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Car of the Month Selection

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The Classic Elegance

Wood: Rolls-Royce and Bentley: Spirit of Excellence


Car of the Month - February 2008
Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith, 1956, #JRX23163
Limousine by Hooper

  Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith

Almost inevitably the term ‘Empress’ will be used when a car appears that is showing this distinguished coachwork. Almost everyone knows what special design is meant by that - and almost everyone is willing to accept the term is used for various models from Rolls-Royce and Bentley, too. The name was derived from what had been the famous Hooper 'Empress Line’.

Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith

A The design by Osmond Rivers, chief stylist of Hooper's, originally was intended to be shown on the Daimler 'Empress' and that is the reason why anyone talks about the "Empress Line". Daimler motor cars were made by a company in the United Kingdom that was entirely independent from Daimler and/or Daimler-Benz, Germany. The car that started it all was the Hooper-bodied Daimler Empress, first built on the DB18 Special Sports chassis. That proved to be so popular that in various forms it was continued until 1958 on Daimler 2 1/2 litre, 3 Litre, 3 1/2 Litre and 4 1/2 Litre chassis.


Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith

Hooper themselves actually didn't mention the term ‘Empress’ when they erected coachwork to such design on non-Daimler chassis, e.g. Bentley or Rolls- Royce. This particular design was a genuine "Bestseller" for them and they erected hundreds of bodies on a variety of chassis of different models from various car manufacturers. With suitable adaptations having been executed it was offered for any model series from the very start of the new decade well to the end of the 50ies. In addition to 4-Door Saloons and Limousines the lines were adapted to grace Drophead Coupés and 2-Door Saloons, too.

Indeed the design met with such acclaim that it set a trend. Several other coachbuilders complied with their clients’ desire when these expressed they opted for a body along such lines. Freestone & Webb rank prominently among those because their creation was particularly elegant and well-made; indeed the Silver Cloud I, #SZB95, exhibited by Freestone & Webb at the 1956 Earls Court Motor Show was awarded a gold medal.

Perhaps it might be remembered what Shakespeare in "Romeo and Juliet" (Act I, Scene I) had Benvolio saying: “By giving liberty unto thine eyes: Examine other beauties.” - Well then, it is only fair to compare the photos of coachwork on Rolls-Royce to one showing a Hooper-bodied Daimler, e.g. “The Green Goddess” on Daimler DE36 chassis.

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