The Rolls-Royce Import Company - first Rolls-Royce's to come to America

1906 Rolls-Royce (chassis 60534) 30hp, 6 cylinder Landaulet sold in America

This picture was acquired among an archive of early Rolls-Royce images and written on the back is the suggestion that this car was the second Rolls-Royce sold in America. That got me thinking, so I did a little research.

Long before Rolls-Rolls established a manufacturing facility in the United States - Rolls-Royce of America (1919-1930) in Springfield, MA - the company recognized the importance of the American market and looked to sell its automobiles here. Fredrick Royce built two prototype cars in 1904, met Charles S. Rolls the same year and together experimented with no less than 5 different models through 1906. In 1906, Rolls-Royce Limited was established and C.S. Rolls came to American to exhibit his cars at the New York Motor Show. It is thought that Rolls brought with him three cars: the Tourist Trophy winning 20hp, 4 cylinder "Light" touring - consigned to Capt. C.E. Hutton to sell; a 30 hp, 6 cylinder display chassis; and a 30 hp, 6 cylinder touring car bodied by Barker to demonstrate.

Even though C.S. Rolls had had success campaigning the 4 cylinder, "light" 20 cars, by 1906 Rolls-Royce was favoring the 6 cylinder car. Royce would redesign their six cylinder car in early 1907 - employing new three cylinder castings (or blocks) and increasing the horse power to 50. This new variant of the Rolls-Royce 6 cylinder car gained recognition for its performance in the Scottish Reliability Trails of 1907 and forever after would be known as the Silver Ghost.

Back in 1906, when C.S. Rolls came to American for the first time, he chose Walter C. Martin, an established New York Cadillac dealer, to represent Rolls-Royce's interests in the United States (within the year, they would form the Rolls-Royce Import Company with Martin leading the effort).

I don't believe the first car pictured (chassis 60534) was actually the second car sold in America. It is a bit confusing, because by 1907, the company was selling it's remaining stock of 30 hp, 6 cylinder cars as well as the new 50 hp 6 cylinder car (the Ghost). Rolls-Royce appears to have made 3 experimental 30 hp chassis in 1905, before producing 27 30 hp chassis in 1906 (and possibly into 1907). Chassis 60534 was the 4th from last 30 hp, 6 cylinder (cast in pairs) car built and it is seen advertised by Walter Martin in 1907 - ironically the copy in this ad speaks to the new 50 hp car. A few months later Martin and the Rolls-Royce Import Company are advertizing the new 50 hp car exclusively - in this ad it is interesting to note the promotion of the Brewster Co., as one of the first 50 hp chassis sold in the United States was bodied by Brewster.

The following is my best estimation of the first Rolls-Royce cars sold in the United States:
1. 1906 Rolls-Royce 30 hp (6 cylinder) Baker Touring (chassis 60528) - this car was sold off the floor of the New York Motor Show.
2. 1906 Rolls-Royce 20 hp (4 cylinder) "Light" touring (chassis 40523, also bodied by Barker) - I beleive this to be the 1906 winning Tourist Trophy car consigned to Capt. C.E. Hutton (35 pounds to be paid as salary or commission) - I believe this car was sold in March after being raced at Ormaond Beach by Hutton in January 1907 to H.L. Edwards of Dallas, TX for 960 pounds.
3.  1907 Rolls-Royce 50 hp (6 cylinder) - actually two: chassis 60553 & chassis 60565 (a Barker touring) - these two cars were ordered by S. B. Stevens of Rome, NY.
4. 1907 Rolls-Royce 50 hp (6 cylinder) chassis (chassis 60557) - this car was ordered by H.L. Edwards (most likely in May of 1907) and bodied by Brewster (the chassis alone cost $8000).
5. 1906 Rolls-Royce 30 hp (6 cylinder) Landaulet (chassis 60534) - advertised for $9000 in July 1907, I'm not sure when or to whom this car sold.

There certainly may be other cars I'm not aware of and I'm not sure if Edwards or Stevens actually got the first Ghost chassis delivered to the US (I'll keep looking), however, if anyone has further information on this subject, please leave me a comment.

Rolls-Royce (chassis 60534) advertised for sale (photo credit: Motor, July, 1907)

Rolls-Royce exhibit at the 1906 New York Motor Show showing a 30hp, 6 cylinder chassis

Advertising for the new 50 hp, 6 cylinder chassis (now known as the Silver Ghost) (photo credit: Motor, Oct., 1907)

photo credit: Motor, July, 1907

1906 Rolls-Royce 20 hp, 4 cylinder (chassis 40523)

The first Rolls-Royce sold in America - 1906 30hp, 6 cylinder (chassis 60528)


4 comments:

  1. Man, the exact research I was looking for! Great research, and well written. I'm bookmarking Vintage Motoring! Thanks for posting this old, old, old OLD American introduction to Rolls Royce. I've been interested for some time to see which imports sold in America in the 1905 to 1930 time period, and this is a great start.
    Mark Newman, Ottumwa, Iowa, USA

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  2. Mark - Thanks for reading the blog and your comments. Good luck with your research.

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  3. Hi Steve, I would love to use the photo "The first Rolls-Royce sold in America - 1906 30hp, 6 cylinder (chassis 60528)". Would have an original print or a high-resolution file that you could share with me? Thank you! Franck

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  4. I HAVE FOUND MY GRANDFATHER'S (I AM IN MY 60S) BOOK/BROCHURE BOUND WITH STRING AND IN FAIRLY FRAGILE CONDITION THE RR 40/50 HP SIX CYLINDER CAR INFO - LOVELY OLD COLOURED 'PHOTOS OF EACH CAR GLUED IN WITH INFO IN THE BACK ON PRICES/SELLING REPS AND A COPY OF THE RR GUARANTEE/SPECS OF THE 40/50 CAR CHASSIS ETC- RATHER LOVELY -ASSUME CIRCA 1920S. INTRIGUING CODE WORDS USING PRECIOUS STONES E.G. THE LANDAULET WAS SARDIUS. i CAN SEE HOW THESE CARS ARE ICONIC.

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