the name of “The Best Car in the World” and it stayed in production through the 1920’s beating strong market competition because of its smoothness, refinement and quietness of operation.

Over 6,000 of this model were produced and exported all over the world, with a further 1,700 being produced at a Rolls-Royce factory in the USA. The engine is a large very quiet side valve with coil and magneto ignition. From 1919 onwards electric starters were fitted and from 1924 very powerful servo assisted front wheel brakes became available.

In 1911 a sporting version of the car was introduced called the London to Edinburgh model after it had been driven in top gear between the two cities in an RAC observed run. This car was lighter and lower than standard with atapered bonnet and was capable of a maximum of 80 mph at a time when most cars were stretched to reach 40 mph and the National speed limit was 20mph!

This sporting version evolved after the Alpine experience into the Alpine Eagle models of 1914, which then became known as Speed models in the early 1920s fitted with lighter aluminium pistons. Gradually however virtually all the improvements were incorporated into the standard chassis. Throughout its life the car was available with a variety of body styles from the very best coachbuilders. As well as its other virtues, the chassis was very well proportioned and enabled extremely elegant coachwork to be fitted.


Of all the pre-1939 Rolls-Royces, the Silver Ghost is the most demanding to maintain and drive, but is also probably the most rewarding as not only are the details of its construction fascinating, but it is also a very enjoyable car to drive.

One great advantage of owning a Silver Ghost is that they are eligible for certain special events that are only open to Silver Ghosts. These events are run principally in Europe, the United States and Australia and are open to Silver Ghosts made in England and the USA.


Preparing and maintaining a Silver Ghost before an event will typically take at least half a day as there are so many individual Lubricators to attend to. Royce started out as a locomotive engineer and it shows in that everything requires lubrication some of it daily and most on a weekly basis. After a winter lay up a full lubrication service is required. Therefore getting the car ready for an outing in the spring takes time to ensure the car is properly prepared.

Later post-war Ghosts are slightly quicker to lubricate as they use a gun and Enots connectors to oil each point rather than a cap which has to be unscrewed, filled with oil, replaced and then tightened again. Once on a tour there are lubrication schedules to be done every 250 miles and every 1000 miles, so the car parks on tour become quite social places as the various routines are accomplished!

Tyres on pre-war cars were of the beaded edge type, which give very little contact with the road and are liable to failure if used on longer tours. Therefore many touring cars have been converted to the much more reliable straight sided tyres which give much better service and are readily available.


Driving a Silver Ghost is all about confidence and the ability to adapt one’s style to that of the car. Chauffeurs were invited to get into top gear as quickly as possible and stay there, allowing the massive torque of the engine to pull away from really low speeds.

The gearbox is there for starting from rest and for climbing really steep hills. If the car was made between 1910 and 1913 it is likely to have 3 speeds otherwise it will have four. The gear lever is on the right adjacent to the handbrake. The change is relatively straight forward once you have remembered or learnt how to double de-clutch and accept the fact that some gear changes will inevitably involve a certain gnashing of teeth, by the driver and the car!

The pedal layout is conventional and there is a hand throttle, mixture control and ignition control on the top of the steering column. Once under way these rarely need adjusting unless one wishes to use the hand throttle for cruise control.

Acceleration away from traffic lights is good enough to surprise other motorists, but in reality is fairly leisurely by modern standards. Cruising speed depends on the gearing but all will cruise all day at 50mph+. Many of the touring cars and all of the more sporting Silver Ghosts were very high geared and these can comfortably cruise at 55 to 60mph without difficulty.

However this all depends on road conditions and you need to remember that on most Silver Ghosts the brakes act only on the rear wheels. On pre 1913 cars the foot brake operates a drum on the transmission, which although powerful was subject to dire warnings by the factory as excessively rapid stops could damage the transmission. In fact the handbook told the driver to slow the car by closing the throttle! Fortunately, the large handbrake lever operates very effective drum brakes on the rear wheels that work well in the dry. In the wet caution is advised, as with two wheel brakes and narrow tyres a skid can be caused by heavy braking.

From 1914 onwards both handbrake and footbrake operated brakes on the rear axle and from 1924 front wheel brakes were fitted with a powerful servo. Both of these enhanced the braking capabilities significantly.

