The 1947 Rolls Royce

Eccentric Tycoon Nubar Gulbenkian’s 1947 Rolls Royce up for Auction


LONDON (Daily Mail/Historics Auctioneers) — A highly unusual and eccentric 1947 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith designed by Armenian business tycoon Nubar Gulbenkian is expected to fetch £30,000 at an auction, despite undergoing a £200,000 restoration by the current owner of the vehicle.

Gulbenkian was born in the Ottoman Empire and at just a few weeks old was brought to UK. He was educated at Harrow and then Cambridge, as a consequence of his background, Gulbenkian saw himself as British and strove to live up to the model of the English gentleman. He began as an unpaid worker for his father, who was as noted for his frugal tendencies as his son would be for his spending, but later sued his father, bizarrely after a refusal by the company to allow him $4.50 for lunch. Overreacting to his father’s anger Gulbenkian took him to court to claim his share of the profits of a Gulbenkian subsidiary in Canada. By the time the argument was settled the court costs amounted to $84,000 which Gulbenkians’ father paid; Nubar stating “that was surely the most expensive chicken in history”. Gulbenkian did however inherited $2.5 million from his father and he also became extremely wealthy through his own oil dealings, allowing him to live a highly extravagant lifestyle. He was reported to be one of the wealthiest men in the world.

As a regular customer of Hoopers, the renowned Rolls-Royce and Bentley coachbuilders, he would often design a car himself and ask Hoopers to build it. This Silver Wraith falls into that category, having been designed by Gulbenkian with lots of drawings and requests from him, often challenging the talented workforce of Hoopers to the extreme. Extensive restoration work has been carried out to the vehicle including a new ash frame and comprehensive fabrication work. It is estimated the work, to date, has cost circa £200,000. The current vendor is sadly not in a position to complete the works and has offered this unique vehicle for sale without reserve. The styling is a little unorthodox, as with most things designed by Nubar Gulbenkian, his influence has often caused a stir within the motor industry and his cars are always highly sought after. The registration number of JLK 290 appears still to be allocated to the car according to the DVLA although we are not in possession of a V5 registration document, any new keeper will have to apply for one. Accompanying this Rolls-Royce is an extensive history file comprised of three comprehensive box folders which contain a number of letters dating back to 1947 from Mr. Gulbenkian to Hoopers along with many other documents. This Rolls-Royce with its Sedanca bodywork needs finishing although it is thought the necessary parts are supplied to complete the project. This is a fabulous opportunity to purchase a piece of British motoring history designed by an eccentric who rode around in a custom‐made car, equipped with a Rolls‐Royce engine and a body, trimmed in gold plate, designed to look like a London taxicab. “I like to travel in a gold‐plated taxi that can turn on a sixpence – whatever that is,” he once said.

The auction through Historics will take place on March 7 at the Ascot Racecourse.

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