Sold for £135,000
(including buyers premium)
Registration No: ALO 182H (formerly UGN 842F)
Chassis No: CRH3929
Hand-crafted by Rolls-Royce’s in-house coachbuilder Mulliner Park Ward, the Silver Shadow Two-Door Drophead Coupe was introduced in 1967. The work of stylist W.G. Allen, the convertible boasted wonderfully sleek lines. Blending speed with refinement in a way that few rivals could match, it was powered by a 6230cc OHV V8 engine allied to automatic transmission. Trimmed with a superlative mix of sumptuous leather hides, rich wood veneers and deep lambswool carpets, the model was every bit as luxurious as it was expensive. Priced at an eye watering £10,511 upon launch, the same amount would have purchased both an Aston Martin DB6 Volante and a Ferrari 330 GTS! Despite being in production for four years, just 506 MPW Two-Door Drophead Coupes are thought to have been made.
By 1968, Sir Michael Caine had become a household name on both sides of the Atlantic, with a commensurate increase in his earning capacity. Paid £4,000 for his breakout role in Zulu (1964), he received $250,000 for Gambit (1966). A punishing filming schedule had left him without time for a holiday but with a decidedly healthy bank balance. Describing himself as ‘The original bourgeois nightmare – a Cockney with intelligence and a million dollars’, he took a flat on Grosvenor Square, sorted better accommodation for his mother and adopted a ‘Man about Mayfair’ persona. Conscious that he had reached the age of thirty-five without ever owning a car or even obtaining a driving licence, the way Caine remedied the situation has become the stuff of legend.
Depending upon which version you believe, the actor wandered into the renowned Jack Barclay showroom on Berkeley Square with a handwritten shopping list which read as follows: ‘milk, bread, newspaper, cigarettes, Rolls-Royce’. Unkempt, unshaven and by his own admission possibly a little the worse for wear, he was given short shrift and ushered off the premises. Less than impressed, he journeyed onto Mayfair’s other Rolls-Royce dealership that of H.A. Fox on Dover Street. There he found a 1968 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Two-Door Drophead Coupe which had been taken into stock after the playwright and screenwriter Terence Rattigan cancelled his order for it (arguably best known for penning ‘The Yellow Rolls-Royce’, Rattigan already owned a 1966 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III Drophead Coupe). Having bought the car, Caine found it cheaper to employ a chauffeur than pay the premium his insurers quoted should he go down the ‘L-plate’ route. Apocryphally or not, the 35-year old actor then took great pleasure in being driven past the offending Jack Barclay salesman and flicking him a V-sign!
Despite enjoying the trappings of wealth there remained an edge to Caine (which he so memorably brought to the big screen when playing the lead role in the 1971 film, Get Carter). Joining a street gang to help survive his teens and later fighting in the Korean War, he had lived life on both sides of the track. Never one to airbrush his past, Caine once commented: ‘The thing about gangsters in films these days is that they're either funny or they're stupid. Well, I'm sorry, but I've never met a gangster that's either. And I come from something of a gangster milieu. Nor have I met someone who deals out violence for violence's sake’. One of Caine’s less salubrious acquaintances was John Leonard Ernest Leach (a.k.a. Jack Leach) who owned the infamous Gasworks Restaurant on Waterford Road in Fulham. Variously described as a fence, a member of the Irish mafia, a friend of the Krays and, by fabric designer Nicole Fabre, who briefly ran the kitchen in the late ’60s, as “a rather naughty man”, Leach and his wife Shirley created a unique environ.
Reminiscing about the eatery for Noble Rot magazine Marina O’Loughlin wrote: ‘Ringing the doorbell was like blundering into a cheese frenzy-induced dream. The main space consisted of two linked rooms, one lined with perfunctory booths, one with an imposing, huge central dining table, every surface covered with, well, stuff. Dusty brown stuff, lurking in the dim light; all, apparently, for sale . . . In its heyday, in the late ’60s and early ’70s, when Nicole and her partner Thierry Cabanne ran the place for Shirley and Jack (they went on to open the legendary Thierry’s – originally called Gasworks 2 – on the King’s Road), it was a honeypot for the beautiful and the powerful . . . Everyone from royalty to The Stones to the Profumo set loved The Gasworks . . . “It offered them anonymity,” says Nicole. Here, too, they could enjoy the frisson of rubbing shoulders with a bit of rough. Witness Princess Margaret and her alleged gangland lover, local Fulham slumboy John ‘Biffo’ Bindon . . . Nicole and Thierry gave up the gig rather suddenly. One afternoon in 1971 they returned from the market – to which they drove in the Rolls-Royce – to find what Nicole calls “Gunfight at the OK Corral”: a gangland bust-up, complete with firearms. It was time to go. The kitchen reverted to Shirley, under whose tender aegis it was to remain until one day, for no apparent reason, it simply ceased to be’.
Leach became the Drophead Coupe’s second owner in 1970 when it was re-registered as ‘ALO 182H’. A familiar sight on the Fulham and King's Road for decades thereafter with its erstwhile driver puffing away on a cigar, the two-door Silver Shadow was put into storage following Leach’s death in 2013. Acquired by the vendor whose business interests include a professional bodyshop some five years later, he estimates that its restoration has still cost the best part of £100,000 (a process which apparently revealed the presence of various escort girl calling cards secreted about the interior). Showing a highly credible but unwarranted 59,000 miles to its odometer, the four-seater provides an indelible link to some of the most famous faces of Swinging Sixties London including Gasworks attendees Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. A mutual friend of the vendor’s and Sir Michael Caine’s has suggested that the latter used the Rolls-Royce during his courting of Lady Shakira Caine. Featured extensively in the 1969 documentary ‘Candid Caine: A Self-Portrait of Michael Caine’ under its initial registration number ‘UGN 842F’, the Rolls-Royce is a special car in its own right made infinitely more so by its unique provenance.
Refinished in its original colour of Black with Magnolia leather upholstery and still sporting a headrest to the front passenger’s seat only (the chauffeur made do without one), Caine’s former car has been fitted with dummy ‘UGN 842F’ number plates for display purposes. Mechanically, the Drophead Coupe has benefited from significant expenditure at the hands of Michael Hibberd and other marque specialists. Offered for sale with V5C Registration Document, RREC copy chassis cards, restoration photos and numerous receipts.
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Auction: Imperial War Museum | Duxford, Cambridgeshire, 15th Mar, 2023
Established in 1993, H&H has sold some of the world's most significant motorcars and motorcycles over the past 30 years. Trusted by over 75,000 clients worldwide, we are the longest established auction house of our kind in Europe.
An auction of classic, collector and performance motorcars to be held at the iconic and visually stunning Imperial War Museum, Duxford. Cambridgeshire.
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Tuesday 14th March 2023, from 12pm to 6pm
Wednesday 15th March 2023, from 9am
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