Love it or hate it, this Rolls is not a car you can ignore, and it has quite a history. Featured in Autocar when completed to its owner Nubar Gulbenkian’s design in October 1947, the car now needs completing once again. It’s being offered as a no-reserve project at Historics’ 7 March sale at Ascot. So what is its story, and how much might it be worth?
Russ Smith’s market headliners
‘Rolls-Royce’s senior management might have kept its fingers crossed that Gulbenkian’s design wouldn’t be too head-turning. But it was’
We asked a connoisseur of Gulbenkian’s series of ‘Marmite’ cars, Richard Barnett, for his take on it. ‘Here is one of the most significant of post-war Rolls-Royces, combining an utterly unique design with a famous owner – Nubar Gulbenkian, ‘Mr Five Percent’, an oil dealer who was one of the world’s wealthiest men in his day. It’s notable too that just after the war Rolls couldn’t afford to be too sniffy about what bodywork their chassis might end up with – after all, he might buy another in the future [he did].
‘Gulbenkian was, to put it mildly, flamboyant, and Rolls-Royce’s senior management might have kept its fingers crossed that the resulting car wouldn’t be too head-turning. But it was. Gulbenkian took his own very particular design ideas to Hooper, which likewise needed any orders it could get in the immediate post-war period. It was surprising that Gulbenkian didn’t go to Gurney Nutting, whose designs were always more rakish anyway, but that company – by then under Jack Barclay ownership – was getting ready to shut its doors. Gulbenkian’s design was – and remains – controversial, but it propelled the Hooper name back into the spotlight.
‘Today it’s great to see this car making a welcome return even though it has cost a small fortune to get this far – allegedly £200,000 with plenty left to spend. But restoring bespoke bodywork is never easy because of the time and skills involved.’ The no-reserve offering gives no clue to the car’s value, but Historics’ bidders might be looking at around the £175k-£225k mark to be successful. A lot? ‘Ex-Gulbenkian cars are always sought after. When completed, expect this Rolls to carry a £350k- £400k price tag – even more if it picks up a jug at Pebble Beach.’