The recent Bentley EXP 9 F Concept and Rolls-Royce pickup truck rendering have set our imaginations running wild about rugged vehicles from British aristocracy. Fans of the John D. MacDonald literary character Travis McGee have wondered for decades what a real Miss Agnes — McGee’s Rolls-Royce pickup truck — might look like. But for all those concepts, drawings and imaginary exercises that never got made, there is at least one that made it into reality.
While it looks like the brainchild of some eccentric Texas oilman, this 1920 Silver Ghost has a legitimate workman’s past. It is a one-of-one service vehicle that was built so that Rolls-Royces would never have to be seen assisted by a lesser car.
Brewster & Co. in Long Island City, New York, was one of Rolls-Royce’s custom coach builders. Because it was building the bodies for Rolls, it also was responsible for service calls on completed vehicles. The builder did not want to occupy its time with Rolls-Royce’s lengthy service plans. Instead, Brewster created a close relationship with the shop across the street called Vancura Machine Co. (Brewster’s chief mechanic had the last name Vancura.) Rather than bring cars in for repair, Vancura would make house calls.
Having a specialist on your doorstep is exactly the kind of service many would expect from a company like Rolls-Royce, but unfortunately, many customers found the appearance of a regular work truck next to their prized possession unseemly. In the 1920s, a Silver Ghost cost the equivalent of $195,000. While that’s a bargain compared to today’s more typical $250,000 price, this car still commands a certain social stature. Owners do not like having an old Ford wrecker parked next to their disabled Rolls or even worse, having the neighbors watch as their vehicle was dragged away by a greasy truck.