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Rolls Royce Carmargue

The Idle Rich? Published: 6th Aug 2012 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Rolls Royce Carmargue

Fast Facts

  • Best model: Post 1980 models
  • Worst model: Earliest cars
  • Budget buy: None
  • OK for unleaded?: Yes
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): 16’ 11.5’’ x 6’ 3.5’’
  • Spares situation: Getting tricky
  • DIY ease?: OK, but some things are for specialists only
  • Club support: Very good
  • Appreciating asset?: One day!
  • Good buy or good-bye?: It looks better in the metal…
Interior was Rolls’ plushest yet and fi ne for four up cruising. This car has non standard trim Interior was Rolls’ plushest yet and fi ne for four up cruising. This car has non standard trim
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Rolls’ Camargue has been a sleeping classic for far too long, which is why it’s now a great time to buy one and for sensible money

Pros & Cons

Rarity, roominess, usual Rolls refi nement, investment qualities
Parts availability, odd looks too big and too fl ashy for many?

Rolls-Royce has never been in the business of offering cheap cars, but when it unveiled the Camargue in January 1975, the company was moving into an altogether different league. A whacking £8000 more than the contemporary Phantom VI, and twice the price of a Silver Shadow, the £29,250 Camargue was a seriously costly piece of kit.

Such high purchase costs and the fact that it took six months to build a Camargue meant the car was always going to be very exclusive. Despite its 11-year production span, a mere 530 examples would be built in all – plus a single Bentley-badged edition – so the market is hardly awash with Camargues at any one time. But if you’re looking for a peerlessly luxurious piece of quirky motoring history, it’s worth seeking one out one of these stylish two-door coupes – especially as prices remain surprisingly reasonable.


When Rolls-Royce introduced the Silver Shadow in 1966 it hatched a plan to create a coachbuilt edition using the same mechanicals. It was envisaged that James Young would build the cars, but when the company closed its coachbuilding division in 1967, Rolls-Royce was forced to rethink. A solution presented itself in 1968, when Pininfarina showed a special-bodied Bentley T1 at the London Motor Show, built specially for James (later Lord) Hanson.

By 1969, Rolls-Royce had commissioned Pininfarina to design a car that would sit at the top of its range. It would use the Silver Shadow’s fl oorpan and there would be the minimum of decoration, in a bid to keep the looks fresh for as long as possible. The mechanicals would also be carried over largely unchanged, although a 7.2-litre version of the iconic pushrod V8 was created early on, but reliability issues meant the standard 6.75-litre unit was slotted in, instead.

The purpose of the Camargue was to provide a coachbuilt car that was better suited to those who liked to do their own driving. Rolls-Royces were generally aimed at those who liked to be driven, but as Bentleys were created for those who preferred to drive themselves, it would have made more sense for the Camargue to wear Bentley badges. But only the one Bentley-badged Camargue was ever made.

Codenamed Delta, the first prototype Camargue was completed in July 1972, with a Bentley badge fi tted for testing in Europe. By 1973 the car was ready to be introduced to the market, but it would be another two years before buyers got their chance to sample one.

Rolls-Royce’s bankruptcy in 1971 didn’t help, and neither did strike action at Mulliner Park Ward, which was contracted to build the car. Also slowing things down was the complex air conditioning system, which took eight years to perfect – and it was this piece of equipment which separated the Camargue from any rival and was so advanced that it made its way into the Shadow’s replacement, the Silver Spirit.

The Camargue incorporated several fi rsts for Rolls-Royce; this was the fi rst model from the company to feature curved side glass, and it was also the fi rst to be designed on a metric basis rather than an imperial one. Intriguingly, it was also the fi rst to feature a radiator grille that tilted forwards instead of designed to be upright; the Camargue’s classic grille is inclined at an angle of four degrees.

