WWI ‘mobile dental’ Rolls-Royce up for auction
A Rolls-Royce used as a mobile dental surgery during the First World War is up for auction.
It will join the impressive line-up of motor cars at this year’s Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed Sale on Friday 12 July.
The 1913 Rolls-Royce 45/50hp ‘Silver Ghost’ London-to-Edinburgh Tourer (estimate £600,000 – £800,000) was bought by a wealthy Englishman for £1,016 (approximately £100,000 in today’s money) in September 1913, before passing to its second owner Auguste Charles Valadier in October 1915.
A wealthy French-American living in Paris, Valadier would become instrumental in pioneering the development of maxillofacial re-constructive surgery to treat service personnel injured during The Great War.
On the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 Valadier had been keen to help the war effort in some way. He volunteered his services to the British Red Cross Society in Paris, who accepted him for duty in October that year.
Valadier established the first unit dedicated to the treatment of facial injuries, which helped facilitate the later progress of plastic surgery for use in facial reconstruction.
By the end of 1916, he was stationed at Boulogne and the Rolls-Royce – then bodied in limousine style – had been modified to incorporate a dentist’s chair in the rear.
A colleague who worked alongside Valadier at the time noted: 'In Boulogne, there was a great fat man with sandy hair and a florid face, who had equipped his Rolls-Royce with a dental chair, drills and the necessary heavy metals. The name of this man… was Charles Valadier.'
Valadier would serve throughout the war, attaining the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1919 and being knighted in 1921, having been granted British citizenship the previous year.
After Valadier’s ownership, the Rolls-Royce was returned to limousine coachwork and later served as a breakdown vehicle, complete with jib crane at the rear.
The car was purchased by the current owner’s father Denis Flather in 1965 and rallied extensively both at home and abroad over a 25-year period. Mr Flather was a wealthy industrialist in charge of the family’s steel company in Sheffield. His grandfather William Thomas Flather had been a pioneer Sheffield steel maker and processor who developed new grades of steel to create tougher materials.
Denis Flather’s father David was a founder member of the Sheffield Motor Club in 1903, and Denis grew up with motor vehicles and competitive motorsport.
He founded the BTDA – later the British Trials and Rally Drivers Association – built and raced 500cc racing cars, was chairman of BRM, an active member of the RAC Competitions Committee, and one of a trio of businessmen who bought the remains of Aston Martin from the receiver in 1975.
The London-to-Edinburgh model draws its name from Ernest W Hives’s legendary journey between the two cities in September 1911. Hives completed the 400-mile trip using top gear only, averaging a remarkable 24.32 miles to the gallon.
Thereafter the factory was flooded with requests for replica models, and genuine London-to-Edinburgh Silver Ghosts remain today among the most coveted of all of the model variants.
The car is offered for sale by Bonhams with an extensive history file including a copy of the army record of Auguste Charles Valadier.
Among other cars on offer at the Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed auction is the 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 in which five-times Formula 1 World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio won two grands prix on his way to his second World Drivers’ Championship.
Other entries include the 1955 Maserati 300S Sports-Racing Spider that finished third in the 1955 Sebring 12-Hours (estimate £3.5m – £4.5m), a 1934 Alfa Romeo 8C-2300 ‘Le Mans’ Tourer (estimate £1.4m – £1.8m), the 1965 Ferrari 330GT 2+2 Coupé bought by the Beatles’ John Lennon on the day he passed his driving test (estimate £180,000 – £220,000), and an example of the ultimate Ferrari from the 1960s – the 1966 Ferrari 500 Superfast – that is one of only six right-hand drive models made (estimate £800,000 – £1m).
Items in the auction will be available to view from 10am until 6pm on Thursday 11 July, and from 9am on Friday 12 July. The sale will begin at 11am on Friday 12 July with automobilia, and continue at 2.15pm with Motor Cars. To register to bid call +44 20 7447 7448 or email [email protected]