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Withnail Rolls – Nubar Gulbenkian Rolls-Royce Used In ‘Withnail And I’ For Sale

Withnail Rolls – Nubar Gulbenkian Rolls-Royce Used In ‘Withnail And I’ For Sale

‘Star car’ Rolls-Royce used in classic film ‘Withnail and I’ and that was built for “Santa Claus lookalike” playboy Nubar Gulbenkian for sale for just £135,000 in spite of having had a £190,000 renovation

In a memorable moment in the 1987 classic black comedy Withnail and I, the constantly off-their-skulls protagonists – played by Richard E. Griffiths and Paul McGann – cause a bit of a consternation in a country café in Penrith, Cumbria and have to be spirited away by ‘Uncle Monty’ (played by the larger-than-life and now late, great Richard Griffiths) in his rather regal Rolls-Royce.


The scene went as follows:



The ‘rescue car’ concerned, a 1953 Silver Wraith Hooper & Company Sedanca de Ville, was originally built for and owned by the extravagant Armenian born socialite business magnate Nubar Gulbenkian. This noted bon vivant – famed for eccentric remarks (a fine selection of which follow below) such as “I’ve had good wives, as wives go, and as wives go, two of them went” and for having brought an £4.7 million lawsuit against his father, Calouste, over the cost of a £1.80 lunch of chicken in tarragon jelly with asparagus tips – specified a speedometer be installed in the rear division “so he could keep an eye on his employee’s progress.”


Now offered for just £135,000 in spite of being subject to a full-scale renovation between 2015 and 2019 that cost £188,680, the car last featured in The Steeple Times when for sale at a price of £195,000 in October 2014. It was offered at auction subsequently but failed to sell in May 2023 and has most recently been owned by a “private collector” in the Isle of Man and the late James Crickmay – a “motoring expert” who rose from a humble salesman to being the chairman of the Rolls-Royce and Bentley “heritage” dealership Frank Dale & Stepsons.


Rather appropriately given it began life with the always nattily attired Gulbenkian, this “unique… piece of motoring history” is now being marketed by the always nattily attired Richard Biddulph of Vintage & Prestige Classic Cars.


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The Nubar Gulbenkian ‘Withnail and I’ 1953 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith Hooper & Company Sedanca de Ville currently for sale through Vintage & Prestige Classic Cars of Northampton for £135,000; it has previously been offered for sums as high as £195,000 and failed to sell at auction when offered with an estimate of £140,000 to £180,000.
The ex-Nubar Gulbenkian Rolls-Royce in a scene in ‘Withnail And I’ being driven by Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths).
The first owner of the 1953 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith Hooper & Company Sedanca de Ville offered was thrice married London taxi “aficionado” Nubar Gulbenkian – a man famed for a car collection that numbered two Austin FX4 cabs merged with the rear part of former horse drawn Hackney carriages as passenger compartments. Harrow and Cambridge educated Gulbenkian lived between a flat in Arlington House, next to The Ritz Hotel, in London, a former rectory in Hoggeston, near Bletchley in Buckinghamshire and a “sumptuous estate,” the Domaine de Colles, in Valbonne in the South of France.
James Crickmay, proprietor and chairman of Frank Dale & Stepsons, owned and enjoyed the car for a considerable number of years.

The Names & Numbers – The Nubar Gulbenkian Withnail and I 1953 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith Hooper & Company Sedanca de Ville, chassis number ALW47, registration number XYJ 402

May 2024 – Offered for sale for £135,000 ($169,000, €157,000 or درهم621,000) by the eccentric giant of the Rolls-Royce world Richard Biddulph of Vintage & Prestige Classic Cars of Northampton.


27th May 2023 – Offered for auction with an estimate of £140,000 to £180,000 ($175,000 to $226,000, €163,000 to €209,000 or درهم644,000 to درهم828,000) by Historics Auctioneers at their Ascot Racecourse sale. Listed as having had “a staggering” £188,000 ($235,000, €218,000 or درهم864,000) spent on a “a full mechanical re-build together with some bodywork restoration” by M. J. Pickles Limited of Macclesfield, Derbyshire between May 2015 and May 2019. The car had an odometer reading of 24,036 miles at this time, but did not sell in this sale.


October 2014 – Offered for sale for £195,000 ($244,000, €227,000 or درهم897,000) by Frank Dale & Stepsons Limited and featured in The Steeple Times.


Subsequently (date unknown) – Owned by James Crickmay (16th March 1949 – 24th February 2015) and formed part of his “private collection.” “Motoring expert at heart… and true expert in his field” Mr Crickmay went from being salesman at to the chairman of Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialists Frank Dale & Stepsons Limited after beginning his career in the Merchant Navy.”


Historics Auctioneers remarked: “[Crickmay] used the Silver Wraith regularly for social occasions, family events and the Rolls-Royce annual rally on many occasions, and it was also loaned by James to Lord March for several Goodwood Revival meetings, to chauffeur Lord March’s guests between the circuit and Goodwood House. In more recent times the car has been owned by a private collector on the Isle of Man.”


August to December 1986 – Used as Uncle Monty’s car in the cult film Withnail and I (released 1st January 1987). Curiously, the tearoom scenes set in Penrith, Cumbria were actually filmed 240 miles away in the market square of Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. The building that was used as the café is currently a pharmacy named Cox & Robinson Limited, but retains its original frontage.


1953 – The long wheelbase car was built to the specifications of the legendarily eccentric Nubar Gulbenkian (1896 – 1972) – a man who “preferred everything” and one who counted at least four Rolls-Royce Silver Wraiths by Hooper & Company amongst his collection of motor cars.


Of it, in their 2023 auction listing, Historics observed: “This example is delightfully handsome, being built on a long wheelbase chassis and in the style of a Hooper Empress Line coachwork. However, this example is in the ‘Sedanca de Ville’ style and has reptile skin on the dashboard and some of the rear division section. Gulbenkian was known to have liked his chauffeurs to drive in a brisk manner and had a speedometer fitted to the rear division so he could keep an eye on his employee’s progress.”


The witty words of the gregarious gargantuan 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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