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Research: finding photo sources

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#1 corniche

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Posted 27 June 2006 - 01:07

I’m seeking advice in the area of finding collections of identified or unidentified pictures – old pictures.

For example, I’m looking for a photo of an “Invisible”. That sounds funny, but it’s true. There is only one production Rolls-Royce model without a surviving example to reach our time – and that’s the 1905/6 V8 20 h.p. Rolls-Royce. This car came in two versions, the “Legalimit” – a car with gearing that would keep the car from exceeding the legal speed limit and the “Invisible” – a car made to compete with the electric coaches popular in turn of the century London. These electric cars suffered from, you guessed it, severe range limitations. To create a competitive petrol version, the car had to be very quiet, and no suffer under clouds of blue smoke. A V8 design was chosen to fit under the seat of the driver (thus, an “Invisible”) and pressure oil feed system was designed to avoid blue smoke emissions (very “Rolls-Royce” characteristics – design refinements that made their way into the Silver Ghost). Here are some images:

Drawing of the “Invisible” – the “Landaulet par Excellence” coach.

Picture of the “Invisible” chassis (note the platform frame above the engine).

The “Legalimit” with it’s more traditional automobile body configuration.

For more on these cars, see another thread herein:


As you can see, the “Invisible” is only known as a drawing (as it appeared in the 1906 company catalogue). This car was parked outside of the Olympia show in London of November 17-27, 1905, available for trials. Further an Invisible was used in an inspection program where company engineers went out visiting customers and inspecting their cars, servicing them, and, most importantly, gathering real world data on the performance of the cars in real world conditions. Yet, no pictures of this car have been found. Yes, it was a hundred years ago and there have been two world wars (etc.) to help any pictures find their way to oblivion. But with an appearance in a show like Olympia and a tour around the country visiting customers, it seems like some pictures could have survived. There are only a few of the Legalimit. In the case of the Invisible, there may be some out there, but who would know? The car would look like a typical carriage design – the car would not have the familiar Rolls-Royce radiator to help identification. Probably a picture known to be from that show, or with a known person from R-R (for example, Charles Rolls, who loved to have his picture taken with his cars!) would be the most likely way to spot one of these.

There are many interesting stories in early motoring history – and many mysteries. The fun is in the search (the research) and in learning something new. For this car, which is probably the first V8 powered passenger production automobile in the world, the mystery continues.

Many thanks, in advance, for any help extended to this enthusiast of early Rolls-Royce history.