For many a casual bystander, the Silver Shadow is the archetypal Rolls-Royce. A bona fide design classic, its sober lines and three-box proportions so perfectly summed up the essence of the brand’s understated luxury that it remained in production for an impressive fifteen years, from 1965 right up to 1980. 30,057 Silver Shadows were produced in that period, which would be a distinctly modest number for any other manufacturer… but of course, this is no ordinary manufacturer.
In essence, the key thing to remember is that in their heyday, these cars were the very best of the very best – and, for what they represent in the classic market, that holds true today. This model was a seismic step-change for Rolls-Royce, being the company’s first model to feature unibody construction; it also boasted all-independent suspension, disc brakes all round, and – most intriguingly of all – a hydropneumatics system licensed from Citroën, which controlled the self-levelling suspension and dual-circuit brakes. An aspirational slice of history then, and it’s the Series 1 models which are today most in demand: the Silver Shadow II of 1977 onward had rubber Federal bumpers and other styling deviations which seemed somehow less pure… but the example we have here today is an ideal representation of this sought-after classic: an earlier chrome-bumper car, in fine mechanical fettle and beautifully presented. The archetypal Rolls-Royce? There’s certainly a strong argument for it.
Every good car comes with a story, and the one behind this motor should earn you a pint or two in future bar-room badinage. The yarn goes that the car was purchased a few years ago from the Car & Classic classifieds by a moneyed enthusiast from Germany who bought it blind, largely for the colour. There aren’t a lot of Silver Shadows finished in this sumptuous shade of Royal Garnet, and those with a keen eye will have spotted that it’s precisely the shade that the Queen has her Rolls-Royces and Bentleys finished in. This buyer wanted a proper royal car, and having spent somewhere in the region of £25,000 buying it, he then went all-in with a mechanical overhaul which cost a further £10,000 – because, of course, if it’s to have regal flair and panache, it has to have the quality and finesse to suit.
The meat of the tale lies in the fact that, back in 2017, this was a stalled restoration project by a Rolls-Royce enthusiast in Lancashire, who had then relocated overseas and never had the opportunity to finish it. His main attraction to the car in the first place was that it was straight and true, with no damage or rust to the body. He had done bits and pieces, like removing the bumpers and grilles and so on to start preparing the shell, but not much more. When he moved overseas and let the car go, a Yorkshire-based firm took it on to complete what he had begun, disassembling the car to give it the quality body makeover it deserved. The car was then sold to its current owner, who invested a further £10k finishing off whatever needed to be attended to mechanically.
…and then, in a Hollywood twist, the German Dr. owner found a Corniche in the same Royal Garnet, and decided that this was actually the regal Rolls for him. So the freshly restored Silver Shadow was usurped, and here it is – pristine, perfect, and ready to imbue a new owner’s life with that glorious feeling of blue-blood specialness.
The fact that this car comes from a respected dealer of quality high-end classics is a very positive element in terms of provenance and trustworthiness. The paperwork available for inspection on the day of our shoot included the current V5, the MOT certificate (it passed with no advisories in May), a sheaf of previous MOTs, and the original manuals in their correct folder.
However, there will be more documentation to accompany the sale, being recent expenditure in the sum of over £10.000. This includes accumulators, full exhaust system, restored radiator, full veneer republish (every piece), all oils and fluids, all belts and hoses and a carburettor overhaul etc. as the dealer has everything to do with servicing details on file.
