1959 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I Drophead Coupe by James Young
Amelia Island - A Gentleman's Collection: The Pride & Passion of Orin Smith
- One of two such examples built, both on factory left-hand-drive chassis
- Exceptionally well-balanced, fully custom aluminum coachwork
- Formerly part of the Anthony Preston collection
- The discerning connoisseur’s alternative to the more common “adaptations”
Drophead coupes remained extremely popular on the Silver Cloud chassis, usually crafted by H.J. Mulliner. The initial offering was style number 7410, an aluminum-skinned design that was a fully custom body, created from the ground up, with no two being exactly alike. Cost and efficiency reasons led to the replacement of this attractive design, late in production of the Silver Cloud I, with the so-called “Drophead Coupe Adaptation,” modified from factory saloon body panels.
Nonetheless, as the trend moved away from true custom coachwork to reworked factory bodies, one could still acquire a Silver Cloud I drophead whose body had been handmade, from the wooden frame up, by skilled artisans in the traditional manner. James Young of Bromley, Kent, noted for the subtle elegance and exceptionally high quality of their work, offered their design number SC15VL, a four-passenger drophead coupe with a neatly folding convertible top and modern smooth slab sides, with only a subtle “kick” over the rear wheels. This design was considerably more expensive than an “adaptation” and, thus, considerably more rare. Just two were produced, both with aluminum coachwork on factory left-hand-drive chassis.
Chassis number LSHF169, offered here, was originally delivered on 22 May 1959, to Alfred Hart of Bel Air, California, equipped with power top, radio antenna, and (unique among the two cars) power windows. A colorful local socialite, Mr. Hart began his career in Chicago during Prohibition, wholesaling liquor for one Al Capone. He later relocated to California, where he continued in the distillery business while also establishing the City National Bank of Beverly Hills, investing in local real estate, buying the Del Mar racetrack, and investing in the original Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. When Frank Sinatra Jr. was kidnapped in 1963, it was Mr. Hart who arranged the $240,000 ransom.
The car was subsequently acquired by Anthony Preston, a well-known Rolls-Royce collector from New York, famous for his long-term ownership of one of the Phantom II Henley Roadsters. It passed in 1975 to Charles Patterson of Pittsburgh, in 1978 to Robert Martin of Houston, Texas, and in 2003 to Dr. John Livesay, who never registered it in his name. In 2007 the Silver Cloud was acquired for another well-known collection. In his ownership the car was cosmetically refinished in Oxford Blue with a Saddle Tan top and matching hides, as presented today, with a correct tinted windshield (as original), refinished brightwork, and Vantage Motorworks’ upgraded factory-style air conditioning.
Since joining Orin Smith’s collection, its fifth registered home from new, the car has been well maintained and occasionally driven, to his usual high standards, and still presents in the same fine condition as when it was acquired. It shows only light chassis wear from its occasional street use, with the paint and interior remaining superb, including remarkable traditional James Young wood veneers capping the doors and dashboard, the original radio, and correct vanity compartments and hand tools. The car had ticked over fewer than 52,000 miles at the time of cataloguing, a figure believed to be original.
With the other James Young drophead coupe remaining in its long-term American home for the foreseeable future, this is the opportunity to acquire the sole other example built – the chance of a lifetime for the collector for whom mere rarity is not enough.