Lot 366

1951 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith Seven-Passenger Limousine by Hooper

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$90,750 USD | Sold

United States | Hershey, Pennsylvania

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Chassis No.
WME 85
Engine No.
W118 E
Body No.
9692
Documents
US Title
  • Delivered new to the UK’s most powerful media mogul, The Right Honorable James Gomer Berry, 1st Viscount Kemsley
  • Retains its numbers-matching straight-six engine and original aluminum body
  • Treated to an award-winning six-year restoration by preeminent marque specialist Ralph Curzon circa 2000
  • Documented by Rolls-Royce and Hooper build record copies, Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club trophies, and original factory registration plates

THE LAST OF 10

Every Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith chassis produced from 1946 to 1959 was fitted with custom coachwork. The English coachbuilder Hooper produced many types of bodies upon the Silver Wraith chassis, but among their rarest and most formal designs is the Seven-Passenger Limousine as offered here.

Just 10 examples of these hand-wrought aluminum beauties were created between 1947 and 1951; the first was built for Lord Louis Mountbatten in his service as Viceroy of India. The last, offered here, was delivered new to the United Kingdom’s most powerful media mogul, The Right Honorable James Gomer Berry, 1st Viscount Kemsley.

LORD KEMSLEY’S LIMOUSINE

From 1920 until 1955, Lord Kemsley enjoyed considerable political influence on account of his 22 major newspapers. He was also the patron of several authors, most notably Ian Fleming. Between 1946 and 1961, the Viscount employed Fleming in foreign editorial roles for The Sunday Times, thereby allowing Fleming to draw a regular salary for nine months of the year while working on his James Bond novels from the comfort of his home in Jamaica.

Despite their extremely close relationship (Fleming was reportedly the only person within Kemsley’s publishing empire who was permitted to call the Viscount by his common name, Gomer), Fleming’s personal correspondence is still rife with references to his patron’s “excessive” formality, ruthless business dealings, and series of imposing Rolls-Royce Limousines. It is no surprise that several characters within the James Bond anthology are very closely modeled upon Kemsley’s dignified and overbearing image.

Factory documentation from both Rolls-Royce and Hooper illustrate that chassis WME 85 was originally finished in black over a front cabin trimmed in fawn leather, and rear cabin in fawn “West of England” wool cloth with mohair carpets and flame walnut veneers.

Maintenance records from the Viscount’s ownership indicate further rear cabin modifications undertaken in July 1952 by Hooper to replicate several features as found on the Aga Khan’s famous Phantom IV Sedanca de Ville, in which Kemsley had recently traveled. These modifications included the fitment of tinted purdah glass, special silk rope pulls, an armrest storage box with newspaper cubby, supplemental reading lights, and interior mirrors.

Rather interestingly, the sale of WME 85 is accompanied by a special coin set and pin given to Lord Kemsley during Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in June 1953. The consignor discovered these items wedged under the rear seat, presumably misplaced there during the coronation festivities.

By late 1956, Lord Kemsley had sold WME 85 back to Rolls-Royce, and it was subsequently given the factory registration plates “6518 TU” for use as a diplomatic limousine in service of the British government. These registration plates remain with the car to the present.

In May 1961, WME 85 was acquired by a San Francisco, California-based stockbroker and imported to the United States. Having further passed through subsequent owners in and around Kansas City, Missouri, WME 85 was discovered by the consignor in 1997. At the time, its odometer indicated just under 12,800 miles, and was reportedly in an extremely original but disused state.

THE FINEST HOOPER CAR

The consignor enlisted the renowned marque specialist Ralph Curzon to execute a complete restoration, which ultimately required six years of fastidious work to yield the astonishing effort of cosmetic brilliance and mechanical performance presented today. Under Curzon’s purview, all the car’s unique features, such as its “supplicating” divider glass and undercarriage-mounted antenna, were painstakingly restored after extensive correspondence with the Rolls-Royce company archives. No consideration escaped Curzon’s attention: Every nut and bolt was re-plated to factory specifications, and the car was similarly treated to a complete rewiring of its famously troublesome electrical systems.

WME 85’s rarified Hooper Limousine body remains exceedingly correct throughout, and the car’s straight six-cylinder engine is numbers-matching to the unit listed on factory documentation. The exterior has been refinished in its factory-correct black, and the interior has been similarly retrimmed in the proper fabric, trim, and finishes as specified on its factory order sheet. Even the proper West of England wool cloth—typically used in raincoats and billiard tables—was tracked down and refitted to the rear seats.

Since emerging from its restoration, WME 85 has won numerous awards at several important national-level Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club events, including Best in Show and Finest Hooper Car twice. Furthermore, it was awarded a coveted People’s Choice prize at the Meadowbrook Concours d’Elegance.

This is a fantastic opportunity to acquire an exceptionally formal and eminently functional Silver Wraith. Benefitting from fascinating provenance and documented by both its Rolls-Royce and Hooper factory records, WME 85 would be a much-welcomed entrant at marque events in every corner of the world.