What's it like to own one of the most timelessly elegant cars ever manufactured?
Years of manufacture: 1963-1966 (Silver Cloud III)
Engine specification: 6.2-litre
Transmission: 4-speed GM, Hydramatic auto
Where was it built: United Kingdom
How many were built: Four in RHD, two in LHD
What you can expect to pay for a good-condition example: found only a single example online at £375 000 (R7,8m)
The name Rolls-Royce immediately conjures up images of supreme luxury, combined with elegant design and a cocooning cabin for all on board. This has always been the case, and remains so to this today (though some brand purists would suggest that "elegant" is perhaps not the best description of the Cullinan SUV).
However, a major difference between then and now is that in the past a number of coachbuilders were in existence. These companies used master craftsmen to create more personalised bodywork for the stately Rolls-Royces, instead of the factory just churning out identical cars.
One of these coachbuilders was James Young Ltd.
Built in 1964, this model, the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III 2-dr Coupé by James Young, to give its full name, looks absolutely stunning in its appropriately named Georgian Silver paintwork.
“This was the last coachbuilder to build Rolls-Royces until they closed down in the 1967," says the car's enthusiastic owner. "I first found the car in a book, then I saw one in the metal in the UK at a classic car show. Two enthusiasts who were acquaintances of mine owned this one.
"When they first acquired it, the car had been badly repainted in white and was also in need of some other repairs and maintenance. They didn’t want to sell it at the time, but I left my details with them. Only after two years did they contact me and offered to sell the car to me.
“Of course, I bought the car and then sent it to English Automotive Services, based outside London, who repainted it. The car was then shipped to South Africa around 15 years ago, and I enjoyed it for a number of years before sending it back to the UK as it needed to have some mechanical work done."
The owner has added around 25 000 km to the odo since he bought it, bringing the total mileage of the car to over 240 000 km! “It will happily cruise all day long at 100 mph (160 km/h). It is relaxing and you don’t get tired.”
He eagerly shows me the seats (or should those be "coaches"?) in the front of the car. There are numerous cracks in them, illustrating their age, or what one can also call patina. When the car was restored, he had the seats reupholstered. This, however, did not entail fitting new leather to the chairs, but rather repairing the leather from the inside, to keep these pews in the condition they were, but also limiting any further deterioration.
Below your feet are soft and absorbent green lambswool carpets. The sills proudly carry the James Young plaques as well as a Jack Barclay plaque, the latter being the sales agent in London at the time.
“It is a fascinating story, because its first owner was a lady" says the owner. The Bentley Continentals and Rolls-Royce coachbuild cars were very often bought by women at the time.”
The owner has a thick file containing the full history of the car. The first owner was a Mrs Gambordo. “She used to spend her winters in the south of France at the Negresco Hotel in Nice. She would drive down to France with her boyfriend. She made notes about minor issues that needed to be attended to, like wind mirror noise.
"The file then goes a little quiet on detail, but soon picks up again. A man’s name appears in the Rolls-Royce's folder. He attended to the car for around ten years, but at the same address as the lady owner. He eventually inherited her car and her house. When he passed away it became available as part of an estate sale. This was when the two acquaintances of mine bought it.
“When the car was in the UK I did a trip all around Ireland. Locally I’ve driven it from the Winelands to Plettenberg Bay and back. It gets driven every six weeks for around 150 km at least. It is a completely standard car. The only things I’ve added to it were the air-conditioning and seatbelts. Amusingly, it has a hard and soft setting for the suspension.
A very interesting fact about this car is that it was on the stand at the 1964 Earls Court Motor Show. Rolls-Royce made a few changes for the first owner, including burnishing the chrome work on the dashboard into black. The first owner didn’t like the glitter. Even the indicator stalk on the right-hand side of the steering wheel is covered in leather.
The current owner also points out that the square keyhole cover is an iconic James Young feature that dates back to the 1940s.
“Once you have the car sorted out and it runs properly, there is very little that needs to be done. I change the oil every year, we adjust the brakes and eventually you will need to install new linings, as they are drum brakes. There is the power steering system which can give some problems. They start to leak, but they all do. We also regularly put it over the pit in my garage and grease all the necessary spots.
“I have a technician who comes from England every two or three years who works on these cars with a local specialist. I order all the parts for these services so when he arrives they are ready for him.”
What should potential buyers look out for?
Finding a model exactly like this one will be almost impossible. With so few ever made, one doesn’t often find one of these in the classifieds. However, currently motoring specialists Graeme Hunt Ltd in London has one on offer. It has been in the same collection since the early 2000s.
James Young also did some very neat sedans, as well as opulent drophead coupès.