Amidst the settling dust that marked the end of World War II, Rolls-Royce found itself at a crossroads. The company hadn’t built an automobile since 1940, as they directed all resources to the aero-engine plant in Crewe in support of the war effort. Some within the company felt it was not worth returning to motorcar production and that aero engines should become the number-one priority for the future. Thankfully, there were enough champions of Rolls-Royce motor cars within the ranks to convince the board otherwise, and soon an all-new model was on the drawing board.
The Silver Wraith became Rolls-Royce’s debut post-war offering, holding the distinction of being the first model built in the now-legendary Crewe factory. That facility already had an extensive machine shop and a full staff of skilled workers, making the transition from Merlin engine production to motorcar production relatively straightforward. The new Silver Wraith was, for all intents and purposes, a clean-sheet design for the modern era. It served as the standard offering, with only the ultra-exclusive, eight-cylinder Phantom IV (just 18 built) sitting above it. The Silver Wraith used the 4.25-liter inline six-cylinder engine, featuring an F-head design with overhead inlet valves and side-mounted exhaust valves. Keeping with Rolls-Royce tradition, the Silver Wraith was sold only as a rolling chassis, for delivery to outside coachbuilders. It was not until the Silver Dawn that Rolls adopted Standard Steel Saloon as pioneered by its mechanical twin, the Bentley Mk VI. Between 1946 and 1958, Rolls-Royce produced a total of 1,883 Silver Wraiths. Today’s enthusiasts cherish the Silver Wraith for the way it combines a classic pre-war aesthetic with refined, post-war performance.
With its elegant coachwork by H.J. Mulliner, chassis number WAB20 is a marvelous example of the stately and imposing Silver Wraith. This stunning Rolls-Royce comes with a large history file spanning its more than seven decades of ownership. Build records provided by the Rolls Royce Enthusiasts Club document the car’s history from the chassis’ completion in March of 1948, to its shipment to H.J. Mulliner coachbuilders. Mulliner records indicate the order was for style number 7055, the elegant Sedanca De Ville. Assigned body number 4909, this car features several individual touches, including an electrically operated division window, electric rear sunshade, drinks cabinet, and radio. Delivery took place in August 1948 via Loxham’s Garages, Ltd, with the first owner listed H. Kamiya Esq, of Lytham St Annes. Subsequent owners are well-documented via the chassis cards and history files, and it remained in the U.K. for much of its early life when, in 1972, it came to Canada. Owned by clothier Edward Chapman, Ltd, the Rolls-Royce often appeared on display in his famous Vancouver store. After many years with the Chapman family, it transferred to Mr. Robert Wadden, a dedicated marque enthusiast who served as the chair of the Rolls-Royce Owner’s Club, B.C. Region.
In Mr. Wadden’s hands, the car received an exhaustive, nut-and-bolt, photo-documented restoration spanning the better part of ten years and completed in 2002. The goal of the project was to make it a reliable long-distance tourer, as well as a high-scoring RROC show car. Handling the project was R.X. Autoworks of North Vancouver, a highly respected restoration shop with numerous awards at Pebble Beach, Villa d’Este, and the Monaco Concours. They painstakingly restored WAB20, finishing it in a gorgeous combination of Masons Black with tan body sides, over a striking red leather interior. Mr. Wadden eventually sold the car to a collector from New York State who continued to care for and fine-tune it for judged RROC events.
Most recently, WAB20 was part of a significant private collection, and it presents in outstanding condition, with a gently matured restoration that still looks ready for show or touring. The paintwork is superb, with gorgeous black wings and upper panels contrasting the cream-colored body sides and wheels. Panel fit is exemplary, with doors that operate with the quality expected of a coachbuilt Rolls-Royce. The chrome is in excellent order all around, with only some minor patina visible on the radiator shell. Styling is similar to the Mulliner Touring Limousine, except for the opening driver’s compartment, which lends the sharp, formal appearance. The separate headlamps and large center-mount Lucas fog lamp give the car a stately, pre-war character.
From new, this car featured tan broadcloth upholstery in the rear, with leather in front. For the restoration, Mr. Wadden chose striking red Connolly hides for the seats and interior panels. Other materials include West of England broadcloth headlining and Wilton wool carpets. All of the original woodwork was restored to a very high standard, using book-matched, edge-banded walnut veneer on the dash, door caps, and the impressive center division panel. The elaborate fittings are correct for this car, as noted on the H.J. Mulliner build sheets, including fold-down tray tables, fold-away footrests, flush cabinets housing a crystal decanter set, and the original radio. In addition to the superb soft trim, the electrical equipment is restored, including the electric rear blind, electric division window, radio, instruments, and trafficators.
The original, numbers-matching 4.25-liter inline-six received a complete overhaul as part of the restoration. The project included new bearings, valves, guides, resurfaced block, reground crank, and a rebuilt clutch and pressure plate. Factory-correct surfaces were restored, and hardware nickel plated as needed. The presentation remains excellent, with a slight character from use, but highly correct and to original specs. It has consistently scored high marks (and numerous trophies) in RROC concours events while also proving to be a reliable tour car.
Accompanying the car is the original under-dash tool kit, numerous ribbons and awards, and the history file documenting its restoration, service, and show participation through the years. We rarely encounter examples of the Silver Wraith restored to such a meticulous standard, and this superb motorcar is sure to satisfy the most discriminating collector, with its beautiful presentation and superb mechanical condition, it is ready to provide many pleasurable miles on the road.
Offers welcome and trades considered