A Cut-Price Gulbenkian

Rolls-Royce owned by eccentric tycoon Nubar Gulbenkian expected to sell for just £30,000 in spite of £200,000 spent on restoration to date

Last August, we reported on a Mercedes-Benz 600 sedan complete with a “Jimmy Savile-esque” double bed that was sold in Paris by RM Sotheby’s. It was originally adapted for the bon viveur Nubar Gulbenkian (1896 – 1972) and now yet another of this truly mega-rich oddity’s four-wheeled creations is due to be auctioned in March.


Offered at no reserve but expected to sell for around £30,000 ($39,000, €35,000 or درهم143,000) in spite of some £200,000 ($260,000, €236,000 or درهم955,000) having already been spent on its renovation, a 1947 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith built to Gulbenkian’s designs by coachbuilders Hoopers is to be offered with no reserve.


Described by Historics Auctioneers as “unique” with styling that is a “little unorthodox, as with most things designed by Nubar Gulbenkian” the partly restored car has a new ash fame and has been subject to comprehensive fabrication work. Its current owner is mentioned as being “sadly not in the position to complete the work,” but much of what is required to complete the vehicle is thankfully included.


Of the Roller, speaking to the Mail Online, auctioneer Stewart Banks commented:


“Serene and stately are words that are rightly used to describe a Rolls-Royce motorcar of yesteryear.”


“The eccentric Nubar Gulbenkian, however, brought a whole new vocabulary and perspective when he penned this sensational one-off for Hoopers to create for him.”


“We are honoured to be offering this hugely important car for sale so the restoration can be completed and it can be seen and driven in all its original glory.”


Historics Auctioneers will sell the late Mr Gulbenkian’s creation on 7th March 2020 at Ascot Racecourse.


Some quotes from and about Nubar Gulbenkian:


Of his fortune:

“I’ve been retired all my life, but I’ve also been working hard all my life. A fortune does not look after itself, after all.”


Of his schooling:

“At Harrow, I played no games and had an unpronounceable name and quite soon I was recognised as something of an oddity, but I was accepted on my own terms.”


Of his religious beliefs (and his somewhat whacky eyebrows):

“During Lent I brush my eyebrows down. It’s an oriental religious custom that you must show outward signs of your sorrow.”


Of taking England as his home:

“I get along very well with all honest people. England’s a very fine country, but it takes a long time to learn to take the English. I tell all my foreign friends the first forty years are the hardest.”


When asked to state his “position in life” on a market research form, his answer was:



Of his view of his own lifestyle:

“I believe in comfort. I enjoy myself. I enjoy life. I enjoy everything I do.”


“If something is too much of a bore to do thoroughly and with zest, then don’t bother to do it at all.”


When asked whether he preferred old brandy or young women, horses or Rolls‐Royces and city life over country life, he answered:

“I prefer everything.”


On money:

“I have all of it I could possibly desire.”


On business:

“My father always said oilmen are like cats. You can never tell whether they are fighting or making love.”


Asked about his hobbies, he invented a word (coined from Greek):

“Pan taraxia… Keeping people on their toes.”


The well-known gourmet on dinner parties:

“The best number for a dinner party is two – myself and a damn good head waiter.”


On food in general:

“Gastronomy is an art as difficult to master as music or painting, and, for me, much more rewarding. I certainly get more pleasure from working out a menu, discussing the pros and cons of each dish with a chef who knows his business than I do from listening to the best of Beethoven’s symphonies.”


“I never eat bad food. If you wander into any restaurant and want something quick, quick in ten minutes, you’ll get a bad meal and bloody well deserve it.”


Of his sartorial style:

“In England a man cannot be seen around horses without his gloves and hat. One never wears a gray bowler unless he is with horses. It wouldn’t do. It would shock people’s feelings.”


Of the only occasions he would not wear the trademark dark blue orchid that he sported daily:

“When I am in France, on board a French ship or airplane, or at a French Embassy. It is the French custom, in France, for those who have been granted the Legion of Honor to wear the insignia of the order in their buttonhole. I feel it only courteous, to show the respect for the country which granted me the honor, to wear mine instead of an orchid.”


Of how he made his orchid dark blue:

“I dip a white orchid into a mixture of Stephen’s Ink and water – I have got the mixture virtually right by now – let it dry, then shake it out gently – and I achieve a very adequate dark blue orchid.”


On suing his father in 1938 after the elder Gulbenkian upbraided him for having charged a meal of chicken in tarragon jelly with asparagus tips costing £1.80 to petty cash:

“That was surely the most expensive chicken in history.”


(The case was subsequently settled out of court, but the father had to pay £70,700 or the equivalent of £4.7 million today in court costs and lawyers’ fees).


Of his friendship with John Paul Getty:

“Have I got only one Rolls-Royce? Oh come now. I’m not so rich as Mr. Getty, but I not so poor as all that! Mr. Getty asks my wife and me down for a meal at his house, Sutton Place, from time to time. There is always plenty to eat and drink, it is all of good quality, but he does not take such an interest in gastronomy as I do. But then, few people do.”


On taking up hunting shortly after turning 65:

“I’m a huntin’ man,” he said. “Say ‘huntin’ man,’ not ‘hunter.’ A hunter is a horse, not a gentleman. ‘Fancy Nubar Gulbenkian dressing that way,’ they’d say. ‘He should know better.”


On golf:

“It is more satisfying to be a bad player at golf. The worse you play, the better you remember the occasional good shot.”


On owning two remodeled Austin FX4 taxi cabs merged with the rear parts of horse-drawn Hackney carriages:

“I like to travel in a gold‐plated taxi that can turn on a sixpence – whatever that is!”


“I wanted my taxi dolled-up, more comfortable inside and more distinguished outside, without losing its mobility. People recognise it. After a party or an opening they come and tell me where it is and I don’t have to wait.”


On marriage in general:

“I’ve had good wives, as wives go, and as wives go, two of them went.”


Of his second wife, Dora Freeland (married 1928), he stated:

“I certainly cannot blame Doré for our marriage breaking down. It was entirely my fault that it failed. Being younger and more virile than I am now, I succumbed to other charms.”


His third wife, Marie Berthe Edmée de Ayala (married 1948), on their union:

“Of course, he’s a very difficult man to live with, but it’s worthwhile. Don’t you think that all the most amusing, intelligent men would be difficult to live with? Heaven forbid that I should have married a mollusk.”


When a friend from his Cambridge University days, George Ansley, was asked about Gulbenkian, he answered:

“Nubar is so tough that every day he tires out three stockbrokers, three horses and three women.”


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A view of the car from the rear.
The driver’s compartment.
The passenger compartment (complete with much of what is required to finish the vehicle).
Another interior shot.
The car in better days (side).
And from the front.
A scale model of the vehicle.

View Comments

  • Imagine it when finished. Spectacular. But how much more would one need to spend? At least £200,000 more I reckon.

  • Not worth 50 cents!!!!!!!!!! Wrecking ball required!!!!!!!!!!!!!! UGLY UGLY UGLY!!!!!!!!!!! The moron who spent £200,000 to get this look has plainly been had!!!!!!!!!! Lock him up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • I suppose it's okay to be eccentric and a bit Looney tunes when you have plenty of dosh. He should pay somebody to have this heap of crap taken off the road. I agree with Esther and feel sorry for the women that married this nutter. Guys like him really need to do a hard days work to appreciate what they have, and didn't work for.

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