Volkswagen Group sells world’s most expensive collector car

By: David Berthon

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Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Rolls Royce Silver Ghost

Volkswagen Group sells the world’s most expensive collector car – the original Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost to a private collector.

The original 1907 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, recognised as the most valuable collector car in the world, has been sold by the Volkswagen Group for an undisclosed sum to an American collector. Informed sources suggest the car sold in the region of US$75 million (AU$110.3 million), well over its suggested insured value and eclipsing the previous collector car record held by a much younger Ferrari 250 GT.

 Volkswagen had held the car since it purchased the Rolls Royce and Bentley Company in July 1998. This iconic Rolls Royce, chassis 60551, is the 12th chassis produced of the coveted 40/50HP six-cylinder model designed by Henry Royce and first shown at the 1906 Olympia Motor Show.

 Affectionately referred to by its registration number AX-201 it was first commissioned by Rolls Royce’s Managing Director Claude Johnson. Finished in Aluminium paint with silver plated fittings it soon gained the title of the ‘Silver Ghost’, a name that would eventually carry across all 40/50HP chassis produced over a 19-year production run. Such was the cars success that it would quickly be promoted as "The Best Car in the World."

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 Delivered in June 1907 the Barker-bodied Silver Ghost was quickly entered by Johnson in the 1907 Scottish Reliability Trial winning the Dewar Trophy for the official Non-Stop Record of 14,932 miles without an involuntary stop.

  Subsequently sold in 1908 to a private customer it was used by him for his annual holiday in Italy over a number of years before eventually being offered back to the company in 1948. Extensively restored it then travelled the world as a promotion tool for the company, making several appearances in Australia at several Motor Shows during the 1980’s.

 The sale in 1998 of the ailing Rolls Royce and Bentley Company to the Volkswagen Group would also see BMW retain the rights to the Rolls-Royce name and logo for the brand through its association with the Rolls-Royce PLC aircraft division and in the supply of automotive engines to the car division.

 With the Rolls-Royce brand identification marks split between the two German companies common sense prevailed and an agreement was finally reached whereby Volkswagen agreed to sell BMW the Spirit of Ecstasy and grille shape trademarks while BMW would continue to supply Volkswagen with engines and components for Rolls-Royce until 2003 by which time its new factory at Goodwood would be ready for it to then build Rolls-Royce cars.

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 Part of the complex sale saw Volkswagen gain the factory facility at Crewe where AX-201 was housed. Volkswagen retained this highly desirable collector car along with the Bentley heritage collection however it presented no real benefit to that company.

 For this reason over the past 20 years this prized Silver Ghost has rarely been seen, allowed by Volkswagen to be used only sparingly by its German competitor. It was a feature at Pebble Beach in 2004 during Rolls-Royce’s Centenary year and again in Scotland during the centenary celebration for the Scottish Reliability Trial in 2007.Volkswagen always entrusting it care to marque specialist’s P and A Wood in the U.K. who fully restored it in 1991.

 This iconic Rolls-Royce’s recent purchase will hopefully mean that it will now be seen far more often at specialist events.

 

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