The Rolls-Royce Wraith was built by Rolls-Royce at their Derby factory from 1938 to 1939 and supplied to independent coachbuilders as a running chassis only. The in-line six cylinder, overhead valve, 4257 cc engine was based on that of the 25/30, but featured a cross-flow cylinder head. The Wraith featured independent coil spring front suspension and semi elliptical leaf springs on the rear axle. The hydraulic dampers at the front had their damping rate controlled by governor and so varied with the speed of the car, making it superior to its predecessor, the 25/30 HP and on par with the Phantom III. The car was still built on a separate chassis but this was now of welded rather than the traditional riveted construction. The drum brakes were assisted by a mechanical servo driven by the engine, a Hispano-Suiza patent built under license by Rolls-Royce. Wire wheels of 17 inch diameter were fitted, usually covered by removable discs. A built in hydraulic jacking system was fitted, operated by a lever under the passenger seat.
The car could reach 85 mph (137 km/h), which of course was very dependent on the weight and style of the body. In 1938 the chassis cost £1100 and a typical touring car could cost about £1700.
Development of the Rolls-Royce Wraith was cut off by the outbreak of World War II, and the model would not be revived after the war, making this effectively a two-year-only offering and thus among the rarest prewar Rolls-Royces today. Only about 491 Wraith chassis were made and delivered to multiple British coachbuilders, but also to other overseas companies like Erdmann & Rossi. Hooper's creations were essentially British in design, like the stately Limousine in this gallery.
This particular Hooper-bodied Wraith, chassis WXA95, has a fascinating history. An accompanying plaque, attributed to "Rolls-Royce Ltd. Derby", confirms "this vehicle has during its service throughout the war carried our employees to and from their work and in doing so helped considerably with our contribution to the national effort." This was certainly quite a luxurious transport for Rolls-Royce's skilled mechanics and engine builders. WXA95's first known private owner was a Mr. P.H. Riley of Esher in Surrey, although it is not known whether he acquired the car before or after its wartime use. In the early 1960s, the car was purchased by the family business C.W. Lyons & Son Ltd. and eventually found its way to the famous Hans-Günter Zach Collection.
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