Estimate: £18,000 - £22,000
In Rolls-Royce’s pre-BMW days, every car was a story of evolution rather than revolution. If you wanted the finest car in the world, then what you got was a concept that had been continually refined and evolved rather than a car that would set the world on fire.
The Silver Spirit was a case in point. Launched in 1980, its angular styling, square headlamps and flat, slab-sided appearance were an entirely new direction for Rolls-Royce, bringing the brand kicking and screaming into a dynamic new decade. Yet beneath the sharp new suit, the Spirit was largely based on the Silver Shadow it succeeded, using the same floorpan, Citroen-derived hydraulic suspension and 6.75-litre L410 V8 engine, coupled to a GM four-speed automatic gearbox that had its roots in a 1960s Cadillac.
What Rolls-Royce didn’t know at the time was that the Silver Spirit and its sister car, the LWB Silver Spur, would go on to enjoy a 20-year production run, by which time the car was a glorious anachronism.
There were four major enhancements during the Spirit’s lifetime, the last one coming in 1996, though it was never officially known as the Series IV due to the number four’s connotations with death in some Middle Eastern markets. As well as some additional colour coding and an even more sumptuous interior than ever, the major change for 1996 was the standardisation of a Garrett turbocharger on all variants to give the Spirit a bit more, well, spirit… As always with Rolls-Royces the power output was never quoted as such behaviour was considered vulgar, but around 340bhp is the mooted figure, and a useful increase over the 195-200bhp believed to be correct for normally aspirated Spirits.
This example is a very rare car. By 1997, just a year after launch, Spirit production had ended, with the larger Spur continuing for another two years. Just 145 Series IV Spirits were made. This one has been in constant use for all its life and has never been restored, which bears testimony to how impeccably it has been maintained for the past 24 years. The current owner has had it for just over a year, but living in both the UK and Abu Dhabi, an imminent return to the UAE means the Rolls needs a new home.
This example was supplied new to the CEO of a well-known national company and was his personal car for 5 years before passing into the hands of its second and third owners, both of whom continued its loving care by getting it serviced by independent Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialists.
The current owner has been just as fanatical about the car’s upkeep, avoiding using it in wet conditions and keeping it spotlessly clean.
In total, it has covered 91,000 miles, with the current owner racking up around 6,000 of these in the past 12 months, during which time the car has toured Europe and been on a few other continental excursions – after all, it’s a wonderful way to travel.
For an unrestored car, the Spirit is absolutely pristine. Apart from a small scratch on one rear arch, which has been touched in but ideally needs a lacquer repair, the bodywork is superb, without a hint of corrosion and no paint damage. It looks absolutely sensational, with excellent chromework to match.
If you were to be picky, you’d note that the white band on one of the tyres is wearing out and that the badges are slightly pitted, but these really are minor trivialities in a car that otherwise presents as almost perfect. The underside, meanwhile, is superb and completely rot-free.
The interior is absolutely beautiful, with thick blue carpets and immaculate cream leather, piped in blue. The burr walnut dash is unmarked, while the delicate chrome switches and buttons are in equally good order. It really does feel like a special place to be.
Mechanically, it seems to be in rude health with no untoward noises. A service history detailing regular attention from well-known Rolls-Royce specialists is a further plus.
Rolls-Royce was always quite forward in saying it made the finest cars in the world, and while such a bold claim can be questioned by some of the panel gaps or the propensity of earlier cars (not this one!) to rust, there is no question that the driving experience is something else altogether.
From the incredible ride, which irons out speedbumps as if they were mere pebbles in the road, to the finger-light power steering the Silver Spirit isn’t just a car – it’s an entirely sensual experience. It wafts along in near silence and absolutely everything about it is effortless, from flicking it into gear via the column-mounted selector to accelerating through the gears.
With a full service history, including Rolls Royce dealer servicing up to 65k miles and specialist services done thereafter, including work by Hanwells, the mechanical condition of this vehicle is simply superb. If you need it to, the Spirit will happily fly along at autobahn speeds, but that’s hardly the demure experience you expect of a Rolls-Royce. It’s far happier floating around town on a light throttle, offering absolute comfort, serenity and a truly incredible sense of occasion to all of its occupants. There really isn’t an experience quite like it.
There’s something truly wonderful about this Spirit. As a late example, it typifies the car as the motoring anachronism it had become by 1996, but it is all the more glorious for it. It’s a Rolls-Royce in the traditional mould and that brings with it a sense of occasion like no other – indeed, to some these late Spirits are the very last of the ‘true’ Rolls-Royce saloons, less vulgar and more true to the brand’s independence than the Phantom models that followed, as well as the last to come from the factory in Crewe.
This one is a wonderful car with a huge amount of pedigree behind it, as well as being in truly sensational condition. You’ll struggle to find a late model Spirit as nice or original as it, or one that has been clearly as well cared-for.