As soon as the Camargue hit the UK market in the summer of 1975, there was a ready market for what was the world’s most expensive car; twoyear waiting lists quickly built up. The styling may have been controversial, but the Camargue was one of the world’s best and most exclusive grand tourers. That didn’t mean there was no room for improvement though, as by the time the fi rst 60 cars had been built, Rolls-Royce swapped the twin SUs previously fi tted for a less troublesome single four-choke Solex 4A1 downdraught unit.

By 1977, rack-and-pinion steering had replaced the previous recirculating ball system, then two years later there were also rear suspension revisions, the Camargue receiving the independent set-up destined to debut on the Silver Spirit in 1980. At the same time, there was also a move to mineral oil-based hydraulics.

When the Spirit arrived, around 100 Camargues were being built each year, but by the mid-1980s production had slowed to just 20 or so cars per annum; the end was in sight. Rolls-Royce stopped listing the Camargue in early 1986, when the price stood at £83,122 – a far cry from the £34,000 asked just a decade earlier.


The Camargue’s massive dimensions dictate everything about it; the driving experience, the cabin space, the thirst and the performance.

At nearly a whopping 17 feet long you’re going to need a sizeable garage or driveway to accommodate it and with a 12mpg drinking habit you’ll need deep pockets to fuel one too. But whether or not you can afford the bills, the Camargue is classic Rolls-Royce through and through and one that’s been overlooked for far too long.

The effortless torque provided by the legendary lazy 6.75-litre V8 ensures easy progress, while the huge bulk and lengthy wheelbase smother the bumps; the only contemporaries that could be compared with the Camargue, were other products from Crewe. It’s not a quick car of course (think 0-60mph in over 10 seconds) but spirited enough – in a dignifi ed way.

In period the Camargue wasn’t driven by many magazines; by 1979 Rolls-Royce was enjoying a three-year waiting list so it didn’t really need to court publicity. However, Autocar fi nally got its hands on a Camargue in 1979, which it tested alongside the contemporary Phantom VI. Noting that the Camargue’s engine was tuned to produce
around 10 per cent more power than the Silver Shadow’s writer, Warren Allport reckoned that the Camargue was more suited to the owner-driver than the four-door saloon on which it was based where he may prefer to be driven. Fair enough.

While the Camargue’s effortless driving experience came as no surprise, what was more unexpected was the fact that the rear cabin wasn’t as spacious as you might think, considering those generous external dimensions. While leg room is OK for six-footers if the space under the front seats is utilised for feet, head room is at a premium because of the plunging roof line. Indeed, Autocar’s testers were so disappointed that they compared the Camargue with the humble working class Ford Capri, “a twodoor with prime accommodation in front and just enough (by big car standards) in the rear”.

While that early review didn’t delve into the driving experience all that much, a review for Motor in 1986, just as the Camargue was being canned, was a bit more insightful. While it was just as enthusiastic about the effortless performance on tap, the rest of the package – at least dynamically – was something of a disappointment. The respected weekly wrote: “Damping control is not its forté. The slightest movement of the utterly feel-less steering is translated into instant roll… It must be the ultimate in desensitised motoring, apart from the occasional rubbery jolt from a ridge in the road. But the ride is too soft, too fl oating, to be classed as really very good. It absorbs bumps, yes, and very well too, but it adds other, queasy movements of its own”. So despite the riginal brief of creating a driver’s car (and Rolls certainly made it with the broadly similar Bentley Mulsanne Turbo chassis), it seems that Rolls-Royce had limited success with the Camargue.


The Camargue was the world’s most expensive car when new, so upgrades aren’t really necessary. However, while the Camargue is better to drive than the contemporary Silver Shadow. A Harvey Bailey suspension kit is especially worthwhile if the suspension needs an overhaul anyway, because at £2500 or so, it costs no more than rebuilding the standard system and transforms the handling but without upsetting the ride.


The Camargue carried a massive premium when new, over a contemporary Silver Shadow. Even now you’ll typically pay three times the price of a Shadow but this is still a car that’s worth signifi cantly less than a Corniche of similar vintage and condition.

