NEC Classic Motor Show Sale 2016

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1980 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith II - Formerly the Personal Car of HRH Princess Margaret

Lot No.: 325

Registration: 3 GXM
Chassis Number: LRH0039342
Engine Number: 0039342
Number of cylinders: 8
CC: 6750
Year of Manufacture: 1980
Sold for (£): Unsold

Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret Rose, The Countess of Snowdon was born at Glamis Castle, the ancestral home of her mother Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on 21st August 1930. As the younger daughter of King George VI and the only sibling of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret led a colourful, and sometimes by the standards of the day, scandalous life. As a young woman with incredible beauty, an impish sense of humour and a love of performing it was said that of the two other great beauties of the era, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, only Princess Margaret could command attention at an instant.

Upon her marriage to the noted photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones, later known as Earl Snowdon, Princess Margaret had two roles, as a loyal sister of the Head of State and the wife of an in-demand bohemian photographer at the epicentre of the Swinging Sixties. After their divorce in 1978 she divided her time between her home on Mustique and her apartments in Kensington Palace and sharing a vehicle with her ex-husband was not an option, so it was decided an appropriate new car was needed for both her public and private engagements. Subsequently, on the 16th May 1980, a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith II registered 3 GXM was duly delivered to Kensington Palace.

The Silver Wraith II, the longer wheelbase version of the Silver Shadow II, had been specified with particular details as per Princess Margaret’s instructions. Finished in Cardinal Red under a black Everflex covered roof, inset with Standard Pennant and Royal Crest mountings and a blue police light. The interior is truly bespoke and for a lady that was sometimes known for ostentation, is rather understated. The matte Rosewood dashboard is unique to this car, and as the Princess found her reflection in highly polished veneer distracting, the door cappings are covered in Black Nuala leather. In common with many Royal cars, the seats are green cloth, and the rear bench seating is raised so the Princess could be seen, aided by two extra lights above the doors.

The car was regularly serviced by Rolls-Royce main dealers in London, and maintained by specialist mechanic Chris Lee, a friend of The Princess’ chauffeur, for ten years. The beloved Wraith was put into final service on the 15th February 2002 when it took members of her family to her private funeral at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. It was inherited by her son, Viscount Linley and being surplus to requirements was sold later that year to P&A Wood, from whom it was purchased by Mr. Allwright.  He was an enthusiastic Royalist and proceeded to spend significant sums on returning the car to a pristine condition, including the purchase, from the Home Office, of the private registration number 3 GXM. The car was bought by our vendor, the purveyor of this wonderful collection, from JD Classics in March this year.

During his ownership Mr. Allwright assembled a magnificent history file for this car, including Christmas cards from Dave Griffin, Princess Margaret’s personal chauffeur up until her death, dozens of colour photographs of the car in Royal use, press clippings, correspondence with Viscount Linley's office, copy invoices, and the original build sheets from Rolls-Royce. Presented to auction in truly superb condition, with the only negative point being the torn driver’s seat squab that is covered by a matching tailored cloth. In order to maintain the originality of the interior, it has not been repaired.

Most Royal cars are leased to the Royal Mews by the manufacturers, few if any are retained for more than five years and rarer still, bespoke cars made to order and personally owned by the Royal Family seldom come to market. This Wraith, at just 48,000 miles, is a wonderful example with unique provenance and is a memorial to a remarkable Princess, the likes of whom we may never see again.