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Car of the Month Selection

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 Rolls-Royce and Bentley

Wood: Rolls-Royce and Bentley: Spirit of Excellence

Car of the Month - September 2006
Rolls-Royce Wraith, 1939, #WMB56,
Gurney Nutting all-weather tourer

Rolls-Royce Wraith

The English magazine "The Autocar" explained in a report devoted to the new Rolls-Royce Wraith that the painstakingly careful development at the manufacturer was "the process of 'refining refinement' going on continuously wherever and whenever possible in the existing highly developed designs." The pre-decessors in the series of smaller models - small only when compared to the "big" Phantom-series motor cars – were simply known as for example 20 H.P. or 25/30 H.P. and that had rooted in the horsepower figures as per tax regulation. The new model however was christened Wraith, thus applying to it a designation in keeping with the name Phantom (and formerly Silver Ghost) for the bigger models. The Wraith did show certain innovations and convinced as a most worthy stable-mate of the Phantom.

The adoption of independent front wheel suspension was the most important among these improvements. The Wraith’ ifs design >>ifs = independent front suspension<< was similar to the highly advanced solution as found on the US-built Packard 120 and over the years experts have come to the conclusion that it is superior to the Phantom III’s ifs design that was on a General Motors patent (based on the so-called "Dubonnet-knee"). It needs to be stated very clearly there can be no doubt the Phantom III showed a tremendously fine ifs – nonetheless the new Wraith was subtly better in roadholding and steering. The engine had only the capacity of 4.250ccm in common with its predecessor, the Rolls-Royce 25/30 H.P., but was an almost complete new design. Combining a light alloy crankcase and "split-skirt" aluminium pistons with a cylinder block and cylinder head made from cast iron gave a hint as regards the high standard of metallurgical experience at Rolls-Royce and here clearly "windfall-profits" from the company's highly successful aero-engine production can be detected. The engine was powerful yet extremely smooth and did operate in perfect harmony with the 4-speed gearbox. The latter had been improved by arranging for synchromesh mechanism on second gear, as well as third and top (the elder 25/30 H.P only had synchronised third and top).

Rolls-Royce Wraith

A wheelbase of 132in (ca. 3,454mm) permitted to fit huge and quite often heavy coachwork; only experts are in a position to separate e.g. at a rally or a meeting a Rolls-Royce Wraith from its sister model the Rolls-Royce Phantom III at a quick glance. The vast majority of bodies were Limousines plus variations, e.g. Sedanca de Ville or Landaulet; several big-sized saloons sported divisions. Thus it was clearly indicated these cars were primarily to be driven by chauffeur. Beside a considerable number of Saloons there was only a fraction of the total production clad with coachwork built for owner drivers, e.g. Fixed Head Coupés, Drop Head Coupés or Cabriolets. Due to more modern styling these usually stood out from the rather conservative lines of the Limousines.

One of the "Grand Designers" is John Polwhele Blatchley. No need to talk about him as a man from the past because in his mid-nineties he is still with us, living in Hastings. An early highlight of his career was that as a very young man he was promoted to the post of chief-designer at Gurney Nutting (after WW II he became head of the design team at Rolls-Royce and created e.g. Silver Cloud and Silver Shadow) and surely his were the lines of this "Car of the Month". Look how the waist line running from the front and then swinging down from above the rear wheel in front of that does "counter" any impression of massiveness. A further enhancement is the mould over the full length of the front wing and extended to the end of the rear wing distinctively "stretching" the car's side view. Exemplary for the outstanding class of Blatchley's design, too, is the fine idea to accentuate the boot's appearance by adding a light-breaking mould.

Rolls-Royce Wraith

Over the decades this Rolls-Royce Wraith had suffered to a certain degree. However the car's condition was returned to former glory after the Wraith had come into the custody of a collector in Germany several years ago. The body has been subject to some major work with duo-tone paintwork being applied as a final touch. Detailed work on the technical components included an engine overhaul that was finished during 3rd quarter of this year. The car's appearance now is highly presentable and chassis, drivetrain, etc. are matching that high standard. Within the next months the car will be advertised for sale at a price reflecting the quality of the work invested in the car and its exclusivity. Any enquiry to will be forwarded to the owner.

Rolls-Royce Wraith

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