Part 1 - By David Marshall-Martin
Most of the members of the NSW Club know that I am an avid model car collector. There are many members who also collect model cars and I don’t consider myself an expert. However, I do enjoy examining the models and writing about them. Last year I decided that my main interest was in acquiring only 1:43 scale models.
A brief digression to explain the concept of scale. The first number, ‘one,’ represents the actual size of the vehicle, the second number represents the size of the model compared to the original. Therefore a 1:43 scale model is 43 times smaller than the actual vehicle. Scales of model cars can be fairly large 1:18 or 1:16-in fact Rolls-Royce Motors will produce a 1:8 scale model of your most recent purchase-or as small as 1:148. Model planes might be at a scale of 1:200 and model ships at a scale of 1:350 or even 1:700. Remember the original vehicles such as planes and ships are big things. On the other hand model trains manufacturers use the term ‘gauge’ to indicate the size of model trains. They use letters such as O gauge (the closest in scale to 1:43), HO gauge (half O) is approximately 1:87 and N gauge at approximately 1:148.
During the recent Covid lockdown I decided it was time to start organising my models and labelling them. It was while doing this that I become aware that I had several duplicates of models and did not have other models. Therefore I decided that I would try to acquire one example of each car manufactured by Rolls-Royce. I intend to do the same with Bentley models and this might be a future series.
This is not an easy task as very few model car manufacturers have bothered with examples of the earliest cars. Before Royce joined up with Rolls, he produced three cars, none of which now exist. From 1904 to 1906 the newly formed Rolls-Royce Company produced several cars. The following quote is from Tom Clarke, one of the well- known experts on Rolls-Royce history: “Of Henry Royce’s 105 cars before the immortal 40/50 HP (Silver Ghost) of 1906 there are now eight survivors. Three 2-cylinder 10 HP car, one 3-cylinder 15 HP car, three 4-cylinder 20 HP cars, and one 30 HP 6-cylinder car. The latter is chassis #26355 with an Australian history spanning about 36 years.” I have relied heavily on The Rolls-Royce Motor Car and the Bentley since 1931 by Anthony Bird & Ian Hallows, updated by Brendan James for much of the data on various models. Also there have been references to Wikipedia, other internet sources and known experts.
So what was available as a scale model before the famous ‘Silver Ghost’ which has many examples from a host of manufactures? I had previously owned a Franklin Mint 1:16 scale model of the famous 1905 10 HP, Chassis #20165, Rego: SU 13 (thus the nickname ‘Little Sue’). I suspect the scale of 1:16 was used instead of most other Franklin Mint models at 1:24 simply due to the fact that the actual car is ‘small.’ I searched the internet with little success. However, the doyen of scale model Rolls-Royce and Bentleys, André Blaize, pointed me in the right direction and I was able to acquire the model shown in Picture 1.
Picture 1- 1905 10 HP (pictured below), A pewter model made by Danbury Mint. ‘Little Sue’ is one of only three surviving 10 HP cars. This 2-cylinder chassis #20165, a 4-seater, has a wheelbase of 75 inches. Top speed is purported to have been 39½ mph. Her current livery is a deep green on a body by Barker and she is owned by Bentley Motors. Note: I have added the rego number SU 13 as the model didn’t have a registration plate. Throughout this series many scale models will not have a registration number unless the model represents a specific car, with known registration.
Picture 2- 1907 40/50 HP (pictured below). Chassis #60551, more often known by the registration, AX 201, ‘The Silver Ghost.’ Undoubtedly the most famous Rolls- Royce in the world. The 40/50 HP was manufactured in Britain from 1907-1925. The six cylinder engine had a capacity of just over 7,000 cc-later raised to 7,428 cc. The chassis had an overall length varying from 180 inches in short form up to 196¾ inches in long form. The wheelbase varying from 135½ inches to 150½ inches. Rolls-Royce produced 6,173 chassis, with a vast array of body styles erected by many coachbuilders. This chassis, number twelve, was taken by Claude Johnson and fitted with a semi ‘Roi-des-Belges’ 4/5 seat tourer body by Barker. It was painted with aluminium paint, fitted with silver plated lamps and had a cast name-plate ‘Silver Ghost’ on the scuttle. After successfully completing the 15,000 mile run between Glasgow and London, and gaining many other accolades, all 40/50 HP cars soon came to be known as ‘Silver Ghosts’. It should be noted here that the ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ or ‘Flying Lady’ was not available until 1910, and then for purchase as an added extra. It (She) became the standard mascot from about the 1920s. This, ‘The Silver Ghost,’ went to Bentley Motors when the Bentley marque was bought by Volkswagen in 1998. The car was recently sold to Sir Michael Kadoorie, GBS, who owns many Rolls-Royce and Bentley motor cars. This is a Franklin Mint model.
Picture 3-1922 40/50 HP (pictured below), Springfield Silver Ghost. Why Springfield? Rolls-Royce had been exporting cars to the USA from its very beginning. In 1919 Rolls-Royce decided to set up a factory in Springfield, Massachusetts. Manufacturing in the USA would avoid huge tariffs on imported cars. Between 1921 and 1926 the factory produced 1,701 Silver Ghost chassis. The ‘Englishness’ of the cars meant right hand drive. Left hand drive wasn’t made standard until 1924. Unlike their English brethren Rolls-Royce of America advertised coachwork and sold complete cars through Rolls-Royce Custom Coachwork. Perhaps the most obvious visual difference with the Springfield cars are the drum headlights and the tubular bumpers. This model is a dual cowl ‘Pall Mall.’ I think this is the only other Rolls-Royce model that Franklin Mint made in 1:43 scale.
By David Marshall-Martin, GSM