Steering, apart from at parking speeds is very precise and light with very little movement at the wheel being necessary to take a corner. Once underway the car is therefore both relaxing and easy to drive with top gear giving relaxed acceleration from 10mph to 70mph, light direct steering and very quiet engine and transmission. The biggest noise is from the wind which varies with the type of coachwork fitted.


For further information or queries regarding this model, please use the Contact Us form to send a message to the designated Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost specialist in the Club.


A Phantom I is very similar to a later type Silver Ghost as the main change was to the engine, leaving the chassis, suspension, gearbox and braking just as they were on the later Silver Ghosts. The engine was overhead valve rather than side valve and the stoke of the engine was considerably increased from 120mm to 140mm whilst the bore was reduced from 114 to 108, to reduce road taxation. This engine produced 25 % more power but unfortunately the chassis weight of the car with the new engine, four wheel brakes and the larger well base wheels and tyres increased from around 3,400lbs for a typical Silver Ghost to 4000lbs for the Phantom I. The radiator height was increased and this coupled with the large headlights and often capacious bodywork meant that both the overall weight and wind resistance increased compared to the Silver Ghost.

The Phantom I or New Phantom as it was originally known, proved popular although it had quite a short production run from 1925 to 1929. Despite this, 2,212 were built plus a further 1240 in the USA where production continued into 1931.


Coachwork evolved in the 1920s from the rather upright style suitable for the wearing of Top hats to something much lower and elegant by the end of the Twenties. Phantom I’s benefited from this and often received very elegant coachwork from the best British Coachbuilders, as by 1925 there was little strength of competition from domestic or foreign manufacturers.

The pleasure of owning a Phantom I is often therefore gained from the style in which one is travelling rather than being exposed to the elements as one often is in a Silver Ghost. The style is very much of the twenties sometimes with wonderful art deco interiors. Again these cars are ideal for the Grand Tour, as long as one can stand the hefty fuel bills!


Maintenance is very similar to a late model Silver Ghost with four wheel brakes. There are no less than 84 points to oil every 1000miles but at least this is done with an oil gun and since the valve gear is totally enclosed it does not need periodic lubrication unlike the Silver Ghost. The US built New Phantoms were the first to have one shot lubrication, with a lever beside the driver, injecting oil to no less than 40 points around the chassis.


The Phantom I was typically rather lower geared than a Silver Ghost so that the engine could most of the time be held in top gear despite the weight of the car and its coachwork. Driving a Phantom I is therefore much like a Silver Ghost, but you are conscious the engine is turning that much faster and has a different rhythm to it.

Performance depends very much on the type of coachwork and therefore gearing fitted. Larger limousines cruise at 55mph whereas the lighter tourers or saloons on a standard chassis can cruise at 60 to 65mph all day without difficulty. Top speed dependent on gearing and body style varys from 65mph for a long wheelbase limousine to 85mph for a tuned light tourer.

The steering on these cars tends to be heavier than a Silver Ghost, particularly at low speeds, due to the much larger section balloon tyres fitted. Ride and comfort on these was however very good as were the servo-assisted brakes. The engines if well restored and maintained can be extremely silent and smooth.


For further information or queries regarding this model, please use the Contact Us form to send a message to the designated Rolls-Royce Phantom I specialist in the Club.


The success of the Phantom I had given Royce time to completely redesign the large horse-power car and so when the Phantom II was announced in 1929 the car made a tremendous impact. The whole appearance of the car was changed by entirely redesigning the chassis and springing so that when carrying closed coach work the overall height of the car was reduced by 9inches (230mm). This gave the car a wonderfully modern low slung look, making the Phantom I looks as though it was from a different era.

The car also had a new engine of almost identical capacity as the Phantom I but which gave a significant 30% power increase in its final form.  For the first time the gearbox was attached directly to the engine rather than being a separate unit. Another big improvement was the use of a centralised single shot lubrication system replacing the need to use an oil gun to lubricate each part individually. Another significant improvement for a modern day driver is that synchromesh was fitted to third and top gears.

The Phantom II .entered production in 1929 and the last one was produced in 1935. Because of the Wall Street crash of 1929 and the following years of The Depression, only 1680 were built. However of these 281 were built as Continental Phantom II, built especially for the enthusiastic owner driver who particularly liked speed and performance. The axle ratio was raised to give a higher cruising speed and special dampers were fitted to provide improved control at high speed. As Rolls-Royce put it the car was designed to “meet demand for a model capable of maintaining high speeds on Continental roads and over 1100 examples have survived.”


