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Rolls Royce Silver Spirit

Published: 16th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!
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Rolls Royce Silver Spirit
Rolls Royce Silver Spirit
Rolls Royce Silver Spirit
Rolls Royce Silver Spirit
Rolls Royce Silver Spirit
Rolls Royce Silver Spirit
Rolls Royce Silver Spirit
Rolls Royce Silver Spirit
Rolls Royce Silver Spirit

Buyer Beware

  • The body has a lot of aluminium panels, so check them carefully for dents and dings rather than corrosion. Don’t forget though that the basic structure is steel, and this will need careful checking for rust. Start with the wheelarches and lower rear corners, as well as the sills.
  • Rolls Royce had a pretty good stab at rust protection though, so you should be equally vigilant in your search for poorly repaired accident damage as this will break down the car’s defences quicker than anything. Panel gaps and paint finish should be uniformly excellent.
  • Beware of any missing or damaged brightwork, as replacements can be dear. That includes the bumper corners, which can get damaged when people underestimate just how big the car is.
  • One other rust spot that is well worth checking is the rear spring pans. And talking of suspensions, don’t dismiss a dashboard warning light that stays on to warn of trouble with the active suspension, as this can be very expensive to repair.
  • A full service history is hugely desirable, ideally backed up by receipts rather than just stamps. But equally important is an engine bay that is clean and very neat – items such as drive belts, coolant hoses and wiring can give a very good indication to the amount of care that has been lavished on the engine in general.
  • On low milers, tappets can be a little noisy on start-up, but should soon quieten down. A ticking from the hydraulic pump is normal on start-up ifthe car has been standing for a few hours, but this should disappear after a couple of mins at most once the system is fully pressurizsed. Exhaust manifolds are known to crack.
  • Differentials can whine. Many were replaced under warranty, but not all so listen out at around 50mph as replacement will not be cheap.
  • Goes without saying that tatty cabins are to be avoided. Not only are they expensive to re-trim, but are a sure-fire sign that you are looking at a dud.Beware of cheap two tone tart ups, too.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 3/5

    Softer driving than a Bentley, Rollers are best as cruisers

  • Usability: 2/5

    Hardly a daily driver! Best kept for those special days

  • Maintaining: 3/5

    Not bad really. Good support and even dedicated breakers

  • Owning: 4/5

    Surprisingly satisfying, if you can afford a Jag they are attainable

  • Value: 3/5

    Strong – cheap so don’t buy a ratty one to try to save money

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The latest Rolls to claim classic status has all the style you could want, and prices are now entering the realms where us mere mortals can start to turn that dream into a realty says Simon Goldsworthy

Would you spend the kind of money that could buy a decent family house on a depreciating asset such as a car? No, me neither, and that pretty much means that I will never buy a brand newRolls-Royce – or Bentley. Am I downhearted? Not in the least because there is a far more sensible way to sample this life of opulence and over-abundance – let somebody else pay the depreciation for you! The whole point of buying something like a new Roller is to let the rest of the world know that you have arrived. As such, there is little point in buying a second-hand car for this purpose as that only tells the rest of the world you might arrive sometime soon. Couple this with high running costs and a raging thirst and you get values that plummet more than most. They do, after all, have further to fall. And that is great news for us enthusiasts. As these cars trickle down to the classic car fraternity, their high running costs become less of an issue as they see more leisure use and less hard graft. This state has long been taken advantage of by some enthusiasts to sample cars like the Silver Shadow, but many others have been put off taking the plunge with these older cars by fears of buying a dud on the cheap and paying the price for ever more. But now there’s another option. The newer Silver Spirit has been sub-£10,000 for a few years, and while this retains much of the style (and quite a bit of the running gear) of the earlier cars, it delivers it in a more modern package that promises less rust, less wear and tear and more usability. That is not to deny that you can still come a cropper if you go impulse shopping in this exalted market, but taking advice and buying carefully could get you a slice of luxury living on a real-world budget. Now, when talking of Rollers it’s common to group them with near identical Bentleys – or increasingly talk mainly about the latter. Not here! We’re concentrating on the Rolls versions mainly because there seems to be a different buying base forming for these up and coming classics; we’ll feature the sportier Bentleys in a later issue.

