Ye Olde Bell Hotel and Restaurant at Barnby Moor, near Retford was the meeting place for seventeen spectacular Rolls Royce Silver Ghosts recently, all built between 1911 and 1922.
Some amazing, very rare not to mention extremely valuable cars, with owners and drivers from as far afield as Switzerland, Spain, Florida, Hong Kong and Thailand – plus one owned and driven by a gentleman born and bred a bit closer to home - Retford, son of a local dentist on Grove Street!
This was another classic landmark in Ye Olde Bell’s long motoring association history, having hosted numerous prestigious events over the years including the official UK checkpoint of the Centenary of the Monte Carlo Rally earlier this year.
All the cars left the RAC Club on London’s Pall Mall at 6am on Sunday morning to recreate the epic adventure exactly 100 years ago of the famous Rolls-Royce London to Edinburgh Top Gear Endurance Trial. The 1911 stunt, all in top gear, was when Claude Johnson, General Managing-Director of Rolls Royce, took the challenge from rival firm Napier to prove that Rolls Royce produced the best car in the world!
The original ‘Experimental Speed Car’ Chassis No. 1701 he built in 1911 led the cavalcade exactly 100 years later from the Pall Mall Club. It was also the first car to arrive at Ye Olde Bell Hotel on Sunday and held prime position on the line up at the front of the hotel.
These precious classic cars were complemented with the support of a brand new 21st Century Rolls-Royce Ghost, hand built 100 years later at the home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood.
The 2011 re-enactment was recreated as accurately as possible, including using only top gear, with gear change gates being authentically sealed to show any use of intermediate gears. Over the two day journey, they followed as much as possible the original route along the Great North Road. The return journey ended at the home of Rolls Royce Goodwood on Thursday 15 September with a Grand Afternoon Tea and on Saturday the cars will led the Opening Parade Lap of the Goodwood Revival Festival.
The 1911 RAC-observed trial was a major test for Edwardian cars and no other car at the time could match this Rolls Royce feat, when Chassis 1701 covered all the return 799 miles in top gear with four passengers and luggage at an average of 24.32mpg and a top speed of 78.26 mph over the flying half-mile at Brooklands. Driving the whole journey was only achievable because of the huge 7.5 litre low-compression ration engine allowing drivers to slip the oil lunricated, leather-lined clutch enough for the car to pull away smoothly from standstill even on a slight incline. Chassis 1701 later returned to Brooklands with more streamlined bodywork and secured an astonishing speed of 101.816 mph, making it the fastest Rolls-Royce built at the time.
Royal Automobile Club and 20-Ghost Club member, Nick Naismith, said “1911 was a very important year for Rolls-Royce creating 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 centenary re-enactment of the trials in 2011 for the past two years. 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!”
A total of 7,874 Rolls Royce Silver Ghosts with a 40/50 horsepower chassis were built from 1907 until they went out of production in 1926. These days Silver Ghosts are sought after as much for the beauty of their copper and brass fitted engines as for their unique bodywork and the fascinating history attached to previous owners – typically well-heeled members of high society traced through meticulous vehicle records.
Photographs Courtesy of Borre Wickstrom Photography