For the latest classic car news, features, buyer’s guides and classifieds, sign up to the C&SC newsletter here
I’m becoming fatally attracted to a classic car I can’t afford to buy, restore, or deal with generally. Yet it keeps speaking to me, because with a bit of manoeuvring I could easily capture it.
As a cheap entry into the world of coachbuilt Rolls and Bentleys it’s hard to fault: a Park Ward Touring limousine with a sleek profile and a dignified presence that stops well short of the pomposity – or over-the-top flourishes – of some ’50s limousines on this chassis.
It looks the sort of car a ruthless press baron or industrialist would have been driven around in, or the one Top Cat, the wise-cracking animated feral feline of ’60s kids’ TV, slides down the wing of in the opening credits to the cartoon of the same name.
The important difference here is that the Top Cat Wraith has free-standing P100 lights, whereas ‘my’ example has the faired-in ones, more like a Silver Dawn, which are seen as less desirable.
That said, it does have manual gears and even better is a non-division car, although I have secretly always fancied a limousine with a partition.
In fact, I’m fairly certain it is a saloon rather than a limousine, but my knowledge of these cars is hazy mainly because there are so many different body styles, some catalogued official types, but a surprising number of one-offs.
Without a doubt that statement encapsulates the fascination of these cars, built so that the elite members of a more ordered society could travel silently, safely and speedily between appointments. Status was an element of the appeal, but the Silver Wraith really was a car with no real rivals if you had the £6000 to buy it in 1953.
The car in question has dull black paint that is not only original and menacing, but looks as if it will respond well to a T-cut, polish and the mythical ‘lambswool buff’, much favoured by a long departed and deeply disreputable motor trader I used to know.
I’m a total sucker for that sort of easy fix, although I doubt it will look as good in reality as in my imagination.
Like a £700k R-type Continental, the body is all alloy, but we are talking here about an 18ft-long, near-three-tonne monster with maybe 150bhp from a torque-rich straight-six with a tiny carburettor, that is all about silence and minimal need for changing gears.
I’m told it starts and drives, has a stainless-steel exhaust and a few jobs have been done to the brakes, although I doubt they work.
The current state of the interior is evident from the pictures, but on the other hand it has not been ‘got at’ by well-meaning amateur trimmers.
Maybe it’s the sort of car where you just throw a travel rug over the front seat cushion and live with the rest of it in a spirit of shabby chic?
The fact that the history of the thing is a little thin doesn’t bother me, because I like to do a bit of digging in the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club chassis cards.
But I have been told in no uncertain terms by my most trusted Rolls-Royce expert not to get involved – and even that it’s not really cheap enough.
Research shows he is probably right on the latter count, although it’s not far off, price wise. More crucially, what will it cost to put back on the road, not including cosmetics? Anyway, I’m going to take a look in a few days… Should I go for it?