Lot 292 - 1950 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith by James Young

Lot 292 - 1950 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith by James Young

Lot 292 - 1950 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith by James Young

Lot Number 292
Registration 339 LNX
Chassis Number WHD 29
Engine Number RE 355
Odometer reading 38,471 miles
Estimate £40,000 - £48,000

The first Rolls-Royce model produced after World War II was the Silver Wraith. The earliest chassis were produced in 1946 and by the end of that year, the first two cars were produced, bodied by Hooper. There were many Rolls-Royce approved coachbuilders and amongst the finest was James Young.  Originally established in 1863 in London Road, Bromley, building horse drawn carriages, they made their first car body for the local Member of Parliament in 1908 and by 1925 had bodied Bentley and Rolls-Royce motor cars and were large enough to occupy their own stand at the London Motor Show - correspondence on file suggests that WHD 29 was, in fact, the 1950 Show car at Olympia. In 1937, the business was acquired by Rolls-Royce dealers, Jack Barclay Ltd and, after being diverted to building aircraft components during the Second World War, they resumed building cars in 1948 - showing their latest design number WR18 on the stand at the 1948 Earls Court Show.

After nearly 40 years of ownership, the owner has decided that perhaps it is time to retire his driving gloves and entrust the stewardship of this lovely car to someone new. A hugely detailed restoration with subsequent thorough maintenance should be enough for a collector - but the knowledge that the first owner was one of Britain's best loved entertainers in the twentieth century can only add to its appeal, and its value.

Chassis number WHD 29 was delivered to the premises of Rolls-Royce at Lillie Hall, Seagrave Road, Fulham on 28th February 1950, then on to the coachbuilder James Young in London Road, Bromley where body number 1750, in design WR18, was fitted to the chassis and on 23rd November 1950, the complete car was delivered, under the registration number LXB 287, to its first owner, George Formby O.B.E.

George had trained to be a jockey but, when his entertainer father died in 1921, the 16 year old Formby took to the stage with limited success. His fortunes took a turn for the better in 1923 with the advent of two major changes - into his act came a ukulele to distract from his nerves and into his love life came the redoubtable Beryl Ingram. When they married, she gave up her stage career to manage his and his amazing success was counterbalanced by the absolute control she had over his life.  By the 1930's, he had become Britain's biggest celebrity. Between 1933 and 1946, he made no less than 20 films earning him £100,000 a year - compared to a family doctor averaging around £1,000 a year - and this wealth delivered all the material possessions - yachts, houses, racehorses and of course, motor cars.

Beryl was always in the background, inspiring the name of all the yachts - Lady Beryl, while the delivery note for this lovely Silver Wraith shows the address in Fairhaven near Blackpool with the house named 'Beryldene'. Over the years, George and Beryl owned no less than 26 Rolls-Royce and Bentley motor cars. By comparison, Edward, Prince of Wales, owned just 11 cars from these marques. In 1952, the car was sold to a Midlands confectioner, John Steventon; there are wonderful contemporary photographs in the history file that record Mr Steventon's stewardship of the car. The registration changed to a personal number, JHS 1, and in fact Mr Steventon owned JHS 2 and JHS 3 which variously adorned a Mk. X Jaguar, a pink Pontiac and a Triumph Herald, all faithfully photographed. His grandson is pictured in one of the photographs and there are letters on file written by him to the current owner where he recounts details such as the leopard skin seat covers that were in the car together with the stuffed leopard that sat on the partition. There are other colourful anecdotes about family holidays in the West Country including one where, after a heart attack in Torquay in the early sixties, the Silver Wraith acted as an ambulance bringing Grandad home lying down on the back seat.

As well as these delightful anecdotes, the letters also reveal a great deal of detail about the car, the door key number is remembered as well as another trip to Newquay in 1955 when the engine developed a crankshaft problem en route and the car was taken to Rolls- Royce for repair. The car ran well for several years but in the early 1960's, when the mileage was around 70,000, there was growing dissatisfaction with the smoothness of the engine and it was sent again to Rolls-Royce to have a new engine fitted. These are tales of a real family car remembered with much affection and they also explain the difference between the current engine number and the one shown on the delivery note. On Mr Steventon's demise in 1970, the car was sold to a Mr Polochez, a Company Director of Hall Green in Birmingham, with the registration numbers taking the showbiz route to Mr J.H. Saltzmann, the movie producer responsible for the James Bond films and the 1968 film, Battle of Britain.

In 1972, an enthusiastic young stockbroker, advised by a Rolls-Royce-owning friend that he hadn't made it until he owned a Rolls-Royce, acquired WHD 29 for the princely sum of £3,400, his total annual bonus. But "he had made it" in every way. Wholly unaware of the provenance of the car, he decided in 1989, to undertake a thorough restoration of the car and, at the same time, dig into the history through the services of the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club. He was delighted to find that the first owner had been a childhood hero but had a major wobble when he realized just how much the thorough restoration of his beloved Rolls- Royce was costing. The total costs exceeded £80,000 but it is an investment that has seen rewards in Concours events with R-REC and happiness in its use at many weddings where it has always proved a huge hit.

Maintained continually by Rolls-Royce specialists since the restoration, the last invoice on file was in June 2011 from Jack Barclay and its £5,000 total is reflective of this owner's continued cherished view of his car.

Interested parties should satisfy themselves as to the description and condition of each lot prior to the sale. Accordingly, buyers are on notice that each vehicle is offered ‘as is/as seen’ subject to the Terms and Conditions for the auction. Buyers are advised to inspect the vehicle in person or use a professional to carry out this service. Historics will not entertain disputes over descriptions.

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