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Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society caters for veteran cars, vintage cars & classic cars, as well as commercials and motorcycles.

:: [  1920 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost rebodied by Labourdette ] ::

Another fascinating photograph from our regular contributor  Cicos Florin  in Constanta by the Black Sea (Romania) who is interested in old cars of Romania.  Do we know what this is? Could it be a Rolls  Royce? --  Another interesting piece of detective work by our experts. The car is big and luxurious and indeed looks like a Rolls Royce but which one. Via Rolls experts Tom Clark, and Andre Blaize from France, advised c1920 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost rebodied by Labourdette Paris  in 1930.

 Read more about the subject below the photos!

Original thoughts were indeed that it was  RR and a Phantom 1 from the mudguards. Many of the photos received from Cikos Florin show American cars so it would not be impossible for this to be a US made Rolls Royce. This is a Tourer, very high lights with U brackets and with a high tie badge bar. Lights do not seem US pattern. Bulky wheeltrims.

We contacted our Rolls Expert Tom Clark who advised he was pretty sure it is a modernised 1920s Silver Ghost. Only single spring shackles at the front so no front wheel brakes. The petrol tank is Ghost as well. Radiator shutters added. The tourer coachwork has a plated trim all around the body, almost unknown in England so he thought this was a European rebody.

Tom Clark contacted his fellow Rolls expert in France Andre Blaize who came back with a positive answer. Andre wondered if the car is 1920 Silver Ghost 123BW which was rebodied by Labourdette in Paris for  " G. Grigorescu of Romania ". Tom commented that anyone going to Labourdette for a rebody is going to get something special and indeed it is a "hole in one" by Andre; a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Chassis 123BW shown below.

I in the meantime got back in touch with our enquirer in Romania and he replied that on the back of one of the photo is a legend suggesting car involved a " Elena Negroponte ". The number-plate is from the Bacau area of Romania (Bc).

I then looked up Elena Negroponte which linked her to a Romanian Army General Theophilus Eremia Grigorescu, a bit of aWW1  Romanian war hero. I wondered if " G Grigorescu " was General Grigorescu? Only problem is that General Grigorescu died in 1919. Back of photo has dates of 1934. Further research suggests that the General was the owner of a massive vineyard in Ivesti. Back of the photo has also Grozesti Fabrica, so presumably they also had a 'factory'. Grozesti is nearby, on the boarder with Moldova. The Rolls was registered in Bacau which is in the same general area as Investi and Grozesti. Bacau is in the historical region of Moldavia. 

A delve into Romanian genealogical records established that the General had a son:  Dan Ulysses (Eremia) Negroponte-Grigorescu;  Birth 20 Nov 1917, Barlad, Romania.  Father: General Eremia (Gregory) Grigorescu; (1863-1919) Mother: Eleni (Ulysses) Negroponte (1881-1953). Died: 19 Feb 1990, Aubervilliers, France, aged 72.   So this suggests that the General was known as Gregory, hence the " G " .

Gregory Grigorescu was a Romanian Army artillery general, who he was minister of war in WW1, and his exploits resulted in him being a Romanian 'national hero'. Quite a lot is written about him on various websites.  He was married twice. He divorced his first wife in 1918 and married Elena Negroponte. His son  Ulysses, was born 1917 while the General was still married to his first wife. Ulysses was borne 1917, so was only three years old when car was made, and still only 13 when rebodied by Labourdette.

The General was also linked with the Investi Vineyard which is one of the oldest vineyards of Romania, having been first recorded in 1448.  Subsequently landowner Hector Economos set up a 200-ha grapevine plantation at Ivesti in 1914-1916. In the 1920s, the winery and the vineyard were taken over by the family of General Eremia Grigorescu; this would have been post the General's death and presumably organised by Elena Grigorescu. In 1949, the estate was nationalised, becoming a communist state agricultural enterprise (IAS). After 1990, part of the estate returned to the general's daughter-in-law Ariadna Grigorescu Negroponte. The wines of Investi, Babeasca Neagra and Feteasca Alba, have over the years won numerous awards in national and international wine competitions.