Which model to buy?

The maxim that you should buy the best car you can afford is sound advice for any classic car, but is never more apposite than when looking at a Rolls-Royce. And even then, you must leave some money over for the unexpected because it is easy to underestimate the potential cost of repairs. When John Bryce first bought the concours-winning car in our pictures, for example, the brake warning light was flickering. The sender unit for this cost £212. Plus fitting. Plus VAT…With that proviso in place, what sort of budget do you need? Well, John paid £16,000 for his car which, given the £86k price tag when it was new and the outstanding condition it is in, makes it remarkably good value. You could find a good one from well under £10,000, but you will probably need to look at several and take along a marque expert to sort out the wheat from the chaff. The earliest cars were built in 1980, and there are some ratty ones about. It’s never economic or wise to restore a poor example unless you have plenty of restoration skills and are prepared to donate your time for free. Even then, it will be a close run thing. There a plenty of good cars but one difference that is worth noting is that the first Silver Spirits used carbs, while those from the 1987 model year enjoyed less prickly fuel injection. This makes a big difference as injected cars are more powerful and fuel-efficient. They also seem happier to be left parked up for extended periods, then still start up instantly when you have saved up enough to fill the tank! Another improvement was the switch from three to four ratios in the autobox from 1992, although the difference is only really noticeable if you drive your car hard. You may also choose between the SWB Silver Spirit and the LWB Silver Spur, but both are huge and this is unlikely to be a major consideration.

Behind the wheel?

A different buying base for the Roller is forming

You sit high up in the Silver Spirit, as you’d expect from a car as grand as this. The seats are soft and comfortable, but the flat cushions promise little in the way of lateral grip. Ahead of you, the steering wheel seems surprisingly small given the massive dimensions of everything else, as do the controls (gear selector on the right of the steering column, indicator stalk on the left) – somehow you expect to find levers rather than switchgear. The dash is a relatively shallow strip of polished wood, with some nice big dials ahead of you. Chrome embellishments are everywhere, and there are some delightful touches such as the electric seat adjusters whose switches are designed to represent the part of the seat they move. There are all the luxury trimmings you could want, of course, including an air-con system that can be spilt top and bottom if your head and your toes happen to have different requirements. Having said that, it is no over the-top gadget fest. You still have to turn on the lights and wipers yourself, for example. The view ahead is dominated by the Flying Lady on the nose, with the vehicles front wing corners adding extra reference points that make the big car very easy to place on the road. Vision to the rear is not so good, and on a car as big as this, a reversing sensor is a desirable addition to protect those big expensive bumpers. If you are lucky enough to have driven a Silver Shadow, the Silver Spirit experience will not be too dissimilar, although less wallowy than its forbear. The steering is still fingertip light with little attempt at providing feedback, while the brakes also have servo assistance by the bucket load. You don’t so much drive a Silver Spirit as get wafted along by it and occasionally indicate what you want it to do. There is still some body roll through the corners though, enough to remind you that back roads are not really the car’s forte. Give it a main road though and it will glide along in near silence and at great speed, absorbing any road imperfections with its bulk and long suspension travel without troubling those lucky enough to be sitting inside

Ease of Ownership?