The interior of this car is utterly delightful. The beautiful tan leather is in perfect order throughout, the shade of the Connolly hide acting as a fine accompaniment to the regal paintwork. The claret carpets and piping all add to the feeling of correctness, and everything that you’d expect to find within a Silver Shadow is all present and in order. The restoration work included having all of the electric windows fully overhauled, and they now work silently and efficiently. All of the wood veneers (the dash, console and door cappings) have been removed and refinished, and everything now looks better than new. This isn’t a case of over-restoration, however – there are a few charming details of patination that tell tales of the car’s decades of adventures, such as the key scuffs around the ignition and the gentle usage marks of the door handles. A period 4-channel Pioneer stereo in the dash is joined by a Blaupunkt Verona radio-cassette in the centre console. All of the ashtrays and cigarette lighters are in place, as are the rear footrests. The only minor age-related blemishes inside are a few very minor bubbles in the finish on the parcel shelf, a little perishing of the dashtop covering where its corners meet the windscreen surround, and some minor marks around the speed control switches. These are exceedingly minor blots, however, and the overall feel of this cabin is one of truly royal splendour.
Our photoshoot involved driving through some of the more well-heeled corners of Kensington and Chelsea, and we can happily confirm that this Silver Shadow cuts quite a dash around town. It has an imposing profile, but not in the way that a brash new supercar might; everybody offers a cheery smile as you waft past.
The bodywork is, in a word, stunning. When the Yorkshire-based specialists set about repainting it, they started out by removing all the window frames, screens, doors and locks – a mammoth task on a Rolls-Royce – then removed all the panels, so the shell could be painted separately to make absolutely sure it was done correctly. After this process, they spent a week flatting and polishing the paint to achieve a nice level finish, before a good polish and wax. The results speak for themselves, it truly is divine. But again, not over-restored – there’s a pleasing patination to the chrome side-strips, and a little very minor pitting to the chrome bumper corners to help the car wear its years respectably. Aside from a small chip by the fuel filler flap and a minor scuff on one of the rear bumper over-riders, the exterior is flawless. The perfect thing for cruising through south London, we can tell you that with absolute certainty.
The highest praise one can lavish upon a Rolls-Royce is that it drives like a Rolls-Royce, and that’s very much the case here. The 6.75-litre V8 fires immediately and silently, settling into a perfect idle without drama or histrionics. The GM Hydramatic transmission shifts effortlessly and seamlessly, and the hydropneumatic suspension provides just the correct level of cosseting waft you’d hope for.
The mechanical overhaul during this restoration was extensive, with the bills running to many, many thousands of pounds. Chief among the jobs tackled were a full exhaust system, overhauling of the fuel system including a new tank, fuel lines and filters, and rebuilding the carburettors. A new radiator was also fitted, and ancillary belts and hoses were replaced. The suspension was checked over, and ball joints and front and rear engine mounts have been replaced. Accumulators and brake pumps were changed, and finally a full service carried out including spark plugs and all oils and filters. In short, everything’s been done and everything works perfectly. To put it in stark financial terms, somebody else has already swallowed the almighty cost of restoration and maintenance so – in very real terms – this is probably going to represent quite the bargain for its new keeper.
The real question with a car like this is not ‘Why should I buy a Silver Shadow?’, but ‘Why shouldn’t I?’. These cars command an incredible road presence today, perhaps more so than in period; it’s such a recognisable silhouette that everybody instantly knows what it is, and the classic lines ensure that you’ll be marked out as a connoisseur rather than a Flash Harry. Of course, the experience of driving a Silver Shadow has very little to do with what other people may be thinking – it’s such a sumptuously cosseting affair that it’s easy to get lost in the halcyon memories of times gone by. The drive provides just the right levels of tactility to keep you fully involved, and yet the smoothness inherent in everything from the ride comfort and acceleration to the braking effort and gear selection never fails to leave you feeling supremely relaxed.
So a Silver Shadow is evidently the right choice for anyone whose lifestyle may incorporate continental grand touring, show entries and attendance, B-road pottering and general high-days-and-holidays memory-making. Or just popping to your favourite Kings Road bistro.
And why this particular Silver Shadow? Quite simply because this is a wonderful example of the breed. The dealer is renowned for dealing in correct and trustworthy examples of quality automobiles, and this Rolls wants for nothing. Everything’s been done, and done well. It’s ready and waiting to make your life better.
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