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Lot 431: Rolls-Royce Wraith Saloon

Rolls-Royce, Bentley Motor Cars and Automobilia, Bonhams (19 June 2010)

Development of the pre-war 'small' Rolls-Royce, which had begun in 1922 with the introduction of the 20hp, culminated in 1938 with the arrival of the Wraith. Replacement for the 25/30hp model, the Wraith retained its predecessor's engine dimensions for a capacity of 4,257cc, but almost every other aspect of its overhead-valve, six-cylinder engine was new, the most obvious difference being the adoption of a superior, cross-flow cylinder head, first seen on the 4ΒΌ-Litre Bentley, which placed the inlet and exhaust ports on opposite sides. This extensively revised power unit was mounted in an equally new chassis. Like that of its larger sibling, the Phantom III, the Wraith's frame featured cruciform bracing and independent front suspension based on a General Motors design. It need hardly be stated that the Wraith improved on its predecessor's already high standards of silence and smoothness, though the benefits of the new engine's extra horsepower were largely offset by heavier coachwork. Sadly, production was curtailed by the outbreak of WW2 after just 491 cars had been built. First registered 'BDN 222', this example of the rarest of 1930s Rolls-Royces is clothed in saloon coachwork by Hooper & Co, London-based carriage makers to Queen Victoria and King Edward VII and arguably the finest of all British coachbuilders. The Wraith had been on the Isle of Man (where it was previously registered 'NMN 557') since 1946, undergoing a complete body restoration to a high standard during the 1980s before being sold to well known collector, the late Barry Burnett, at Bonhams' Beaulieu Sale in September 2007 (Lot 740). At that time the entire interior was said to have been sympathetically renovated with new carpets of the original colour and a new headlining in best quality cloth, while nearly all the bright metal trim was in very good condition. Barry Burnett wrote to the previous owner concerning its history, and a copy of this letter, complete with the previous owner's annotations, is on file. No major re-commissioning has been undertaken apart from acquiring a replacement exhaust manifold, and its mechanical condition remains unknown. Tasks requiring completion include overhauling the hydraulic jacks, which are not fitted and are boxed separately, while the rear tool compartment door, which carries the number-plate assembly, requires re-panelling and painting. Sold strictly as viewed, the car comes with old-style logbook.

Lot Details
Auction Rolls-Royce, Bentley Motor Cars and Automobilia
Bonhams, Rockingham Castle, Northamptonshire
TypeCar
Lot Number431
Estimate£15000-£20000
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£22500
Hammer Price (inc premium)£25875
Year1938
Condition rating0
Registration number33 MAN
Mileage-
Chassis numberWMB72
Engine numberJ3WP
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors