One could devote years to the study of Rolls chassis that were bodied by independent coach builders during the heyday of post-war Great Britain. Among the bigger names were Hooper, James Young and Freestone & Webb. Each had signature designs, often modified by wealthy buyers who had visions of how his particular car should look. Without exception, these were large, stately, near-limousines, built on chassis supplied to order from the Crewe factory.
The Silver Wraith was more imposing and bespoke than its Silver Cloud sister, yet had the same reliable and proven engine—which is still straightforward to maintain today. You will see in the pictures that air conditioning (!) was installed in the car years ago, using a modern Sankyo compressor and added dash vents.
Freestone & Webb perfected the traditional ‘Empress’ body style, with its signature long, sweeping line from front fender to rear bumper across the rear wheel spats, accenting the novel ‘razor edge’ body creases that F & W popularized. Other builders crafted similar designs, but many wound up with unfortunate proportions or a very staid look—it truly was an art to encompass utilitarian goals and create beautiful flowing lines for the large car’s profile. Many period designs employed an unusually small rear window that while stylish, hindered vision and led to a dark rear compartment. Freestone uniquely crafted a much larger opening to alleviate those issues. This F & W body style 1735 beautifully typifies the elegance of the period and was one of the last Rolls-Royce chassis to be bodied by Freestone in London.
The early UK history of chassis DLW134 is unknown, but it has been in the US since the ‘70s, residing in a private collection for the next three decades. A local gentleman discovered the car when it became available several years ago, appreciating both the car’s significance and also its very solid condition. But, that is not to say the car was without needs, as any auto kept locked away like Rapunsel will need recommissioning. Over $20,000 has been invested in recent years to make the car roadworthy and safe, since the bodywork, interior and paint were considered serviceable. (This is an all-aluminum body, so rust was never a problem)
Work included a new fuel tank, carburetor rebuilds, brakes, hoses & wheel cylinders plus rebuilding the brake servo and master cylinder. The transmission was overhauled as well, plus a new complete exhaust system was fitted along with an ignition tune up with new coolant & hoses. The car now runs & drives well, but is very much a 1950s-era experience!
The interior was reupholstered some years ago and was originally built with an unusual glassless center divider that encompasses picnic tables and floor-mounted jump seats. The dash has Freestone’s unique half-moon shaped glove box and control panel, features found in no other period designs. To sum up, this unique Wraith offers an opportunity to experience the ambiance of a fascinating period. It is now in good order mechanically and functionally, but will soon require attention to its cosmetics…but that’s why it’s available at far less than a fully-restored example would command. This 'elegantly ostentatious' Rolls could be a valuable addition to any car livery service for use in weddings.