You’d be hard pressed to find more car for less

When Rolls switched from the Shadow to the Spirit, it changed the suspension/brake fluid from conventional to green mineral fluid. The new stuff is less likely to cause corrosion, so the complicated system should last longer between repairs. It is worth ensuring that you have a bottle of the correct LHM mineral oil for emergency top-ups as using anything else (such as regular brake fluid) will land you with a huge bill to repair the brakes and levelling system. Rolls Royce thoughtfully provided two spare bottles of the stuff in a compartment in the boot. Are they still there? Talking of huge bills, when things go wrong, it is not just the cost of parts that can cause heart failure. Jobs invariably involve a great deal of dismantling before the defective part can be reached, and labour costs add tremendously to the bill. A lot of that labour is entirely justified, but there is a sneaking suspicion that some repairers see the badge on the front and double the bill before lifting a spanner, so it pays to find a specialist you trust and stick with them. Rolls actually specified six month service intervals, although most owners will, by now, have opted for annual check-ups. You should allow at least £1000 per year for servicing and normal repairs, not least because everything about this car is larger than life – it’ll take a massive 18 litres of coolant and 9.4 litres of engine oil, for example. So is owning a Rolls-Royce really a pipe dream? No! Sure, these cars are never going to be cheap to run and certainly pay no mind to anybody who says you can run one for the price of a Ford Mondeo. But there are good specialists around who don’t charge the earth (check our ads) and even dedicated breakers to make things manageable. Look, if you’ve run a Jag (or were planning to) then a Roller won’t cost that much more to own.

The Daily Option?

This is a tricky one. There is no doubt that a Silver Spirit is beautifully engineered and crafted. If you get a good one in the first place and keep on top of the maintenance, it will go on for ever, but there are a couple of drawbacks to using one every day. One is the sheer bulk of the thing – at 5268mm long and 2008mm wide, it doesn’t feel particularly bulky from behind the wheel, but is soon put into context when you try squeezing into more plebeian parking spaces. But the biggest disincentive is the one that most immediately springs to mind, one which is such an obvious drawback to these cars that we have deliberately avoided harping on about it until this point. We are talking, of course, about fuel consumption! With a 6750cc engine and 2245kg of car to waft, keeping it fuelled is clearly going to hurt. On a run, you can realistically expect to get 17mpg, but around town this can easily drop as low as 10mpg. Some owners of the Series III cars fitted with a turbo and four-speed gearbox reckon they can get even see the right side of 20mpg, but the tank still holds nearly 24 gallons and the low fuel level light comes on when there are still 3.5 gallons left! That fact alone means that most of us would have to reserve the Rolls for high days and holidays only anyway. And rightly so.

Timelines

1980

The Silver Spirit (and its BentleyMulsanne sister) are unveiled. Updated but still traditional, the Silver Shadow heritage is clear; floorpan is reworked version of the Shadow's 1965 design. There is also a longer wheelbase option called the Silver Spur.

1983/4

Improved door locks and then central locking systems (September ’84). Additional interior lighting and power amplifier installed. Heated door mirrors now fitted. Smaller radiator badge installed after August ’85.

1986

Improved door locks and then central locking systems (September ’84). Additional interior lighting and power amplifier installed. Heated door mirrors now fitted. Smaller radiator badge installed after August ’85.

1989

Silver Spirit II arrives with revisions to the interior. Suspension revisions see Shadow-derived self-levellers replaced with a complex network of sensors and electronics that feed information to a processor, which in turn automatically adjusts the damper settings in milliseconds!

1990/1

Catalytic conveters made optional for UK market. Four-speed GM gearbox introduced late in 1991 to replace the venerable GM threespeeder while yet another revise to the central locking system is made. Incidentally the LWB cars don’t get revises until May ’92.

1994

Series III arrives with minor styling tweaks, more power from engine mods plus twin airbags for front occupants. This is followed the next year by the fitment ofa turbo to the LWB Silver Spur to create the superb Flying Spur.

1995

Park Ward limousine joins the range. Silver Spirit is updated slightly featuring smaller grille with front airdam/bumper and 16 inch wheels. Higher comp ratio and rear axle ratio aids economy. Top notch Alpine ICE equipment now installed, too.

1998

Silver Spirit morphs into the basically similar Silver Dawn. Silver Dawn and Silver Spur follow the Silver Spirit name into the history books, replaced by the new BMW V12-powered Silver Seraph, which continued before new Phantom range took over

We Reckon...

You would be hard pressed to find more car for less money. They are not for the shy or retiring, but buying one today offers a glimpse into a world that most of us will never be a part of. Not designed for the sporting driver (there are Bentley variants to fill that niche), a Silver Spirit is not really about the driving experience, rather it is about the owning experience and in that, it won't disappoint. Ever.


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