The Phantom II and the Continental Phantom II both attracted some of the most elegant coachwork of the period enabling Rolls-Royce to win several of the prestigious Concours d’Elegance that were run at that time. Today their lines cannot do anything but impress and some of the two door cars are the most elegant and stylish of all the pre 1939 Rolls-Royces.

Anyone owning one of these cars will know that it will be admired wherever it appears because of the elegance of its lines and its sheer presence. The car is easier to maintain than the earlier cars, has more performance and better handling. It is particularly suited to long distance touring , but is equally at home pottering around the English countryside or attending a Concours d’Elegance where it will most likely win!


By the time the Phantom II was introduced many owners, particularly of the Continental, expected to drive their cars extensively without support from a chauffeur. Keeping the car clean had been helped by improvements in the type of paint used and by the adoption of wheel discs which greatly reduced the time needed to wash the car. The previously Nickel plated Radiator shell gave way to Staybright in 1931, (a form of stainless steel) and from its inception, the Phantom II had a one shot lubrication system.

All of these features mean that the car is rather easier to keep clean and particularly to lubricate than one of the earlier large horsepower cars. It is still however a very large car.

These very large six cylinder Rolls-Royces are big powerful cars and in general the engines are very reliable as they are quite lowly stressed. However, with the Phantom II, particularly as it was developed to deliver even more power, the engine began to show signs that it was a very big six cylinder engine that was having to work quite hard to meet the performance expectations of owners. These engines did therefore show signs of wear rather quicker than had their predecessors. Both late Phantom I and and all Phantom II have aluminium cylinder heads, which were very satisfactory provided the correct inhibitors to prevent corrosion were used. These engines therefore need to be carefully checked and maintained to high standard to retain their longer term performance. However if this is done and they are driven in a more leisurely style, they will have longevity and reliability.


The Phantom II made a tremendous impression when new because of the extraordinary silence of the car, coupled with very strong acceleration, superb springing and excellent steering. Even today when you are close to one manoeuvring, you inevitably notice how quiet it is. The acceleration by modern standards is still impressive, particularly once you are on the move and the ride and handling due to its lower centre of gravity are good for the period.

Top gear flexibility is extraordinary accelerating the car smoothly from 5mph to a maximum around 90mph. The high gearing enables the car to be cruised all day at 75mph making it a wonderful long distance touring car. Synchromesh on third and top gears (and on 2nd for 1935) means that gear changing using the diminutive right hand lever is much easier than on a Silver Ghost or Phantom I, particularly as you very rarely need to change into second once on the road.

All Phantom IIs have very long bonnets and this is particularly emphasised on Continental Models because of the low raked steering column and lower seating position. The effect is somewhat daunting at first sight, but fortunately both front wings are clearly visible making the car easy to position on the road.


For further information or queries regarding this model, please use the Contact Us form to send a message to the designated Rolls-Royce Phantom II specialist in the Club.


By the 1930’s the Phantom IIs big long stroke six cylinder engine was beginning to look rather archaic in comparison to the 8 cylinder or V12 engines offered by its competition. It was also evident that the limits of its power output had been reached and so a radical redesign was required.

The Phantom III became available in 1935 and offered the most technically advanced car available anywhere in the World. It had a V12 engine of 7.3 litres with hydraulic tappets, a cruciform braced chassis with independent front suspension synchromesh on the top 3 speeds in the gearbox and a further improved central lubrication system.

Power output initially increased by 12% on the Phantom II, but later versions had a further 10 per cent increase allowing significantly improved acceleration. Partly due to its high cost but also because of concerns about the political situation only 727 Phantom IIs were produced before war broke out in 1939.


Owners of Phantom III are likely to be both perfectionists and have deep pockets. The Phantom III is the most complex of all pre 1939 Rolls-Royce cars and like all such mechanisms needs to be maintained to a very high standard to perform as was intended. That is expensive. Failure to do so will eventually lead to the car gradually deteriorating until it, as it were drops off a cliff, and rapidly ceases to perform. It then needs major refurbishment if it is to survive.

Despite this, more than 600 have survived and are increasingly being sought by collectors. A good one offers a magic carpet feeling as it transports you in silence with a ride that is much softer and more comfortable than any other pre-war Rolls-Royce.


