Rolls-Royce Wraith – 1938

The Wraith was designed to be at the heart of the Rolls-Royce standard range, being introduced in 1938 as successor to the 20/25 of 1929 and 25/30 of 1936.

It was built at the company’s Derby factory and supplied to independent outside coachbuilders as a rolling chassis only, allowing them to design and build whatever body style might be specified by the customer.

As the smooth straight-six engine was designed for high-speed cruising, most body types were saloons with sharp art deco lines, notably the Park Ward limousine and saloon, but also the H J Mulliner four-light touring saloon and Hooper limousine. Other famous firms that produced distinctive bodies such as the occasional cabriolet, sedanca de ville (town car) or flowing roadster included Windover, Thrupp & Maberly and Youngs of Bromley.

Although it was a junior sibling of the Phantom III, the Wraith shared many of the latter’s technical features, including the independent front suspension that made it superior to its predecessor, the 25/30 model. Build quality was as always excellent, ensuring that Rolls-Royce maintained its prestige despite offering a cheaper model, and the success of more affordable cars like the Wraith allowed the top-of-the-range Phantom to be offered at a very competitive price.

Around 490 Wraiths were produced before World War II put an abrupt end to production, but the highly regarded Wraith name lived on in a completely revamped model that was the first Roller to reappear after the war, this time with the added prefix ‘Silver’. Because of the short production run, pre-war Wraiths are very rare and extremely desirable, as practically every example has classic late ’30s lines that delight the eye and most survivors drive as well today as they did on the day they were made.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

UK

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1938 (until 1939)

ENGINE:

4,257 cc Straight Six

PERFORMANCE:

Top speed of 85 mph (137 km/h)

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery was never one to hide his light under a bushel, and the great wartime commander liked to be seen out and about around Deep Cut army camp in his Wraith (vanity registration number FLD 99), which had a rare touring limousine body by Park Ward.

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