FORTY-seven Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts dating from 1909 to 1926 will set off later this week to re-enact the original 1913 Alpine Rally.
This Alpine Centenary Trial will follow the original 1,850-mile route as closely as possible, tackling some of the world’s most spectacular and challenging mountain passes in one of the automotive world’s most gruelling tests of endurance.
The rally has been organised by the 20-Ghost Club, formed in 1949 by a group of owners dedicated to the preservation of pre-1940 Rolls-Royce cars which were in danger of being lost. The name of the club was taken from the legendary 40/50hp Silver Ghost and its smaller counterpart, the 20hp model.
The cars will wind their way through Austria, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia and Switzerland from June 14-29, converging at the halfway point in Italy with members of the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club. This gathering of nearly 100 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts will be the largest of its kind in history.
A century ago, the Alpine Rally was the toughest test of a car’s reliability and performance in Europe. Extreme temperatures and altitude, summit climbs of up to 7,400ft, and a rugged landscape peppered with water-filled gullies and hairpin bends, were just some of the challenges requiring ground-breaking engineering by Rolls-Royce.
The design of a new four-speed gearbox with low-gear to deal with exceptional gradients proved so perfect that it would remain in use for the next 15 years. The chassis and suspension, strengthened to take on unmetalled roads at pace, had been put through thousands of miles of roadwork in a few days back at base by the works team’s ‘bumping’ machine. A larger primary tank and newly developed reserve fuel tank allowed for non-stop daily running.
After its performance in the rally, the Silver Ghost would be known simply as ‘The Best Car in the World’.
Many of the hazardous conditions of 1913 remain. The infamous Loibl Pass, now off-limits to drivers, is being opened especially for this rally. The pass is still the steepest of all the passes, with unusually steep and sharp hairpin bends that rise 2,300ft in three miles. This will only be tackled by experienced Ghost drivers.
Forty-seven Silver Ghosts, all made between 1909 and 1926, are entering the Centenary Trial. Rolls-Royce is entering a ‘works team’, comprising the original Radley car which won the 1913 Rally (named after adventurer James Radley) and a new Centenary Collection Ghost ‒ a limited edition bespoke collection which pays tribute to the 1913 Alpine Trial cars. More than 150 participants are taking part from 12 countries, including Australia, America and Hong Kong as well as the UK.