Record-breaking Rolls-Royce car sells for £5m
A ROLLS-Royce car described as "one of the finest ever built" has sold for a world record price of almost £5m in an auction that was described as "pure theatre".
The unique 100-year-old Silver Ghost manages 15 miles to the gallon and is said to still be capable of "cruising" at 60mph.
Known as "The Corgi" after the toy maker copied it for a range in the 1960s, the car was originally bought in 1912 for about 1,000 pounds.
It has now gone under the hammer for £4,705,500; the most expensive Rolls-Royce ever sold at auction.
The lengthy sale saw two enthusiasts "duelling" for the car, with the bidding going up in increments of 100,000 pounds.
Those present at the Bonhams sale at the Goodwood Festival of Speed were said to have looked on in hushed tones, breaking out in spontaneous applause when the hammer finally fell.
The car was sold following the death of its American owner and will be leaving these shores again to be with its new anonymous buyer.
The Rolls-Royce was originally bought by John M Stephens of South Croydon. who employed the best coach-making company, Barker and Co. Ltd, to do the bodywork.
The result was an astonishing vehicle that has amazingly survived a century and is still in perfect condition today.
Many other Rolls-Royce cars of this era were converted into ambulances and other types of emergency vehicle during World War One.
This example is said to still be purring smoothly, with a 7.3 litre, six cylinder engine and doing about 15 miles to the gallon.
It was sold after the death in a road accident of its owner, the famed US collector John O'Quinn, and made a grand total of 4,705,500 pounds.
Still capable of cruising at 50 or 60mph, the veteran vehicle was so desirable that enthusiasts from around the world were bidding on it.
Experts were confidant that the car would make two million pounds but the price paid was well above estimate.
The Rolls-Royce still had its headlights, carriage lights, rear lights and inflatable tyres, and it still runs almost silently.
The bodywork was designed for comfort, not speed, and the elegance of the Silver Ghosts created the great name of the motor firm.
James Knight, from Bonhams, said: "This was a surprise to us - we thought it would make around two million pounds.
"There were three bidders then one of them dropped out at 2.3 million pounds and we thought it would end there at about our estimate.
"But then another bidder entered and both were in the room on the phone to their principals.
"It went up in increments of 50,000 pounds, and then 100,000 pounds, and then back down to 50,000 pounds.
"It went on and on and on and was the longest car sale I have ever witnessed. It was pure theatre.
"Everyone there was very respectful and kept quiet and when the price reach a milestone, like three million, there was an intake of breath, then some murmuring, then silence.
"The bidders were duelling and when the hammer came down there was spontaneous applause.
"It was fitting because the car is celebrating her centenary. And the car will be leaving these shores.
"Back in the days when this was made, customers would buy the engine and chassis and would employ coach builders to do the bodywork.
"The first owner of this car hired the best coach builders of the day and the car epitomises the upper echelons of Edwardian society.
"The quality of this car is great - so great that in the 1960s Corgi designed a toy car based on it. It subsequently acquired the nickname The Corgi Rolls-Royce.
"Most Rolls Royce cars of this age have lost their coachwork. Many were adapted in the First World War for use as ambulances.
"When this was new it would probably have been driven by a chauffeur and there is no seat next to his.
"Speed was a secondary consideration after quality, but it would have cruised at 50 or 60mph, but could have gone faster.
"You have to remember that roads in those days were not like the ones we have today and the ride would be much smoother on modern roads.
"It is a heavy car with leaf spring suspension which was similar to the suspension on coaches that were pulled by horses.
"The car has graced some of the great collections and has a superb provenance. It has been restored and can be used - but probably sparingly."