When Rolls-Royce & Bentley Motors announced the arrival of the Bentley Mk VI Saloon in 1946, the new model and its subsequent Silver Dawn and R-Type variants marked the first time the storied marques offered complete cars without relying on outside coachbuilders. While this shift ultimately meant the death knell for many prestigious coachbuilders, firms like H.J. Mulliner, Park Ward, and James Young managed to survive thanks to their close and long-running relationships with Rolls-Royce and to the versatility of the Mk VI chassis.
When the Silver Cloud/S-Series replaced the Mk VI in 1955, factory coachwork was now the norm, but Rolls-Royce engineers still allowed coachbuilders to practice their craft, thanks to the car’s sturdy separate ladder chassis. Initially offered in four-door saloon form only, the Silver Cloud was joined by a graceful and exquisitely proportioned two-door drophead coupe crafted by H.J. Mulliner. Officially designated Design #7504, these ‘conversion’ or ‘adaptation’ drophead bodies were hand-built by taking a standard steel saloon, which Mulliner’s craftsmen cut and modified into a graceful and elegant open four-seater.
The Silver Cloud II ushered in Rolls-Royce’s new all-alloy V8 engine and numerous other refinements to the chassis and interior to improve comfort and drivability. While produced in minuscule numbers compared to the Standard Steel Saloon (just 157 in total), the H.J. Mulliner Drophead Conversion remained part of the catalogue through all three iterations of the series, and it remains one of the most collectible and sought-after of the Silver Cloud.
Chassis number SAE 79 is one of just 107 H.J. Mulliner Drophead Coupes built on the Cloud II chassis and is extensively documented with factory build records. Documents show this car was special ordered through J.S. Inskip of New York for Mr. John Halperin, a respected and undoubtedly successful New York mortgage banker. While the car was ordered in the US and destined for use on our shores, the chassis cards show it was specified with right-hand steering, as it is equipped today. Factory records also reveal the car was finished from new in Shell Grey over Scarlet leather trim and red pinstriping. Additional fittings include a power aerial, plain Sundym glass, electric front windows, and Dunlop whitewall tires.
The factory shipped the Silver Cloud via air freight to New York, and Mr. Halperin took delivery at Inskip’s showroom on April 8, 1962. Little of the car’s history is currently known; however, by the 1990s, it was in the care of an owner in sunny Rancho Santa Fe, California, before joining another California collection in 2005. Along the way, the car was treated to a cosmetic restoration and retrim and is now handsomely finished in a period-appropriate livery of metallic sand over beige Connolly hides and a tan mohair power top. It presents in good order, with the older restoration appearing well-maintained. A few imperfections in the paint are noted on close inspection, and some of the chrome fittings exhibit light age-related pitting, yet the car is, regardless, quite appealing and inviting for regular driving.
Swaths of beige Connolly hides cover the seats and door cards with complementing wool carpets. The leather is supple and in fine fettle, having taken on a pleasing character through the years. The wood dash, door caps, and trim are all in excellent order, with beautifully finished burl veneers throughout. Instrumentation and controls are correct original items, while an AM/FM stereo/cassette player is a later addition.
This Cloud II is powered by a 6.23-litre V8 engine, with its stamped serial number matching the accompanying build sheets. Paired with Rolls-Royce’s license-built GM Hydramatic transmission, the V8 is a marvel of refinement and effortless ability. Under previous ownership, the gearbox was overhauled in 2016, and in 2019 the car was serviced by the respected Charles Agapiou, Ltd, and received an uprated alternator. It also features an updated Sanden rotary-style air conditioning compressor to improve efficiency. Overall the engine bay is tidy and appropriately detailed for a driver-quality example. Accompanying items include a mounted spare wheel, factory tool kit, original handbook, and RREC production records.
Even as the viability of custom coachwork waned, firms like H.J. Mulliner kept the torch lit with their striking interpretations of the Silver Cloud series, and few are as desirable as the enduringly elegant Design 7504 Drophead Coupe.
Offers welcome and trades considered