Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 12, 2013

What Did Jay Gatsby’s Rolls-Royce Really Look Like?

yellowrollsThe Baz Luhrmann film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” takes some liberties with the creamy yellow Rolls-Royce depicted in the novel.

For one, Luhrmann interprets it as a 1929 Duesenberg.

Though there are some ambiguities in the text, let’s assume Fitzgerald really did mean what he said: Gatsby owned a 1922 Rolls-Royce.

What would it/could it/should it have looked like?

Probably a lot like this:

A 1922 Rolls-Royce

A 1922 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, in creamy yellow, equipped for a Gatsby soiree

The novel says Gatsby used it as “an omnibus” to transport guests around. It was equipped with luggage extensions, a folding tonneau cover, picnic baskets, and enough windshields to blind onlookers.

Screen Shot 2013-05-12 at 11.06.55 AM

The Silver Ghost’s complicated cockpit

Look inside, at how difficult it would have been to drive one of these things. No wonder Daisy Buchanan couldn’t master it. First of all – not to make excuses for her – it had right-hand-drive, so she was already trying to drive on the wrong side of the road.

The accelerator, or throttle, is controlled by one of those levers on the steering wheel. (The other levers controlled things like idle and fuel mixture.) It worked like cruise control. Fuel economy was only about 10 m.p.g., so a lot of stops could be expected at Wilson’s Garage.

The Silver Ghost's "Parthenon Grille" could look sinister in a certain light.

The Silver Ghost’s “Parthenon Grille” could look sinister in a certain light. Rather like an oculist’s billboard.

Notice the hand brake over by the door; at 4,200+ pounds, this thing would have been pretty hard to stop; not all the wheels had brakes attached to them in those days, by the way. Duesenberg pioneered four-wheel braking years later.

Good thing its top speed was barely 65 m.p.h.

To turn it on, switch the keys – there in the center of the dash – to the right. The starter button is on the floor, under your left foot.

There’s a clutch pedal down under the dash somewhere, used to help shift the three-speed manual transmission. Brakes, clutch, accelerator and steering all required the muscles of an extremely fit person to activate, control and modulate.

It was devilishly hard to drive. Pity the pedestrian who darted in front of one of these. Myrtle Wilson never stood a chance.

Jerry Garrett

May 12, 2013


  1. […] I cannot. I ran across this eye-opening and thought-providing symbolism on a website called “Garrett On the Road.” He noticed the grill and headlights of the 22 Rolls bear a striking resemblance to the eyes […]

  2. this car is a 1928 phantom I made in springfield, mass so it was probably a it isnt much different at all to drive a RHD car. she would’ve been use to driving a car like that because none of the cars from that era were easy to drive

  3. LHD

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