1955 ROLLS-ROYCE SILVER WRAITH TOURING LIMOUSINE
COACHWORK BY CHAPRON
Chassis No. LELW2
Engine No. L2E
Black with beige leather interior
Engine: six cylinder, in-line, overhead inlet, side exhaust valves, 4,887cc, dual choke Stromberg carburetor; Gearbox: automatic; Suspension: independent front by wishbone and coil spring, half elliptic springs to beam rear axle, ride control; Brakes: servo-assisted front, mechanical rear. Left hand drive.
In returning to automobile production in 1947, Rolls-Royce found itself in a changed world. It was widely perceived that the market for expensive custom-bodied cars would be much smaller than before WWII, and the British government was on an 'export or die' program. To make its offerings more palatable to the U.S. market, Rolls-Royce introduced their first standard factory-bodied car, the Bentley Mark VI. It was later joined by a Rolls-Royce version, the Silver Dawn, in 1949. To continue to cater to its higher market clientele, the Silver Wraith was reintroduced as a 'proper' bare chassis model. Between 1947 and 1955, over 1,780 examples were produced, which were surprisingly more than the 785 of the smaller Silver Dawn but not nearly as many as the more than 7,500 Bentley Mark VI sold.
Much of this success can be attributed to the fact that there were few cars available after the war on which a custom body could be mounted, so the Wraith became a more attractive option.
Initially equipped with the 4,257cc engine of the prewar models, an improved 4,887cc engine was introduced for the 1955 cars. Automatic transmission became standard fitment in 1954, and continued through the end of production in 1959.
French coachbuilder Henri Chapron was born in 1886 in Nouan-le-Fuzelier and established his business in the suburbs of Paris in 1919. Chapron was most noted for stylish but conservative bodies on the leading French luxury marques: Talbot, Delage and Delahaye in the 1930s and 1940s. Although he concentrated on French cars, Chapron also created bodies on a wide variety of chassis, including Packard, Hispano-Suiza and Bentley, and had bodied Rolls-Royces as early as 1930.
This Silver Wraith is almost certainly unique, however records from the RREC indicate that the car was exported to the United States in 1959 to Mrs. J. Thomas-Russell of Cincinnati, Ohio. Later, in 1966, the car was recorded in the care of Mr. Gustaf Villate of Lake Forest, IL. It has the rare Chapron coachwork and is said to have been Mr. Chapron's personal car though no documents have been found to support this. Sergio Franchi located the car in Florida while on holiday and instantly fell in love with it. One aspect of the car which especially appealed to him was the beautifully figured wood inside, as Franchi's father had been a carver and cabinet maker, and he passed down his love for fine woodwork to his son.
The clean, elegant black coachwork and minimal brightwork still shows well, while the interior, which features picnic tables and folding jump seats is clean and correct.
Another attraction of the Wraith to Franchi was the presence it had and its ability to stand out in a sophisticated and subtle way from other, more modern Rolls-Royce limousines. Eva Franchi recalls,'In show business, occasionally a limo was required and once again, rather than having a new one, he wanted to have a classic instead. It was so much a part of Sergio's character that he didn't want to flash around.'
This Chapron Silver Wraith, arguably one of the best-looking of the model, would certainly allow its owner to make a bold statement without raising their voice.