Rolls Royce Silver Wraith

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Rolls Royce

Rolls Royce Silver Wraith

1946 - 1959
United Kingdom
Inline 6 cyl.
4.3/4.6/4.9 Litre
48 bhp
4 spd. man / GM auto
Top Speed:
Number Built:
5 star
Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith Park Ward
Rolls Royce Silver Wraith
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5


It was pretty obvious from the get out that the Rolls Royce Silver Wraith was something pretty special reserved strictly for the very well heeled. In 1957 for example, the asking price was £9,000 in the UK, at a time when the average home cost £3,000.

The first cars had a 127 inch (3226 mm) wheelbase chassis based on the one from the pre-war Wraith with coil sprung independent front suspension and semi-elliptic rear with a live axle. The engine was also based on the Wraith, but had a new cylinder head with overhead inlet valves and side exhaust valves and initially a capacity of 4257cc.

From 1951 this was increased to 4566cc and in 1954 to 4887cc on the long wheelbase models. The braking system was a hybrid hydromechanical system with hydraulic front brakes and mechanical rears using the mechanical servo from the pre-war cars.

The long, 133 inch (3378 mm), wheelbase chassis was announced in 1951, and 639 were made until 1959. The last short wheelbase cars were made in 1953. Initially only a four speed manual gearbox was offered, but this was supplemented by a General Motors automatic option from 1952. None of the cars carried factory bodies, all chassis going to independent coachbuilders.

For the £9,000 price tag you didn't simply ride in comfort and enjoy plenty of standard kit, moreover it was the way you felt and the uplift to the morale, enabling you to make bigger, better decisions, ignoring the trivialities and diversionary influences.

On a more serious note, there was no doubt that space, comfort and silence in a Rolls-Royce Wraith limousine were such that a man could usefully apply himself to his work, and if he needed relaxation, he could find that, too. With the aid of a wire recorder or secretary, ordinary office work could continue while mobile, and in privacy.

If your calling meant that you were instead called upon to ride up front as the driver, it would be easy to think that a very large car of this kind would be difficult to handle. A responsibility, yes, but for sweetness of control and lack of effort few, if any, cars were its equal.

Thus the owner and his wife would not hesitate to take the limousine out for a drive, even though it was designed to have a professional at the wheel. The front seats were comfortable and the "forward compartment" was well equipped. It had its own radio speaker and volume control and, of course, a share, of the heat. The glass partition dividing it from the rear was raised and lowered electrically. Seat adjustment was only fore-and-aft, and proved inadequate for long arms and legs. The view through the large screen from the high sitting position was exceptionally good.

Park Ward Silver Wraith

The Park Ward Silver Wraith seven-passenger limousine could be ordered with a good deal of extra equipment with the coachwork. From 1956 this included power-assisted steering, while the engine was updated and similar to the S-series, with twin S.U. carburettors. Automatic transmission with individual gear selection at the drivers discretion was a standard feature and, of course, there were servo-assisted brakes.

The power steering was almost a necessity, given that the Wraith weighed 47 cwt and oil-tanker sized dimensions. Power assistance was provided by the Rolls-Royce system, the steering gear ratio being reduced from 20.6 to 1 to 18.7 to 1, and the steering wheel also being made smaller. The power steering system consisted of a hydraulic pump, belt-driven from the fan pulleys; a power cylinder which applied a controlled load to the steering linkage; a fluid reservoir with filter element, and, at the base of the steering column, flow control and relief valves with plunger and springs.

Rolls-Royce Power Steering Explained

The flow of oil to the hydraulic ram was controlled by a spool valve, which was located by reaction plungers. The plungers were exposed to oil pressure on the inside, and were also pressed outwards by primary springs. In circumstances calling for heavy steering loads, oil pressure built up on the inside of the plungers, and at a predetermined point they collapsed secondary springs, which then allowed steering assistance up to maximum pressure of the constant output pump without manual load increasing.

From the driver's point of view, the power assistance permittedup to 1 lb. of manual force on the steering wheel without interfering (before first displacement of spool valve against primary springs). In practice this was sufficient for the tiny, sensitive movements which, together with a floating grip, gave accurate and positive control of the car at speed. Sufficient road feel also came back to the driver's hands, although the driver could not receive a pronounced reaction from the wheels.

Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith Television and Cocktail Cabinet
When installed in the Wraith, the Ekco television used an extra long, whip-type aerial which it shared with the H.M.V. radio,.a two-way selector switch being provided. The set cost £99 3s 4d (+ £45 2s 8d tax), and the cocktail cabinet unit cost £46 10s (plus £11 10s tax). This accounted for the whole double installation, including the interconnected folding doors to the cabinet and its automatic lighting...
If the manual force exceeded 1 lb., as it always would when turning or cornering, assistance was applied automatically to the extent of 48 per cent of the load applied on the steering wheel, up to a maximum of 6 lb.

Over 6 lb., as in slow-speed manoeuvring and perhaps sharp turns, the hydraulic pressure was allowed to give assistance up to the maximum pressure provided by the pump.

The pump output was controlled by a flow valve, which passed a steady 1¼ x 1½ gallons per minute, regardless of pressure. The pressure itself varied between 15 lb. sq. in. at idling speed to 600 lb. sq. i.n (on the Silver Cloud and S Bentley the maxiimum was 500 lb. sq. in.).

When manoeuvring slowly the driver (or more officially the chauffeur) would find the big limousine as light to handle as a Morris Minor. The steering when driving was entirely normal to the feel, except that it would be pleasantly light and effortless. And while the Rolls-Royce power-assisted steering was undoubtedly a desirable fitment given the cars bulk, it did not come cheaply. The cost in 1957 was £110, plus £55 tax.

Mobile Television

These days the fitment of DVD and TV systems to a vehicle may seem par-for-the-course, but back in the mid 1950's this was revolutionary. The Ekco television fitted was a mains/portable set, styled in beneath the central cocktail cabinet. The quality of reception obviously varied acccording to conditions and distance from the transmission towers, and the best reception was when the car was stationary. Fine workmanship was seen in the installation of the television and cocktail cabinet in the Park Ward limousine. If the television set was removed from the car it relied on an external power source, which somewhat limited its use. Still, there were only a handful of people that, in the 1950's could boast that their car came fitted from the factory with a television, and we are pretty sure that all these people would be Silver Wraith owners (if we are wrong, please let us know).

Perhaps more in-line with the use of the Silver Wraith as an extension of the office was the Minifon wire recorder installed in the central armmrest. This equipment worked well, and could play back through the radio speaker circuit. When the Silver Wraith was released this option cost £96 15s or £109 Ss with tax added. The electrically operated glass partition was standard equipment, but powered windows were an extra, the four actuators costing £140, and £70 purchase tax.

When production ended in 1959 some 1244 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith, and 639 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith long wheelbase versions had been manufactured. It had outlived the Mark VI and in fact survived until 1959 having been modernised step by step with vital improvements like automatic gearbox becoming an option in 1952. The Silver Wraith was the last Rolls-Royce model to show a vast variety of coachwork styles.

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Also see:

Rolls Royce Heritage
The Spirit of the Silver Ghost (USA Edition)
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