There’s nothing like a good tribute story. Especially when that story revolves around a classic car with an LS engine on deck. What can make it even better is when said automobile is a barn find of a historic Rolls-Royce, with a no-expense-spared dedication to detail and a slick paint scheme.
This is the tale of a very special 1961 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud Long Wheel Base (LWB). A show car procured, built, and maintained by Pergan Classic Collections. Fully bespoke in proper Rolls Royce size and grandeur and then modified and modernized to match. But for the father and sons who built this LS-swapped, super-swanky stunner, it is more than just a custom build. It’s an honorary homage to a British matriarch and her lifelong infatuation with fast cars.
A Bit of Backstory
For the Gantley clan, November 2012 was one of the most difficult months in their collective memory. Around that time, the family’s matriarch, Pearl Gantley, passed away. A woman with a larger-than-life presence and an acute adoration for performance vehicles.
Born and raised in Cambridgeshire, UK, Pearl found her way to America after marrying a United States Air Force veteran named Brian Gantley. Together with his British bride, the two would become the core of the Gantley family and a shining example of what true love looks like. The guy couldn’t have picked a finer lady, for having a bride who just so happened to be the hot rodder of the family is always a fun fact to mention at dinner parties.
Upon her passing a decade back, sons Brian, Rick, and Mike set to picking up the pieces. One of the biggest shards was that of the broken heart of their dad, Brian Sr. Concerned over the well-being of their grieving father, the boys hatched a plan. Together, Brian and his sons would form a company specializing in building “beautiful classic cars that pay tribute to a time gone by.”
A collection of award-winning customized vehicles that could win awards at car shows and be available for rent as needed. Whether for photoshoots, movie shoots, or other events, this collective would honor all that Pearl held dear when it came to motoring.
Naturally, Brian Sr. was both humbled and excited that his sons would immortalize the memory of his beloved late wife and offer her spirit a legacy that could continue for ages. And thus, “Pergan Classic Collections” was formed.
Barn Finds and Silver Cloud Linings
As the most notable car in the company collection, the Rolls-Royce pictured here is the pinnacle of VIP perfection. An homage to the late Pearl Gantley and her homeland, where she chose to be buried. But before this opulent VIP sled received a single bit of care, it first had to be unearthed from a mountain of filth.
First added to Pergan Classic Collections in 2015, this 1961 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud LWB was actually a ratty barn find and not some pristine auction purchase. A vehicle that almost came to calamity while wasting away in storage. While no one truly knows how this 1961 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud ended up in a barn in the backwoods of Louisiana, its earlier years, as well as its rescuing and resurrection, is a tale well-told.
First commissioned for Sir Aynsley Vernon Bridgeland, an Australian-born civil engineer, the Silver Cloud first hit the highway in London on September 5, 1961. An avid golfer, Sir Bridgeland was actually the founder and chief sponsor of the Golf Society of Great Britain. Upon taking possession of the vehicle, stories of Sir Bridgeland and his Rolls-Royce making routine appearances at golfing events were widely reported. A car that the honorable Aussie would drive up until his death in 1966.
Prior to his passing, Sir Bridgeland was knighted in 1959 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. And while all his philanthropic, political, and public contributions made him a favorite of the crown, Sir Bridgeland dreamt of more than just knighthood.
Sir Bridgeland was a man who was often quoted for saying that there were but three things he wished to achieve in his lifetime:
- Become a millionaire
- Develop scratch golfer skills
- Own a Rolls-Royce
Although he may have achieved but two of these goals prior to his passing, it is the latter of the lot that makes this story so compelling. For much of this Silver Cloud’s life is shrouded in secrecy after Sir Bridgeland’s death.
The commissioning of a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud is no small or inexpensive task. So to see such a treasure wasting away in a rat-infested barn in the backwoods of Louisiana, covered in nearly two decades of filth, was more than the Gantley family could take.
Adding further intrigue to this tale is that the barn this Rolls-Royce languished in for 19 years burned to the ground just two weeks after the car was removed. Was it fate that this 1961 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud LWB entered the Gantley family’s life? Or did Pearl herself have a hand in the Silver Cloud’s well-being? No one truly knows…
The Big Build-Up
Whatever the underlying cause, we’re thrilled the vehicle was saved. You will be hard-pressed to find a cleaner LS-swapped luxury vehicle anywhere on this planet.