The Phantom III is the most complex of pre-war Rolls-Royces and is also a difficult car to work on since it is a V12 and many routine tasks like changing the plugs are difficult to work on. This complexity led to many PIIIs being laid up for long periods or worse being run in a neglected state. Fortunately many went to the USA after the War and were well cared for by enthusiasts before in some cases returning to the UK.

A good PIII once restored and properly maintained can provide very reliable and enjoyable motoring. There are certain specific things that need to be adhered to, but the car can then be used with great confidence. One lady owner recently drove coast to coast across the United States, before arriving at The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in immaculate order. Not surprisingly the judges and fellow competitors were somewhat surprised to learn where she had driven from to the show!


The PIII is inevitably large and heavy, irrespective of coachwork. The V12 is a very powerful and despite the weight gives the car impressive performance with strong acceleration giving a cruising speed of 75 to 80mph with a top speed of 90 to 95mph. However increased performance and weight meant that fuel consumption drops to the 10 to 15mpg range.

The ride is excellent and the controls light and precise with powerful brakes and accurate steering. It is a Grand Tourer in the true meaning of the phrase and is well suited to long journeys. Equally it is an ideal conveyance for a picnic at Ascot or any other venue where its style will be appreciated.


For further information or queries regarding this model, please use the Contact Us form to send a message to the designated Rolls-Royce Phantom III specialist in the Club.


The 20 hp was introduced in the early 1920’s to provide a smaller less expensive car suited to the needs of the owner driver. The car was noticeably smaller than a Silver Ghost in every respect, with an engine of half the size, a chassis and body two feet shorter overall, and a weight reduced by about half a ton.

The car was an immediate success and attracted a different type of driver. It became particularly popular with the professional classes such as doctors and lawyers, giving them a very reliable and distinguished car to visit their clients in without the ostentation of a Silver Ghost or a Phantom I.

The first series had a three speed gearbox with a central gear change and only had rear wheel brakes. In 1925 these were replaced by four wheel brakes and a four speed gearbox operated by a very neat gear lever on the right hand side. However both changes added to the weight of the chassis.

Between 1922 and 1929 when it was replaced by the 20/25, 2,940 were built.


Compared to other Rolls-Royces the first impression of a 20 hp is of delicacy and lightness. Early cars in particular have narrow wheels and tyres and Rolls- Royce made great efforts to ensure that coachbuilders gave the car comfortable but light coachwork.

As with the large cars a great variety of coachwork is available from two seaters up to quite capacious limousines, often built using Weyman fabric bodies to keep weight down. These cars all have a very vintage look to them, but because of their lightness of style are invariably very attractive.

Once in the driving seat there is a similar delight to be found in the controls as they are all relatively small, but with a great precision to their feel. Overall the car tends therefore to delight, even before it is driven.

Twenties are not fast, but are nimble and many were used for years as very effective taxis in their later years as they were reliable, economical to run and could carry two to four passengers in reasonable comfort. Even today, it is not unusual for them to be in almost daily use and indeed in Scotland a country priest was using his 20hp for visiting in his Parish until 2010.


Maintenance of a Twenty requires an oil gun to be applied to many lubrication points around the chassis in much the same way as a Vintage Silver Ghost or PI, but fortunately there are not so many!

Otherwise maintenance is pretty straight forward and well cared for cars are very reliable. The engine and chassis are well made and relatively unstressed in normal use. The gearing was designed for English roads of the 1920s where speeds in excess of 45mph were unusual and so quite a few of the lighter bodied 20s have now been fitted with overdrive to raise their cruising speed.


A good 20 hp provides a very smooth and exceptionally quiet engine and the rest of the car provides the driver with a car that is a delight to handle. Delicacy of control is a notable feature with every control or lever moving easily and with accuracy. The 4 speed gear change for instance is very light to handle, the steering accurate and the brakes powerful. Although it is not a fast car with a maximum of just over 60 mph for the early cars, improving to 70 later, the car is well balanced and can maintain respectable average speeds.

Fuel consumption depends heavily on how the car is driven but should certainly be around 20mpg. The car is ideally suited to day trips or shorter local journeys as it can be started and driven without delay, unlike say a Silver Ghost where it takes 10 minutes to get started and warmed up. In a 20hp, you switch on, open the choke start and go!

