Rolls Royce Silver Cloud 1 Drophead Coupe 3243C RH by Freestone&Web

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Rolls Royce


Silver Cloud 1 Drophead Coupe 3243C RH by Freestone&Web





Construction was body-on-frame, which permitted special bodied versions, though the overwhelming majority were built with the standard Pressed Steel Company manufactured steel body shell. A light-weight aluminium-based alloy was used for doors, bonnet/hood and boot/trunk lid. The chassis was a simple steel box section, welded together and very rigid. The car was 5.38 m (212 in) long, 1.90 m (75 in) wide, and massed 1.95 tonnes.

The chassis was of welded box-frame sections instead of the open channel chassis of the R Type and Silver Dawn. The engine capacity was increased from 4566 to 4887cc, which was the same capacity as introduced in the later R Type Continental in 1954. Full-length cylinder liners were fitted to overcome the problems with the earlier short liners in the Mk VI and R Type.

Since disc brakes were still in the development stage, the Girling drum brake system was optimized by increasing the lining area in the drums themselves. Twin trailing-shoe front braking was adopted. The brake system was now hydraulic to both front and rear drum brakes, but still operated using the Rolls-Royce mechanical servo, which in turn was made more effective by increasing the speed at which the transmission-driven shaft rotated. Mechanical linkage assistance to the rear brakes was retained to improve feel. In 1956 the master cylinder was duplicated to allow independent operation of one set of shoes on the front brakes while the other cylinder operated the other set of front shoes and the rear brakes; the mechanical linkage to the rear brakes meant that the braking system was fail-safe. The front/ rear braking ratio was 1.36:1.

Brakes were hydraulic and assisted by the Rolls-Royce mechanical servo with 11 in (279 mm) drums and suspension was independent coils at the front and semi-elliptic springs at the rear. Twin brake master cylinders were incorporated from April 1956.

Power steering and air conditioning became available as options in 1956.

“Refrigeration” - as air conditioning was known at the time – was then a remarkable novelty in the UK, but it had existed in the USA since 1940 and Rolls-Royce had to make up ground to keep their market share. This option came at the considerable cost of £385, which came to £577 when British purchase tax was paid. This may seem insignificant today, but at the time it was almost the cost of a new Morris Minor. However, size proved to be more of a problem than cost and much time and effort was spent in working out how to install it. In the end, a two cylinder compressor was fixed to the front of the engine which was belt driven from the crankshaft, with a condenser mounted ahead of the radiator block immediately behind the grille. The refrigeration unit itself was mounted in the boot area behind the rear seat, along with centrifugal blowers ducting cool air to vents in the cant rails above and behind the passenger doors. The unit was connected to the front end by a system of pipes clipped into the body sills. Later versions had the evaporator mounted at the rear of the off-side front mudguard, feeding cool air to the face. The system was very powerful and delivered a complete change of air every 90 seconds and the engine idle speed was set higher so that the occupants would be kept cool even when the car was stationary.

Power-assisted steering was a joint project between Marles and Rolls-Royce and was introduced as an export item in March 1956 and became generally available later in that year. It proved to be very popular; though it was never to be standardised on normal wheel-based S1 types.

Hydraulic power came from a Hobourn Eaton pump, which was mounted on the front of the engine and belt driven. This operated an actuating cylinder or ram which was fixed to the chassis front cross-member and was attached to one of the forged arms which formed an idler lever in the steering linkage itself, pushing or pulling as directed. If by any chance the belt broke or the hydraulic fluid leaked out, the steering merely reverted to manual, without assistance.

The Long Wheelbase model was introduced in the autumn of 1957 at a time when Rolls-Royce were developing the new Phantom V with a colossal wheelbase of 145 in (3683mm) and the existing longer wheelbase chassis of the Silver Wraith was soon to disappear. The company decided to provide something in between and introduced a longer wheelbase of 127in (3226mm) for the Silver Cloud and at the same time the engine output was slightly increased to allow for a slightly heavier car. Since Rolls-Royce also acknowledged that the final increase was 13% then the figure for the first Silver Cloud must have been around 157bhp. The difference is very hard to spot from the outside and lies in the fact that there is a rear quarter light built in to the bodywork behind the line of the rear doors. On the standard wheelbase car the window is there, but it is part of the door itself.

For over three decades, Freestone & Webb of Willesden had survived as one of England’s premiere coachbuilders, especially noted for the superb quality of their work on Rolls-Royce and Bentley chassis. By the late 1950s, the company had become part of London dealer Fritz Swain’s company, and was, like many of the few surviving post-war bodymakers, suffering in business. Swain noted that survival, if possible at all, meant trying something new and audacious, and the company’s 1957 Earls Court Motor Show car was exactly that.

Built on the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I chassis, the show car featured modern styling the likes of which had never been seen on a conservative British luxury automobile. Long fenders began at the front of the car, where they formed “hoods” over headlamps set into teardrop-shaped nacelles, and descended in a curve to the rear fenders, where they drew into flared and subtly curvaceous tailfins. Below the door handle on each side, the bodywork swept gently inward, forming a “cove” reminiscent of (dare we say it) the American Corvette. All of this sheetmetal wrapped around an interior sized to comfortably cosset two full-sized adults, in thickly upholstered overstuffed armchairs. Aft of the concealed, power-operated soft top was a massive trunk, all the better to accommodate a week’s luggage for a happy pair.

The car was the smash hit of the show, drawing more attention than virtually anything else on exhibit; reportedly Princess Margaret requested it delivered to her residence for a test drive, and the press flocked to it for photography. They dubbed it the “Honeymoon Express,” a nickname that stuck hard and fast, and that certainly rolled off the tongue better than Freestone & Webb’s “2-Seater Sports Concealed Hood Coupe.”

Unfortunately, all that attention did not translate to additional sales for Freestone & Webb. Fritz Swain eventually dealt the show car to a friend, who bought it as a favor. Only two additional examples of the design were built, another Silver Cloud I, offered here, and a single Bentley S1, both with styling nearly identical to the original “Honeymoon Express.” All three cars survive, with the remaining two (the Bentley version and the other Rolls-Royce) ensconced together in the long-term ownership of one of America’s premiere collections, as a striking testament to the end of the custom coachwork era.

Sold for: 1347500 USD
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