Thomas Manville Jr. was a man of extravagant tastes. The industrial heir who inherited a $10 million fortune in 1925 at the age of 31 was married 13 times to 11 different women, and he was equally enthusiastic about his automobiles. Extravagantly bodied Rolls-Royces were a favorite of his, and there’s no doubt this Silver Wraith was one of the most spectacular.
Completed in 1947 in Crewe, England, the chassis was specified for the U.S. and delivered to New York Rolls-Royce distributor and coachbuilder J.S. Inskip, which carried the mantle of prestigious American coachbuilders after taking over much of the inventory of Brewster along with many of its skilled craftsmen. For Manville, Inskip eschewed the formality of many British body styles to create a jaw-dropping masterpiece of flamboyant exuberance fitting the tastes and means of its socialite client. It cost $22,500, a truly staggering sum then. Perhaps most striking is how the design masterfully reconciles the perpendicular “Parthenon” radiator shell and arrow-straight hood line with swooping curves and chromium accents reminiscent of the finest French “haute-carture” by the likes of Figoni et Falaschi and Saoutchik.
The millionaire’s Silver Wraith created a sensation at the 1949 New York International Motor Show, yet Manville was no steadier in his automotive affections than in matrimony. He put the car up for sale in 1952, whereupon the New York Times described it as the “most expensive Rolls-Royce convertible ever sold in the USA.” Subsequent owners were clearly more devoted, as this exceptional Silver Wraith has been enjoyed by just five custodians in its 72-year career, gracing the velvet lawns of many of the world’s most prestigious concours events and winning numerous accolades in that time. Yet, as Manville continued on his carefree way, his Rolls-Royce brought another era to a close. Inskip produced one other Silver Wraith with similar styling; these two were the very last Rolls-Royces built with American custom coachwork.