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‘Ghosts’ haunt town on state road trip

While “ghosts” are not an uncommon sight in the month of October, approximately 25 of them, Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts to be exact, stopped by Farmville earlier this week on a road trip across the commonwealth.

More than two dozen Silver Ghosts could be spotted staying at Hotel Weyanoke on High Street Tuesday, Oct. 12, during the “Wholly Ghost Tour,” an annual event sponsored by the Silver Ghost Association (SGA).

The SGA, according to board member Gil Fuqua, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost as well as the classic car’s history, maintenance and preservation. The group focuses on education about the famous car through seminars and publications. The association has about 400 members across the globe, many who are Silver Ghost owners and others who just have a passion for the vehicle.

This year’s Wholly Ghost Tour, according to Fuqua, was selected to take place in Virginia, although tours are held all over the country and even overseas. The tour began Sunday in Orange County, and the group plans to tour around the state for two weeks with one brief foray across the state line into West Virginia. The tour will span approximately 1,200-2,000 miles, and next year’s tour will focus on the national parks of Utah.

The Silver Ghost, according to Fuqua, was made by Rolls-Royce from 1907 to 1926. It has often been referred to as “the best car in the word” after a 1907 model was driven round trip from London to Edinburg on a loop circuit for over 10,000 miles — without a single mechanical breakdown.

“The cars were very expensive from the start and have been favored by kings and queens, presidents, movie stars and more,” Fuqua noted. “A Silver Ghost sold new for about $12-$15,000 in the 1920s when a new Model T Ford cost only about $400.”

Fuqua added the high price of the Silver Ghost was the product of the vehicle’s “extreme quality of craftsmanship and robust build of the chassis and engine,” adding that even today it is expected all cars on the tour will make it to the end of the journey without significant issues.

The Ghosts in this year’s tour average about 100 years in age, Fuqua said, noting one member, Bill Kennedy of Taylorville, Illinois put almost 30,000 miles on his vehicle in one year. The majority of the vehicles are convertibles.

Fuqua, who became interested in Silver Ghosts as a teenager and even drove one to his senior prom, is participating in this year’s tour in his 1923 model. He said he has enjoyed doing cosmetic and mechanical work on his vehicle, adding the tour often feels like a high school reunion, joining longtime friends together for a beloved hobby.

“The real fun of these tours is not only being able to drive the cars but to be with people,” he said. “We see many of the same members that will go on all of the tours or a lot of the tours, and they have over the years become close friends.”