Dr. Brad Klein: Coachbuilt is Beautifully Built

  • story by David M. Brown
  • posted on 05/2015
  • posted in: Great Garages

Dr. G. Brad Klein, Los Angeles, California, prescribes classic coachbuilt cars for his health and vitality, to be taken at least once daily.

“I have been collecting and driving post-War coachbuilt Rolls-Royces and Bentleys since 1970,” he says. These now include two Silver Cloud I Rolls-Royces: a 1957 H.J. Mulliner Drophead Coupe and a 1958 James Young Coupe (1 of 21 built); and two Bentleys, a 1961 S-2 Continental H.J. Mulliner 2-Dr Coupe (1 of 25 LHD built), and a one-off 1953 James Young Sedanca Coupe de Ville R Type.

Arizona car lovers will remember Brad and his wife, Victoria, driving the Sedanca at the second annual Arizona Concours d’Elegance this past January at the landmark Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix, where they won a third place.

“I can only drive one car at a time, so for me the four cars I have been fortunate to acquire represent a nice balance: two Bentleys and two Rolls, two by James Young, and two by H. J. Mulliner, arguably the most elegant and refined remaining post-WWII coachbuilders,” he says, noting that the James Young cars have both appeared at the Pebble Beach Concours.

In addition, he says two of his cars are closed and two open, to enjoy Southern California weather, and all coupes, relatively rare for the period from 1953−61.

His first collectible was a 1949 Hooper-bodied Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith saloon, or sedan, one of just seven made. “This car began life in London, came to California in the 1960s and is now over in the UK again,” he says.

Silver Wraiths were the last all-coachbuilt series the company produced (1947−59). All pre-WWII Rolls and Bentley’s were coachbuilt, he explains.

He next purchased a one-off Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith, the 1956 James Young Sedanca de Ville, featured as the coachbuilder’s Geneva Show car that year, which he drove about 90,000 miles for 25-plus years.

“For me, the post WWII coachbuilts represent both the end of an era of individually designed and built bodies (“Rolling Art”) as well as cars that can be driven under modern traffic conditions,” he says. All of his cars have air-conditioning, cruise controls and CD players installed so that they are usable but unseen.

The cars can all cruise comfortably at standard highway speeds, and he drives one of the cars almost daily, rotating them throughout the week. Since 1997, he has done 85,000 miles on the James Young coupe alone. And, because they are all mechanical, they are easy to maintain and service.

“Living in Los Angeles, you can drive these elegant automobiles year round,” he says. “For better or worse, Los Angeles is for me the car capital of the world, and I often get ‘thumbs-up’ signs on the road from respectful motorists.”

Thumbs up, and hitching thumbs out, for these classics:

•1957 H.J. Mulliner Rolls Royce Drophead Coupe –– Pictured in the book, Rolls Royce Silver Cloud 1 and Bentley S1 50 Years, by Davide Bassoli and Bernard L. King, this car, design number 7410, Body Number 6040, was built for William McEwan Younger, whose great uncle, William McEwan, was a member of Parliament and also the founder of McEwan’s Brewery, which eventually became Scottish & Newcastle Breweries, with Younger serving as chairman.

The H.J. Mulliner Company, which was purchased by Rolls Royce in 1959, made 21 of the design 7410 from 1955 to 1959. Interestingly, this car is the only coachbuilt mounted on the 76 C Series Silver Clouds, produced 1956−57.

This car appeared at Pebble Beach in 2012 after driving in The Pebble Beach Motoring Classic 1,500 miles from Seattle to the great annual event in August in Carmel.

•1958 James Young Coupe –– Built originally for William Goetz, this was delivered in February 1959 to the Peter Sartori Dealership in Pasadena, California. Goetz started his way as a crew hand and associate producer at Fox Films and drove his way into the life of Edith Mayer, daughter of Louis B Mayer, head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).

After they married, he went on to head 20th Century Fox, raised thoroughbreds (his Santa Anita-winning Your Host sired the great Kelso), and acquired with his wife a great collection of Impressionist art.

After Goetz died in 1969, the car was acquired by real estate developer Irving Seligman and was with him in Palm Beach, Florida, for the next 25 years.

Only two cars were made of the James Young design SC-20. The other, in silver and black, produced a year earlier, belongs to Robert Lee, a well-known, albeit reclusive collector, in Sparks, Nevada.

Dr. Klein and Victoria will show this magnificent blue James Young at Pebble Beach Concours this August in the H-2 category.

•1961 S-2 Continental H.J. Mulliner 2-Dr Coupe –– Shown at the 1960 Earls Court Show, this car represents a new generation of V-8 two-door sedans (saloons in Great Britain) on a continental-built chassis. Author Bassoli calls this design a “perfect mix of sport and elegance . . . amazing, with a well-balanced, sporty light shape. . . .”

This car is a B Series; there are also an A and C series. All in all, 97 were produced, 72 right hand drive, 25 left hand. Here, the radiator is slightly lower and more squared, so it offers an aggressive look and feel. Thin rear pillars and a cathedral tail lights add to the overall elegance.

•1953 James Young Sedanca Coupe de Ville R Type Bentley –– Brad purchased the car in 1994 in derelict condition and completely restored it to its now maroon exterior with tan interior. This was one of more than 65 cars owned by Frank Lloyd Wright from 1908 to 1959, the year he died.

Outfitted with a 31.5-BHP six-cylinder engine with an aluminum alloy head and GM Hydramatic transmission with a 3:73 rear axle ratio, the car was built for oilman and art patron Charles B Wrightsman for his wife, Jayne. They were close friends of President and Mrs. Kennedy. The front roof over the driver’s seat slides into the rear roof, which Brad ably demonstrated at the Arizona Concours.

Wright acquired it from New York Rolls Royce/Bentley dealer J.S. Inskip in 1958, while he was just completing work on the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan, one of his masterpieces. This was the architect’s final car purchased, as he died the next year at 91.

Among its former owners after Wright was actor Martin Milner, who starred in the Route 66 and Adam 12 television series.

“For me, driving a one-off former Frank Lloyd Wright car represents the expression of individuality and at the same serves a practical need,” he says.

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