1954 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith
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1954 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith Saloon
Coachwork by James Young
Registration no. PXA 872
Chassis no. BLW65
Engine no. L64B
Rolls-Royce's first post-war model, the Silver Wraith employed a chassis similar to that of the MkVI Bentley, though with a 7" longer wheelbase. The Wraith however, was only offered with traditional coachbuilt bodies rather than the MkVI's pioneering 'standard steel' bodywork. Powering Rolls-Royce's post-war range was a new 4,257cc six-cylinder engine of cast-iron, monobloc construction with aluminium cylinder head featuring overhead inlet and side exhaust valves. A four-speed manual gearbox with synchromesh was standard initially, an automatic option (for export models only at first) not becoming available until 1952, at which time the engine was enlarged to 4,566cc and a long-wheelbase version introduced. Production ceased in 1959, by which time 1,780 chassis had been completed.
The last word in motoring luxury in its day, this long-wheelbase Silver Wraith carries saloon coachwork by James Young, one of the few British coachbuilders still active after WW2. The Bromley-based carriage-maker had bodied its first automobile in 1908, affiliating itself with a succession of quality marques throughout the 1920s and 1930s, and had established itself among the foremost coachbuilders for upmarket chassis by the end of the latter decade. Its factory devastated by wartime bombing, the company did not resume exhibiting at the London Motor Shows until 1948, continuing to offer coachbuilt designs of distinction on (mainly) Rolls-Royce and Bentley chassis until the arrival of the unitary construction Silver Shadow/T-Series range in the 1960s.
Chassis number 'BLW65' was owned from the early 1960s onwards by Ann Croft, who only sold it in 2013. Ann Croft is the widow of David Croft, co-writer of BBC Television's much-loved Dad's Army, 'Allo 'Allo, Are You Being Served?, Hi-di-Hi, It Ain't Half Hot Mum and other series. They were married for almost 60 years and had seven children.
Around 1960, Ann Croft or Ann Callender as she was also known, was presenting a television programme called Whitsun. One of the guests on her programme was Raymond Way who ran a car dealership in London's Edgware Road. After the show they were talking about cars and he told her about one that he had recently purchased. That car was the Silver Wraith offered here, which had been exhibited at the London Motor Show in 1954. The cost when new was £10,500.
The Wraith was originally owned by the film company, Associated British Pictures and then by the company's managing director. When he died, the Rolls-Royce was left to his chauffeur, who sold it on to Raymond Way. Ann Croft purchased the car for £1,700 and she and David Croft used it for personal appearances, attending film awards, going to the BAFTAs, etc.
As well as presenting television programmes, Ann Croft (Callender) also ran a theatrical agency called Ann Callender Associates. Some of the big names on her books included David Jason, Ian Lavender and Shirley Ann Field, and she also ran a booking agency, booking acts to appear on Ready Steady Go, a popular television show at that time. These included The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Dusty Springfield and Tony Blackburn plus many others. All of these stars and many, many more were chauffeured around London in the back of the Silver Wraith.
In the 1980s, Ann and David's daughter, Penny Croft, co-wrote the BBC Television sitcom Life Without George, and the Silver Wraith was used in a wedding scene in one of the episodes, staged at Creeting St Peter near Ipswich. It also appeared in one or two of David Croft's shows.
At some time during the 1960s the Wraith was sent back to the Rolls-Royce factory at Crewe to be re-sprayed in its current cream colour (it was originally dark blue). Restored between 2013 and 2015, the car is described by the vendor as in generally very good condition and comes with its original handbook and Service Workshop Manual; sundry service and restoration bills; V5C registration document; and a quantity of expired MoT certificates verifying the recorded mileage of 39,480.