World's oldest surviving Rolls-Royce up for sale

LONDON Thu Oct 18, 2007 10:01am BST

1 of 3. The world's oldest surviving Rolls-Royce is seen in this undated handout received in London October 17, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Bonhams/Handout

LONDON (Reuters) - FOR SALE - Venerable old British car, only three previous owners. Offers around 2 million pounds.

But this is no ordinary -- albeit expensive -- car. It is the world's oldest surviving Rolls-Royce, a star in the automobile enthusiasts' firmament.

Built in 1904, car 20154, a small 10 horsepower open-topped two-seater, is only the fourth vehicle produced by the landmark cooperation between Charles Rolls and Henry Royce and the oldest one still running.

"It is in perfect condition after loving restoration in the 1950s. 20154 is a runner. The purchaser could get in and drive it away," said Tim Schofield, head of UK motor sales at auction house Bonhams.

"You would just need to tickle the carburettor, make sure the battery has a bit of life in it, remove the sleeve from the starter handle and give it a couple of turns," he told Reuters.

The car -- licence plate U 44 -- was first exhibited at The Paris Salon in the late Autumn of 1904.

Rolls-Royce records confirm delivery from the Manchester Works in November that year, and it was displayed at the Olympia Show in London in February 1905.

That year it was briefly driven by a Doctor Briggs -- probably as a trial -- before passing to Kenneth Gillies of Tain in Scotland.

Some while later it was given to Percy Binns of Harrogate as a 21st birthday present.

He owned it for 30 years but neglected it until 1950 when it was seen and acquired from him by Rolls-Royce enthusiast and speedway star Oliver Langton who restored it to its red leather and gleaming brass glory.

"This car is the only Rolls-Royce qualifying on the basis of its pre-1905 date to take part in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, which makes it extra special," said Schofield.

It first ran the prestigious rally in 1954.

Nearly 103 years after it first appeared there, the car will return to Olympia for auction on December 3 as part of Bonhams' sale of collectable cars and automobilia.