We have been very lucky to have had The Titanic Ghost at a number of our Gordon Bennett, Irish Classic Car Runs, and it truly is a joy to behold.
A specially commissioned Rolls Royce built for Lord William Pirrie (the chairman of Harland and Wolff shipbuilders), shortly before Titanic was launched in April 1912. Lord Pirrie was instrumental in having the Titanic and its sister ships built in Belfast for the White Star Line. Owned by Albert and Margaret White, the one hundred and two year old Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, which in common with the practice of its time had been named, rather like naming a ship, so that a cast metal plate on the scuttle under the centre of the windscreen proclaimed it to be the “Titanic Ghost”. The car still bears its original Titanic Ghost nameplate and the family crest of Lord Pirrie.
The story of the car and how it got its name, is fascinating. The chassis (each owner had the body made and fitted separately) was ordered from Rolls-Royce in November 1909 by the Rt. Hon. Lord Pirrie KP PC of Whitley Park, Godalming, Surrey, HM’s Lieutenant, for the City of Belfast in 1911 and Chairman of Harland and Wolff Ltd; the chassis was delivered to Morgan and Co Ltd of Long Acre, London in May 1910 to be fitted with “ceremonial double phaeton” coach work.
On Pirrie’s death in 1924, the car was passed to his brother-in-law, the Hon Alexander, Montgomery Carlisle who was chief designer at the shipyard. When Carlisle died in 1926 the car was sold for £35 and fitted with an ambulance body. Sinking even lower down the social scale, in 1932 the body was removed and the car used as a breakdown truck and subsequently as the prime mover for a set of gang mowers on a Surrey golf club.
It was again for sale in 1950 in a breaker’s yard on the main London to Maidstone road for £3 10s (£3.50). It was then purchased to continue its life as a breakdown truck, but in 1955 when recognition had set in that these old cars might become more valuable, the car’s fortunes changed for the better. The by now very well used Rolls-Royce breakdown truck came into the hands of London Rolls-Royce agents Jack Barclay, and served them well for thirty years until it was sold to an American owner in June 1985.
As has happened with quite a lot of these cars that made their way over to the USA, the car was “repatriated” in 2000 and became the subject of a four-year restoration project.