Lord Louis Mountbatten was born to the sea: he was a naval officer, the Admiral of the Fleet, and, as the First Sea Lord, the commander of the entire British Navy. He was also cousin to Elizabeth II, a full-blooded member of the house of Windsor. As such, the Rolls-Royce he ordered for himself in 1924 was bespoke in the proper sense of the word. Now offered up for auction at Bonhams Goodwood Members’ Meeting Sale, it’s a symbol of post-war nobility and also a waning empire that still flexed considerable sea power.
By the mid-20s Lord Mountbatten had already seen action as a midshipman in the closing battles of WWI. Rising to the rank of lieutenant aboard a series of battleships, he cultivated both the air of command you’d expect from a Royal Peer and a life-long obsession with electronics and gadgetry. Given a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Cabriolet by the then Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII), he soon sent to Rolls-Royce with a list of improvements. At the time, the Silver Ghost was considered to be the finest automobile in the world, so one imagines the designers at Rolls may have been less than thrilled.
Instead of a Spirit of Ecstasy, Mountbatten ordered his own figurehead, a naval signalman semaphoring the letter M, fitted to the front. He also directed a more streamlined version of the Ghost’s long hood, and a mechanism of his own design for dipping the headlights.
And yet after all that work Mountbatten soon tired of the car. It passed through several owners before disappearing entirely around 1939. It emerged again when an Oxford-based Rolls-Royce enthusiast, Captain Ralph Symmons, stumbled across the car in the South of France. He had the car restored, and it was soon reunited with its first owner as part of televised biography of Lord Mountbatten.
Sadly, Mountbatten would also end his life at sea, assassinated by an IRA bomb planted on his boat as it sat in the harbor in Mullaghmore, County Sligo. His Silver Ghost was restored shortly after his death and spent its days in Britain’s National Motor Museum, and the Queen’s residence in Norfolk. Crossing the block this Saturday, it’s expected to fetch anywhere from $240,000 to $325,000.