Facing increasing competition from faster rivals and with development of its ageing six-cylinder engine nearing its end, Rolls-Royce turned to V8 power as the 1960s approached. The V8 was, of course, the predominant power unit in Rolls-Royce’s most important export market – the USA – so it was only natural that the Crewe firm would study the best American designs – principally those of Chrysler and Cadillac – for inspiration. Introduced in the autumn of 1959, the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II and Bentley S2 appeared externally unchanged from their ‘Cloud and S-Type predecessors, though the duo’s performance was considerably enhanced by the new 6,230cc aluminium-alloy V8 engine.
Although wider and shorter than the ‘six’ it replaced, the new power unit fitted relatively easily within the engine bay, relocation of the steering box from inside to outside of the chassis frame being the most obvious alteration to the previous arrangements. Externally the new models appeared virtually unchanged, while beneath the skin Rolls-Royce’s own four-speed automatic transmission was now the only one on offer and power steering was standardised. Immensely successful both at home and abroad, the Silver Cloud II and Bentley S2 remained in production until the autumn of 1962.
Despite the popularity of Rolls-Royce’s ‘standard steel’ bodywork, discerning customers, in particular those who desired an open car, something not offered by the factory at this time, continued to patronise the handful of coachbuilding firms that remained in business after WW2. Associated exclusively with Rolls-Royce and Bentley after 1945, the London-based firm of H J Mulliner had been purchased by Rolls-Royce in 1959 and merged a few years later with already-owned Park Ward. H J Mulliner had been responsible for the first Bentley Continental, an outstanding design by any standard, and its two-door bodies on both Rolls and Bentley chassis are recognised as among the era’s most elegant.
Available in both Rolls-Royce and Bentley forms, H J Mulliner’s two-door drophead coupé (Design No. 7504) was by far the most popular of these exclusive soft-tops, a total of 107 being built on the Cloud II/S2 standard-wheelbase chassis. Hand crafted style such as this attracted a hefty premium though, H J Mulliner’s convertible being priced some 30% above the standard Silver Cloud II four-door saloon, which was already one of the world’s most expensive cars.
Despatched from the works on the 3rd August 1962, chassis 281 was purchased by H.R.Owen at the behest of the first owner, a Mr. Albert Stevenson of Long Beach, California. The Rolls set sail from London to Los Angeles on the M.S. Dalerdyk, to be supplied to Mr. Stevenson by Peter Satari Motors of Los Angeles. Mr. Stevenson was clearly a gentleman of distinction, specifying his Silver Cloud in Porcelain White, with his personal monogram signwritten on the driver’s door, a gold coachline the length of the car, twin cocktail cabinets (containing each a flask and two cocktail glasses), electric windows and aerial, and sundym glass. Unfortunately Mr. Stevenson passed away after having owned the Cloud for only 6 months.
The car was subsequently sold via an estate sale to the Alhadeff family of Los Angeles. The Alhadeffs owned the Cloud (known within the family as “Eleanor”) for 36 years in all, during which time it passed from father to mother, and from mother to daughter, who had the car transported to her home in Honolulu, Hawaii. The family looked after Eleanor well, in the file we have a thick sheaf of invoices dating back to the late 1970s.
In the late 1990s the Rolls was repatriated to the UK, where it enjoyed a highly detailed restoration at the hands of well regarded Bentley and Rolls Royce restorer P.J.Fischer of London. The restoration bill ran to ten pages, and totalled c. £30,000, a significant amount of money a quarter of a century ago. The Cloud was finished in a very stylish and contemporary colour scheme of metallic grey with a biscuit leather interior, which still looks wonderful and complements the beautifully finished wood veneers perfectly.
The Cloud then passed to its final owner, none other than Mr. Felix Dennis. Felix Dennis – cackling laugh, roistering humour, ribald in appetite, loyal and immensely generous – was one of the richest men in Britain, making his money in magazine publishing. He was unembarrassed by a decade of excess in the 1980s, though in later years, he wrote poetry and undertook reading tours like a rock star, travelling by jet or helicopter to gigs. Although he did not actually possess a driving license, Felix covered around 6,000 miles in the Rolls as a passenger, until his death in 2014.
Since Felix’s passing the Cloud has benefitted from detailed service and repairs with specialist Michael Hibberd, to the tune of £8,000. Currently showing a mileage of 59,500 miles from new (which we believe to be correct), this glorious Rolls Royce is described as being in excellent condition in all respects. The Cloud will be supplied with its original Rolls Royce owners manuals, copies of build and test sheets, a thick file of invoices from the present day back to the mid 1970s, a total of fourteen UK MoT certificates (including the current MoT), and a UK V5 registration document.
This is an extremely rare and desirable Rolls Royce, with unimpeachable provenance.