10-11 March 2017
A Gentleman's Collection: The Pride & Passion of Orin Smith
1958 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I Drophead Coupe "Honeymoon Express" by Freestone & Webb
- Chassis no. SGE270
- Engine no. SCI385
- Body no. 1827
Sold for $1,347,500
- The most extravagant, streamlined “Jet Age” design on a Rolls-Royce chassis
- Aptly dubbed “The Honeymoon Express”: designed for two and a week’s luggage
- One of only two such examples built; the only example available for sale
- Known history with three private, long-term owners from new
- Superb, award-winning concours restoration by marque specialists
- Arguably one of the most famous, sought-after, and romantic of all Silver Clouds
THE HONEYMOON EXPRESS: TO HAVE AND TO HOLD
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.
CHASSIS NUMBER SGE270
The second of the two Silver Cloud Is built to the “Honeymoon Express” design, chassis number SGE270 was ordered by London dealers H.R. Owen for Arnold Moreton, a British businessman and high-ranking Mason, to whom it was delivered in June 1958. Actually the final Rolls-Royce built with Freestone & Webb coachwork, the car can easily be distinguished from the earlier “Honeymoon Express” by a black steering wheel, its only notable cosmetic alteration. It bore all the other trademarks of the original design, including the tachometer, power windows and radio aerial, “automatic hood,” and “cubbies” for cocktail accouterments.
Registered in the United Kingdom as “AM 2375,” the coachbuilt Silver Cloud was a frequent sight on the streets of London until 1975, when Mr. Moreton sold it to Charles Altman of New York. Imported stateside by Mr. Altman, the car remained in his ownership until his passing in 1995, and was only sold by his family, to well-known Rolls-Royce dealer Michael Schudroff, in early 2012. Subsequently it was acquired by Orin Smith, who became the third registered owner from new.
As-acquired by Mr. Smith, the Silver Cloud was complete and still impressive, but time had taken its toll on many of its mechanical components, and it determined best-suited for a total restoration. Mr. Smith’s favored firm for such work, respected marque specialists Vantage Motorworks of Miami, performed an exquisite rebuild of the car to original condition, as is documented in photographs on file. Virtually every component was properly rebuilt, including the original engine, while the body, still very solid and in fine condition, was stripped and refinished in Masons Black and Brewster Green, with an interior in Buckskin leather. Every effort was made and delivered to bring the “Honeymoon Express” back to the stunning grandeur of its original concept.
Inspection shows that the work remains virtually flawless today, and exceptional in both its fit and finish, ready for international-class concours appearances which are all but assured. The “cubbies” in the rear compartment still house crystal carafes and glasses, and the proper sets of hand and road tools are fitted, as a show judge would expect them to be. The interior is particularly lush and delicious, with seats as comfortable as one would find in a living room, surrounded by beautiful darkly stained walnut.
With the other Rolls-Royce and sole Bentley examples of this design out of circulation in a long-term private collection, this may well be the only opportunity to acquire this most stunning example of modern design – an extravagant, futuristic Rolls-Royce, designed to accompany all of life’s most beautiful occasions.
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