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Rolls-Royce Corniche

Rolls-Royce Corniche Published: 10th Mar 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Rolls-Royce Corniche
Rolls-Royce Corniche
Rolls-Royce Corniche
Rolls-Royce Corniche
Rolls-Royce Corniche
Rolls-Royce Corniche
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Stuart reckons the high running expenses of his Corniche have been offset by its appreciation

November last year marked the sixth anniversary of the exciting but also rather alarming day when I stepped out of the front door and saw it standing there in the dark with the lights on – the 1979 Rolls-Royce Corniche Convertible which I had admired when I saw it at Beaulieu Garage for the first time only three weeks earlier. I had called again several times to look it over more thoroughly and plough through the bulging files of service history, before finally making an offer and hearing that it was accepted. It was alarming because I knew I was probably letting myself in for a lot of expense.

The first shock came when I took it to the local Shell garage to fill the tank, and the pump cut out automatically on reaching £99.99, and no less than 86 litres still had not completely filled the tank. The first question always asked by anyone interested in the car is: “What does it do to the gallon?” I always reply: “16 – and when it does that we have a small celebration!” In fact, it has topped 16mpg many times when cruising and trying to keep the speed down below 80mph. It’s in low-speed work through towns or on winding country lanes that the 6¾-litre V8 engine, churning through a not very efficient GM400 automatic transmission, gulps the fuel away.

In six years and 13,451 miles, my Corniche has consumed 4276 litres of unleaded, giving an average consumption figure of 14.3mpg. Oil consumption is about 500 miles per litre, although much of it dropped on my garage floor! But with classic motoring the fuel cost is no great problem because your mileage is restricted anyway by insurance limits and the desire to keep the overall mileage as low as possible. When I bought the Corniche its recorded mileage was only 23,025, which seemed incredibly low for 29 years’ service, but all the documents were there to confirm it. So petrol cost averaging £905 a year for six years, total £5432, is not too terrifying. It’s the thought of possible repair bills which are frightening…


Beaulieu Garage agreed to have the car serviced before I took it over, and paid the bill for this, a modest £122.50. The first nasty shock was when the brake pressure warning lights started taking a long time to go out in the morning, and it was evident that the hydraulic pressure reservoirs were past their best. Replacements cost £699, and the total bill for fitting and some other work came to £1275. The hydraulic units are supplied by Citroën and are no doubt considerably cheaper if bought through the French company’s dealers or specialists…

In the following year, June 2013, while on a rally in France there was suddenly an alarming noise from the steering on full lock and it was found that the reservoir had become nearly empty. The Volkswagen mechanic supporting the rally went underneath and released the pressure build-up where the power steering fluid had leaked into the bellows, and he kindly provided some fluid to see us back to England where Ashley Motors removed the steering rack and sent it off to Poweracks Direct for overhauling. The Corniche tied up their big ramp for a week, being immovable with no steering, until the rack came back beautifully overhauled and painted for £355. Total cost of this repair was £825.

Former colleague Gordon Bruce (whose lovely Bentley R Type was featured in this magazine last year) following us on a classic rally in France reported that my car seemed to be down on the left, and measuring showed he was quite right. It had to go to Silver Lady, the dealer at Bournemouth for the rear suspension to be looked at, and it was found that a small spring in the self-levelling control unit had broken on the right. It was ‘telling’ the suspension on that side that the car was fully loaded, and raising the suspension accordingly, making it seem down on the left side. Silver Lady repaired this and when the mechanics were manoeuvring the car the battery, now nearly five years old, failed, so it was a convenient place to have the second replacement fitted. The previous battery had been one of the first essential purchases, costing £65.

It was also noticed after the rally that we had lost one of the chromed wheel embellishers, and I was warned that a new one could cost as much as £700! In that case, I thought, I’ll take the other three off and run without them, but an enquiry on E-bay unearthed a package of four perfectly made in China, for just £68.99!

A year after these mishaps we suffered a FTP (failure to proceed) on a Hants. & Berks. Classic drive just six miles from the start. The excellent AA confirmed that it was due to failure of the electronic ignition, Most classic car owners know how valuable it is to have a competent and helpful garage on hand, in my case it is always a case of ‘Ashley Motor Repairs to the rescue’. Proprietor MikeTandy came over and removed the electronic ignition components which were then sent off to Silver Lady. A few days later he came back and installed the new units, including to be on the safe side, a new coil.

The cost of the mentioned service and repairs, including the two batteries, came to £5411 which is almost exactly the same as the cost of petrol it has consumed. Not included however is the cost of improvements, such as having the badly neglected walnut door trims renovated, and the wonderful job which Ashley Motors did in filling the big hole in the rear wing where an earlier owner had the aerial for his satellite telephone. Ashley matched the paint so perfectly that no one can now see where the hole had been – including me.


When the Corniche arrived in 2009 I was pleased to note that the tyres still had plenty of tread, but the first journey was spoilt by vibration at anything over about 60mph. The front tyres were re-balanced, which brought a slight improvement, but it was felt that the only way to get smooth running was to bin a set of perfectly sound-looking tyres which had obviously become distorted during long spells of standing locked up in a London garage.

A new set of four Avon Turbospeed whitewall tyres was purchased costing £1165 including fitting. They still show little wear but I have included 60 percent of the tyre cost (£700) in a total add-up of running costs which comes to £11,543 for six years.

In the same time, the value of the Corniche convertible has risen satisfactorily from the purchase cost of £42,500 to its now insured value of £54,000. This comes to an appreciation figure of £11,500, justifying the claim that it has cost nothing to run.

This statement, of course, means ignoring standing charges, of which the largest is insurance, which has totalled £2761 for six years. It started with Adrian Flux at £438, but after four claim-free years, a renewal for £475 seemed steep so I switched to Insure Pink at £354. Even better value then came from RH Motor Cover, through which I switched to its ERS insurance for £328.50 last November; it sure pays to shop around.

The rolling tax exemption for cars over 25 years old was stopped by Gordon Brown in 1997, but is now rolling again, but my Corniche still has about seven years to go before it becomes tax-free, and in the meantime taxing it for six years has cost £1290.

Running a classic car can be seen as a good investment if you buy the right car, and one which always brings great pleasure. We have had some magnificent journeys in the Corniche including six times to France and once to Germany, with a total of some 11 classic rallies. It has certainly earned its keep and will, I hope, continue to do so for some years yet.


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