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Rolls-Royce Twenty turns 100

Rolls-Royce Twenty turns 100

By Wayne Batty

Most car manufacturers with more than just a few decades of history behind them can point to a single vehicle that saved their bacon when times were hard. For Rolls-Royce, that car is the Twenty, the car that left a permanent mark on the marque.

The ‘Great War’ had just ended, military activities at the Rolls-Royce factory were quickly wound down and the maker of ‘the best car in the world’ needed to redefine exactly what that meant in a vastly different post-war world. While production of the Silver Ghost (40/50 H.P.) would continue for more financially insulated customers, it quickly became clear that a new model with revised design parameters would be required. Smaller and less costly, obviously; designed to be driven by its owner, absolutely; yet still as excellent as every Rolls-Royce that had come before. 

It took a few years for this new vision to become reality, but on 6 October 1922, Rolls-Royce unveiled the 20 H.P. Its engine, a 3.1-litre straight six with detachable cylinder head and overhead valves – would provide the template for Rolls-Royce engines late into the 1950s.

1922 Twenty

Above: 1922 Pre-production Rolls-Royce 20 H.P. captured in 1922 with Sir Henry Royce (standing), engine designer C. Jenner in the rear and senior engine designer A. Elliot at the wheel. Image source: The Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club

Despite possessing an engine with a little more than 40 percent of its older sibling’s capacity, the 20 H.P., better known as the ‘Twenty’ proved to be a great success. Being much lighter, more nimble, with better braking and improved steering, the Twenty garnered praise from all corners. 

1924 Twenty

Above: Park Ward open tourer includes the light, open coachwork that Sir Henry Royce had intended for the ‘Twenty’. Image source: The Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club

According to Rolls-Royce, when production of the 20 H.P. ended in 1929, a grand total of 2,940 had been manufactured – very good going for a luxury brand in a post-war climate. It was replaced in the line-up by the 20/25 H.P. but its legacy of instituting Rolls-Royce’s two-model policy lived on for decades. It’s the spiritual ancestor, progenitor even, of today’s Ghost, the owner-driver alternative to the chauffeur-friendly Phantom. 

1929 Twenty

Above: Popular close-coupled landaulette by Park Ward featured a rear roof section that could be lowered to give the occupants open-air motoring. Image source: The Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club


Do you own, or have you ever owned one of these 1920s legends? We’d love to hear your experiences.

By Wayne Batty

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Julian Booty - September 21, 2023

I have owned my 1923 “20” ( Chassis Number 66H6 ) for 49 years and am very fond of it. It has an Enclosed Drive Cabriolet body by Hooper. I have done many miles in it in this country and France.
We were asked by the R R E C to drive down the Royal mile at Windsor Castle in front of H M the Queen as an example of a twenty some years ago but when changing the engine oil the evening before the event the Engine block decided to crack and out came about a gallon of water ! The engine was rebuilt by Michael Grigsby and Wade Palmer. At the moment it is running better than ever. If you are ever down in Kent and would like to see it you are welcome. Julian Booty

Wayne Batty - October 7, 2022

Hi Alex.

Working on a 20/25 must have been both challenging and rewarding.

Thanks for sharing.


Alex Garrett - October 7, 2022

The article is very interesting I happen to have refurbished a 1929 20/25 that is very similar
Thanks Wayne

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