My Car Quest

November 23, 2017

A Royal Rolls (If Ever So Briefly….)

By Wallace Wyss

I gotta admit, musta been my; sojourn working on the Sunset Strip from ’70-’72, fell in love with a lot of celebrity cars, including RR Silver Cloud dropheads (yes, that’s what they called their convertibles though that name seems to remind me of Henry VIII’s penchant for chopping heads…).

Anyhow missed one at $14,000 or so, around 1971, a decrepit one with its Connolly hide gnawed off in parts by ocelots kept by the owner, a former TV star. Now they are way up there approaching a million, for one in mint condition and “famous owner” provenance.

Which is why this one for sale by McQueen Classics seems like such a deal. It’s way way below a million and yet had a Royal owner.

Rolls Royce Silver Cloud

The original Silver Cloud cabriolets (sooo much better to say than “drophead”) were converted from four door sedans until RR got into series production. The Bentley S1 shared the same body style in its open top car, but there were some oddball variations, one of the RR was a two seater, some had a different rear fender treatment, and some even had a completely different body, slab sided, designed by a foreigner Vilhelm Koren (Norwegian) who also did the controversial (only because of its name) “Chinese eye” version though there was a two headlamp variation in the SII.

Anyway it’s not Koren’s version that I fell in love with. It is the Mulliner Silver Cloud Cabriolet that, to me, embodies the ultimate in luxury though I know it doesn’t have GPS or Blue Tooth or God Knows What Gadget, you can take your gadgets and shove them, you know that this is pure elegance when one hoves up onto the scene.

Rolls Royce Silver Cloud

My favorite picture of one, which I saw in a British magazine, was some bloke driving one across Africa, top down, I mean that’s showing the natives what The British Empire is all about, right, mates?

So now we come to this car, which is for sale. It is a 1964 model, one of the last two years of the Silver Cloud. It is Mulliner bodied. Mulliner (real name H. J. Mulliner & Co. formed in 1897) was a well-known British coach-builder operating from Bedford Park, Chiswick, West London.

Talk about Old Skool, they go all the way back to the 1760’s when they first started hiring out horse drawn carriages. There were Mulliner bodied Rolls and Bentleys before 1959 but that was the year they brought them in-house. The name still exists, now they are the personal commissioning department for Bentley Motor Cars.

Rolls Royce Silver Cloud

The Silver Cloud III arrived in 1963 with updates that distinguish it from the first two previous generations, key among them the four headlamps (which I admitted I hated in ’64 but have come to love with the passage of time). A total of 2,044 SCIIIs were produced between 1963-1966 with Mulliner only producing 25 Drophead Coupes.

Rolls Royce Silver Cloud

THE PRINCE ORDERETH

Now we’re going to discuss the only thing that to me, hurts the value of this beautiful tomato red Roller. It was built “out of time sequence.” That phrase “out of time” means it didn’t roll down the assembly line the same time as all its brethren. It was built decades later.

In fact it was “born” as a four door sedan, (Serial # SFU197) ordered new in 1964 for Sir C.J. Graham of North Ireland.

Now we bring in The Royal. Turns out it was not a British Royal but Prince Jefri, brother of the Sultan of Brunei. He had a very big thing for collecting cars, usually RR, Bentleys and Ferraris, and at one time amassed over 1,000 cars.

He had owned a Silver Cloud drophead earlier but got the yen for owning one again long after he had sold the first one.

At some point in the ’90s, the story is that he rang up Rolls in Crewe, and said “I would like a Silver Cloud III drophead please.” (Well, maybe he didn’t say “please,” princes don’t have to do that…).

Rolls Royce Silver Cloud

They sputtered, probably choking on their Cohibas, saying something to the effect of: “But, dear Prince, we stopped making that model decades ago.”

At that point the Prince or his aides probably said something close to: “You didn’t hear me. I want a RR SCIII drophead” and then probably added the particulars like tomato red, white interior, red piping, yadda yadda.

Now they were stuck. The Sultan and the Prince bought RR and Bentleys like us commoners order birthday cakes. You don’t want to offend solid gold customers like that.
Well, look at the predicament this put Rolls in. It would be like calling GM in 1995 and saying you want a brand new Stingray, a 1963 fastback, fuelie please and make sure it has the knock-offs, only GM wouldn’t do it. They don’t do bespoke (except for Presidents).

But Rolls would. There was a book I read by an Englishman, the book title escaping me, but his premise was that Rolls (and Bentley, which were one company at the time) owns their very existence to the Brunei Royals because of the many secret orders they made for cars that even today, generally have escaped attention. And they did the same with Aston Martin!

So Rolls began to search high and low for a sedan to convert, that being far preferable to building a new one from the ground up. One has to remember many of the original workmen who had built the originals had died or retired. And not that they hadn’t chopped a top before, as I said early on, they made them from sedans. The plans were still in the drawer so to speak.

They found a sedan that had been driven a total of less than 4,000 miles and was a one-owner car and while not owned by a Royal was owned by an aristocrat.

The present sellers, are taking what I call the “long view”, the more favorable interpretation of the time gap, saying in their ad on the internet: “The gap between when the original 25 Drophead Coupes were made in the sixties and when this car was produced in the nineties will only add to the rarity and long term blue chip investment potential.” (incidentally Vantage, a Florida dealer, says 27 left drives were built in SCIII DHC’s.)

There is a strong case for their argument; one has to remember this one wasn’t chopped into a cabriolet by just anybody but by Mulliner. And though they don’t mention it, there was a bit of updating on some mechanicals, I think the brakes.

Rolls Royce Silver Cloud

But, whatever, the Prince drove it and didn’t like it. It didn’t fit his memory of his original car. Maybe they had changed too much. At any rate, it was for sale in Las Vegas for years and now I found it on this website–in Lewes Delaware, listed for $355,000, which is far below a million dollars. And you can say one thing, it is definitely the last Rolls Royce built Silver Cloud drophead, in terms of calendar years, and in car collecting, both the very first one and the very last of a given model are traditionally worth the most at auction time.

To show you how good a deal it is, Gooding, back in 2012 in Scottsdale sold the ex-Sammy Davis Jr. ’63 Silver Cloud dhc for $439,000.

My question is (and please don’t get the idea I am playing hard to get…); if I buy the ex-Prince’s car, will I get to wear the Royal Crest of the Sultan of Brunei on the doors?

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is the author of several books in the Incredible Barn Finds series. Now wearing his fine art hat, he is accepting commissions for oil paintings of classic cars. He can be reached at Photojournalistpro2@gmail.com
 
 
 

 

 

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Summary
A Royal Rolls (If Ever So Briefly….)
Article Name
A Royal Rolls (If Ever So Briefly….)
Description
The Sultan of Brunei and his brother the Prince bought Rolls Royce and Bentley cars like us commoners order birthday cakes.
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Comments

  1. John Shostrom says:

    There are so many inaccuracies in this article that it defies description!

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