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1956 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith Empress Limousine by Hooper Rear View
Auction Result: $93,500
1956 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith Empress Limousine by Hooper
RM Auctions, Automobiles of Amelia Island Collector Car Auction, Amelia Island, Florida, March 13, 2010
AUCTION RESULTS: Lot 163 - Sold at a price of $93,500
125 bhp, 4,887 cc overhead valve inline six-cylinder engine, single downdraft carburetor, automatic four-speed transmission, independent wishbones and coil springs front and semi-elliptic leaf spring rear suspension and four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 134"
The Silver Wraith was available in two wheelbase sizes – approximately 1,244 examples were built with the 127-inch short wheelbase while only 639 models were built with the 134-inch long wheelbase. For the first time, Rolls-Royce products were offered as complete cars with factory coachwork, however in the tradition of the great prewar coachbuilt cars, the Silver Wraith was also offered as a "chassis only" by Rolls-Royce. The price for the chassis alone was £1,800. These special cars were fitted with custom coachbuilt bodies by many of England's most respected coachbuilders of the period, such as H.J. Mulliner, Park Ward, Freestone and Webb, and of course Hooper.
The Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith presented here, chassis number ELW-60, is an Empress Limousine with design number 8390 and is one of only 13 coachbuilt examples built by the Hooper Company on the Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith chassis.
This stately example was originally commissioned by a Mr. Gwinn, Chairman of the Libby Ball Bearings company. After only a year in England, it made its way to the United States and into a collection in Chicago before being purchased by a collector in Florida. The Wraith remained unused in Florida for approximately 25 years before it was acquired by the previous owner and finally by the O'Quinn Collection in 2006.
The coachwork on this particular Hooper limousine is hand formed aluminum over a wooden skeleton. It has a uniquely sporting appearance and is a stylistic departure from the normal bodies of the period, as it was fashionable at the time to build rather tall and sometimes cumbersome looking limousines. The curved beltline originating at the iconic Rolls-Royce radiator stretches elegantly down to the bottom of the rear trunk. The black fenders, trunk and upper body's striking contrast with the bright yellow lower body further accentuates the Rolls-Royce's lines.
The Empress Limousine's brilliant exterior lines are in step with its opulent interior, finished in silver-grey leather in the chauffeur's compartment and matching silver-grey cloth in the rear passenger compartment. The interior is adorned with an abundance of hand-polished and ornate woodwork. The rear passenger's compartment features a center console with an elaborate vanity unit with a telescopic mirror and independent climate controls.
The previous owner purchased the Empress Limousine in the early 1990s and immediately embarked on an extensive mechanical and cosmetic restoration, which took nearly 10 years to complete. The mechanical restoration included a complete rebuild of the engine, a new radiator and the replacement of many suspension components. The interior heating and air conditioning units were returned to proper working order. Cosmetically, the car received all new paint and fully refinished brightwork throughout. Following completion, it was rewarded with several wins at a number of prestigious shows and events throughout America. The car continues to present very well, both inside and out. No imperfections are readily apparent in the paint, brightwork, upholstery or wood.
If one considers that nearly 2,000 Silver Wraiths were built in all, this particular Empress – one of only 13 Hooper examples – is a tremendously rare automobile. In excellent overall condition, it is the epitome of English elegance and the bespoke luxury of the Hooper coachworks.