When we say there isn’t a seam or nut that hasn’t been examined, cleaned, repaired, and/or modified on this ride, we mean it. Over 200 hours were invested in removing the factory-applied lacquer paint. An arduous task that was made possible thanks to the help from the team over at Nobody Customs.
Finally stripped down to its skivvies, the entire platform was repaired one square centimeter at a time, and a one-off Art Morrison chassis was slid underneath. Painted gloss black, the team was then able to determine how straight the body lines of the shell indeed were, which, needless to say, were not very good at all.
So the build team cleaned up the body and straightened the Silver Cloud out… again.
Built almost entirely on a rotisserie, this Rolls-Royce presented quite a challenge due to its sheer size. The proportions of the one-off Art Morrison chassis beneath the build prevented full rotation, so a lot of flip-flopping was required. However, with time, dedication, and a smidgeon of creativity, every hole and casting imperfection was eventually seam-filled and smoothed.
We put as much energy under the car as we did on top of it. — Michael Gantley
Several hundred hours of bodywork later, it was time to send the Silver Cloud into the automotive paint booth. When it came to choosing a specific color scheme, Brian Sr. took the lead on this reimagined British machine. It was a painstaking six-month process that resulted in the accentuation of the car’s body lines, as well as the blending of them.
Lush layers of “brown sugar” and “cool vanilla” adorned the exterior. This was followed by adding a “warm caramel” interior color choice to complement and contrast with the exterior. It’s like a hot fudge sundae on wheels, with Rolls-Royce elegance emanating beneath nine layers of clear coat. Thanks to the last-minute decision to completely reverse the two-tone color scheme, the chrome accents on the Silver Cloud have been further emphasized instead of being obfuscated.
Speaking of accentuation. How about that tanned camel leather upholstery and honeycomb carpet? Or the custom floating wheel caps designed by Michael Gantley adorning that set of retro rollers from Detroit Steel Wheel Co.? Nothing says bespoke quite like some camel hide inside and a fresh set of one-off alloys rolling beneath a Rolls-Royce.
Finishing off this immaculate restomod of a Rolls-Royce is the performance portion of the pie. Yes, there is indeed a 600-horsepower LS3 on board. Complete with brand-new internals, all made possible by an ingeniously constructed ICT Billet LS-swap setup.
Performance bolt-ons primarily consist of a Holley Sniper EFI and a one-off cold air intake, all backed by a 6L80E six-speed transmission. Following these primary additions comes a 9-inch Ford rearend from Currie Enterprises, a custom ABS braking system, and a stainless-steel exhaust system from none other than MagnaFlow.
Engineered initially to ride atop a four-link rear suspension chassis, this VIP vagabond is a bit of a geometrical wonder. Operating the vehicle requires raising and lowering via a custom air ride suspension from Ridetech.
But to make this machine work, massive revisions to all things ride-related had to be implemented. During suspension geometry testing, the vehicle refused to sit squarely on its haunches. Regardless of whether the ride height was adjusted up or down, things out back never matched up evenly.
So the Gantleys ditched the Panhard bar approach and returned to the drawing board. The solution they came up with was both simple and effective. To keep things brief, the team added two additional links to keep the rearend centered when the Silver Cloud came down to earth. And it works like a charm!
Meanwhile, upper and lower control arms were modified up front to accommodate Ridetech’s air ride system. With a few more additional chassis and suspension mods in place, this luxurious Silver Cloud of a land yacht no longer drives where it is needed. It glides…
Immortal Machinery Minded
All that being said, it would be a dishonor to refer to this 1961 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud LWB’s reconstruction as just another “custom car build.” Five years and countless coins were thrown at this forsaken British beauty, and a million more would indeed have been spent if required.
As the centerpiece of all that Pergan Classic Collections represent, this multi-award winning machine represents all that the Gantley family stands for and their dedication to doing things properly. Brian Sr. and his sons have traveled to car shows and events all over the United States with their Silver Cloud, just the way Pearl would have wanted.
An automobile built to be just as fascinating and alluring as the hot-rodding British beauty who inspired its inception. A woman who adored automobiles and high-speed adventures and was always eager to hit the open road with her husband and three sons.