If at all possible it is best to find a 20 Hp with a relatively small and light body, otherwise the car will only just be able to keep up with modern traffic. Various choices of axle ratio were provided but all provide relaxed cruising at 45 to 50 mph, with lighter cars doing 5 mph more if higher geared. Maximum speed was 60 to 65mph. In this form owners undertake quite long Continental journeys with relative ease as it is a comfortable and very easy car to drive.


For further information or queries regarding this model, please use the Contact Us form to send a message to the designated Rolls-Royce 20 HP specialist in the Club.


The 20/25 replaced the 20Hp in 1929 and was to become the most popular Rolls-Royce of the inter-war period. Like the 20 it is a relatively small Rolls-Royce endowed with great charm on account of its delicacy of control, its amazing flexibility in top gear and the silence of its performance on the road.

The engine size was increased to 3.6litres and the radiator was made slightly taller with vertical rather than horizontal shutters. The same four speed gearbox with right hand change was used with improvements to make the servo assisted brakes even more powerful. In 1932 the engine’s power was increased making these later cars noticeably quicker.


Owning a 20/25 is not dissimilar to a 20hp, the things that delight are the same only better and on later models the chore of lubricating so many nipples is greatly reduced by the central chassis lubrication system.

The cars are still coachbuilt and the proportions of the 20/25 are excellent leading to some very attractive bodies being produced on these chassis. Many resembled those on the Phantom II but only on a smaller scale.

As a result these cars become very practical cars to own as they are not too big for short local journeys and can be parked rather more easily. Equally they are reasonably economical both to run and maintain once in good order.


Maintenance on the early 20/25s was greatly improved over the Twenty as there was central lubrication of many of the nipples that on the Twenty needed lubrication with a gun. From 1932 onwards a full one shot system was adopted . This provided it is used regularly works extremely well and provides oil to every significant part of the chassis ,simply by pressing a lever under the dashboard. This saves a great deal of time and ensures the car is properly lubricated while on tour. There are still one or two minor points that need lubricating with an oil can but these can be done easily and other than that there is just general maintenance and care, with periodic changes of oil

The 20/25 chassis was developed throughout its life and so it is important to make sure you have the correct instruction book for your car. However in general they are pretty straightforward to look after and are very reliable cars.


Considerable work was done to improve the steering and suspension throughout the production life of the car with minor improvements being made at each stage of development. The steering is quite high geared so little turning of the wheel is required and it is accurate enabling the car to be placed exactly where the driver wants. Visibility of each of the front corners is good enabling the width to be easily assessed.

The increased engine size over that of the Twenty increased maximum speed by about 5mph and also improved acceleration. A further improvement in 1932 enabled a noticeable increase in power to be achieved as well as an increase in maximum revolutions to over 3,000 rpm. This took the typical maximum to between 70 and 75mph with 3rd gear good for 45 to 50mph.

Starting is typically in 2nd gear and the gearbox is almost silent. Changes into 3rd and between 3rd and top benefit from synchromesh and the gear change is light and easy. This is true of the whole car which is quite nimble with powerful brakes.

Although obviously not as powerful as the large horse power cars, the combination of a good gearbox, powerful brakes and a willing engine enable the 20/25 to perform well on tour and keep up with its larger counterparts on everything except really long hills.


For further information or queries regarding this model, please use the Contact Us form to send a message to the designated Rolls-Royce 20/25 HP specialist in the Club.


These cars introduced in 1936, use a 41/4 litre version of the 20/25 engine but otherwise the chassis was merely a further evolution of that used on examples of the 20/25. Power increased from approximately 90 to 115 bhp with a corresponding increase in torque. Maximum speed and performance were increased although in some cases this was offset by heavier coachwork.


For further information or queries regarding this model, please use the Contact Us form to send a message to the designated Rolls-Royce 25/30 HP specialist in the Club.


The Wraith introduced in 1938 was the last car introduced by Rolls-Royce in the inter War years. It received a significantly strengthened cross/braced chassis and independent front suspension. The rear axle gained a torsion bar to reduce roll on corners and the whole car was bigger than the previous 20/25 and 25/30.

This car, like the Phantom III, has a softer ride than the earlier cars, but the ability to corner well is retained by the use of adjustable hydraulic shock absorbers.  The steering remains light and is more accurate than on the earlier cars because of the independent front suspension.


For further information or queries regarding this model, please use the Contact Us form to send a message to the designated Rolls-Royce Wraith specialist in the Club.