Andre Blaize the French Rolls Royce expert has subsequently established that The Rolls Royce was initially supplied to the Crown Prince George of Greece (1890-1947) in Oct 1920 !!  

The history of the Greek monarchy is quite complicated but Crown Prince George's grandfather was assassinated in 1913 and was succeeded by George's father Constantine I. Constantine was deposed in a coup in 1917 and went into exile in Switzerland. He was replaced as King by his other son Alexander who reigned until 1920 when he died from septicemia following a monkey bite. He had tried to separate a fight between his dog and a barbary macaque in the royal menagerie. The Greek authorities offered the throne to the younger brother Peter but he refused it. Eventually a referendum returned Constantine I to the throne in December 1920. This was not to last and he abdicated again in 1922.

He was succeeded by eldest son Crown Prince George who had risen to senior ranks of the army. During this time he married his second cousin, on 27 February 1921 in Bucharest, Princess Elisabeth of Romania, daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Marie of Romania. When the Turks defeated Greece at the Battle of Dumlupinar, the military forced the abdication of Constantine I, and George succeeded to the Greek throne on 27 September 1922. Following a failed royalist coup in October 1923, the Revolutionary Committee asked George to depart Greece. Although he refused to abdicate, he left on 19 December 1923 for exile in his wife's home nation of Romania. When a republic was proclaimed on 25 March 1924, he was officially deposed, stripped of his Greek nationality and his property confiscated. His wife stayed in Bucharest whilst he spent more and more time abroad visiting Britain. In 1932 he left Romania permanently and moved to Britain. He became divorced in 1935.

Andre Blaize, the French Rolls Royce expert speculates, " that if  Crown Prince George was  married in  February 1921, perhaps the Rolls Royce was a wedding present or a wedding treat!  In late 1923 he went into exile to Romania, which could explain how General Grigorescu acquired the car, and later to Britain. Andre's information indicates that the car was 'used in 1929 by Brown's Hotel in London'. Did King George live at Brown's and own the car throughout? Hotels rarely used tourers as courtesy transport. The Labourdette photo is dated January 1930. "

Looking at the dates is seems probable that George II  likely owned the Rolls Royce until about 1930, some time after he went into exile in Romania. It seems likely he had it with him on his visits to Britain. It is documented that he was living at Brown's Hotel in London hence the mention of the car being in London at Brown's. George retuned to Greece in 1935 when the populous were pro-monarchy again. His second reign was 1935 to 1947. World War II added further complications to the monarchy but George had returned again to Greece in 1947 to find the Royal Palace looted, the woods at Tatoi chopped down for fuel and corpses buried in shallow graves outside. His country faced economic collapse and political instability. He died very soon after of arteriosclerosis on the 1st of April 1947, many of his subjects thinking the announcement was an April Fool's joke. He is said to have remarked before his death that "The most important tool for a King of Greece is a suitcase!

Not all the dates of the car's history are known or tie in but it seems evident that George owned the car from new in 1920 to just after it was noted to being in London in 1929. It is likely he sold it to Elena Negroponte Grigorescu on his return to Romania. Negroponte name is of Greek origin and it is believed that family background included Greek heritage. As the Labourgette body was put on in 1930, and as the vehicle was supplied to the Grigorescu family, it is probable that Elena was responsible for purchasing the car and having it rebuilt in 1930. We know from the back of the photographs (top) that the car was in use in 1934. Andre Blaize, the French Rolls Royce expert advises that the car has not been heard of since. It has never resurfaced. Romania became a communist state in 1947. Perhaps it was still at the Grigorescu vineyard in Investi in 1949 when the estate was nationalized and became a communist state agricultural enterprise. Quite possible it was confiscated as decadent, and destroyed.

Sometimes quite a lot of information can be unearthed as a result of receiving a single photo!!

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