1957 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud Honeymoon Express: Striking an understatement

1957 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud Honeymoon Express

The 1957 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud Honeymoon Express gave a Rolls a look none had had before…or since.

Applied to the 1957 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud Honeymoon Express, the word “striking” is an understatement.

That it’s a Rolls-Royce is unmistakable, what with the classic square-shouldered Rolls-Royce grille, precise as a Euclidian geometry illustration. The cowl height is similarly constrained. But from there, this 1957 Silver Cloud is like no other Rolls.

Well, the Silver Cloud Honeymoon Express is like one other. This is a copy, though by the original coachbuilder, Freestone and Webb. The original was built for the 1957 London Motor Show at Earls Court. The body style was also used on a single Bentley.

Freestone & Webb was founded in 1923 by its namesakes, V.E. Freestone and A.J. Webb, expressly to build automobile bodies for an exclusive clientele, primarily Rolls-Royce and Bentley. Freestone had worked for Crossly Motors while Webb’s experience was with a French coachbuilder. Despite Webb’s French connection, Freestone & Webb originated the “Top Hat” and also helped popularize the “razor edge” style that defined British coachbuildinhg for a generation. One of the premier Brit body builders, the company won the Gold Medal in the Private Coachbuilders competition at the London Motor Show for a remarkable nine consecutive years.

A.J. Webb died in 1955 and control of the company went to H.R. Owen Ltd, Freestone not having been greatly involved in the construction side of the business. It was during this final era that this particular Rolls was built.

It was thoroughly modern, with an arching shoulder line that ran uninterrupted from the hooded headlamps all the way to the rear. The standard seven-inch headlamps set on a bright-plated flat teardrop-shaped panel clashed with the rigidly vertical radiator shell, but more surprises awaited further back.

The car had accommodations for two, with a pair of bucket seats, which is likely why this Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud earned the unofficial nickname of “Honeymoon Express.” It was also a canvas-roofed convertible, the top folding into a well behind the passenger compartment and under a hard tonneau. Impressively, the whole process was powered and fully automated, a collection of electric motors, microswitches and springs that not only raised and lowered the top but opened and closed the tonneau, as well as small filler flaps. Operating the top now will collect men and boys like the running of an elaborate model railroad. There are just so many clever gizmos and so much neat stuff going on.

Because the cowl and steering wheel positions, as with the Parthenon-like grille, are fixed by the factory, the passenger compartment of the Honeymoon Express is well forward in the wheelbase, creating what the British magazines Autocar and The Motor noted as a very long boot, Autocar calling it “of huge proportion.” The Motor portrayed the Silver Cloud’s bodywork passionlessly, noting only that the “designer has lightened the side elevation by using recessed panels and by flanking the boot with fins.”

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John is a veteran auto writer, first published in Custom Rodder magazine in 1980. Since then, he has been published in all the big car magazines, including Car and Driver, Road & Track, Motor Trend, Auto Week, Automobile, plus a variety of others, including but certainly not limited to Automobile Quarterly, Collectible Automobile, and Special Interest Automobiles. John’s work has also been featured in a number of consumer and general interest magazines such as Consumers Digest, Popular Science and others. John has written four books, including a history of the Mazda RX-7 (selling for more out-of-print than it did new), buyers’ guides for Mazda, Datsun/Nissan and Volvo cars, and is co-author of 365 Cars You Must Drive with Motor Trend editor Matt Stone, and his work has been translated into Italian, Estonian, Portuguese, Russian, and Bulgarian. John is recipient of the prestigious Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism, awarded by the International Motor Press Association, and the Golden Quill from the Washington Automotive Press Association. John has three adult daughters and has been married for more that four decades to Mary Ann, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.