Royce Service and Engineering’s Paul Brightman comments: “Values are defi nitely on the up, helped by the fact that there aren’t many cars available. Sure it’s a love/hate car, but there are enough buyers around to keep values healthy. Spend much less than £25,000 and you’ll be buying a project – and with parts availability a weak point, such a move isn’t advised”.

Paul continues: “Although there are buyers for any Camargue in good condition, it’s the later cars on the Silver Spirit fl oorpan that most people want – these are the ones with the mineral braking system. Really good cars can fetch more than £45,000, and I’m sure that in the coming years values will continue to rise”.

What To Look For

  • There are sensors in the braking system that feed a warning light on the dash in the event of a failure. It’s common for this light to be disconnected, so check that all the lights illuminate when you start the ignition..
  • The rack-and-pinion steering of post-1977 Camargues is far superior to the re-circulating ball set up of earlier cars, and it’s not possible to swap between the two. However, if there’s lots of play in an earlier car’s system, the worst can usually be adjusted out. Play can also be caused by wear in the half-dozen ball joints in the steering system. They’re easy enough to replace, but with a price tag of over £100 apiece, the cost soon adds up.
  • Power-assisted steering was fitted fom the outset, and you need to make sure the various pipes are in good nick; they can corrode. The belts that drive the power steering pump can also fail, so check there’s evidence of perishing.
  • It’s rotten metalwork that’s likely to present the biggest opportunity for your bank balance to be drained. It’s likely that only the sill ends will have corroded, but if the whole of each side is rotten, it’s typically £3000 per side to put things right.
  • If the sills have rotted out, it’s likely that there will be signifi cant rot elsewhere. The usual suspects are the wheelarch lips, especially those at the rear because of a built-in mud trap just inside the inner arch.
  • Front and rear valances also need to be checked for corrosion but you don’t need to worry about rust in the bonnet, doors or boot lid as they’re all made of aluminium – but they can still suffer from electrolytic corrosion. It’s behind the door handles and brightwork that they’re most likely to be suffering.
  • The battery sits in the boot and this often spills its acid into the tray in which it sits. Rolls-Royce had the foresight to put sacrifi cial wooden batons in there to save the metalwork, but once the wood has disappeared it’s the steel next.
  • The boot lid seals often perish, allowing the boot to fi ll up with water, so check the luggage compartment isn’t awash with rainwater.
  • The front and rear screen seals also perish, allowing the footwells to fi ll up with water. Once this happens, the carpets will rot and the wood trim will delaminate.
  • Unless the screen seals have perished, it’s unlikely that there will be any problems with the fl oorpans. It’s still worth taking a look at them though, especially the spring pans for the trailing arms at the rear.
  • The brightwork is generally horrendously expensive to renew, and it’s accident damage that’s most likely to crop up – especially in the case of the front bumpers. Another weak spot is the famous radiator grille, which splits along the soldered edges. Fixing it yourself isn’t really an option – and an replacement costs over £1500.
  • The interior is a real work of art, but reviving a tired one can be alarmingly expensive. Carpet sets are also costly if you want to go for the Wilton that was originally specifi ed, although the £1500 that you’ll pay isn’t the end of the world.
  • Woodwork can be very costly too, so make sure it hasn’t started to delaminate. Matching veneers is very tricky.
  • The amount of electric adjustment in a Camargue is amazing, with servos and motors all over the place. Fuseboxes, relays and motors are generally fault-free but the wiring can break having hardened with age.

Three Of A Kind

Aston Martin Lagonda
Aston Martin Lagonda
Angular was decidely in during the 1970s, and if you want the proof look no further than here. Sure this Aston features four doors instead of two, but when it comes to out-there designs, few cars can top the wedgy Lagonda. Values are broadly similar to the Camargue’s while production numbers are on a par too. It’s the driver’s choice of this bunch – but classy?
Bentley Continental
Bentley Continental
In many ways the Camargue forged the way for Bentley to be ambitious with its Continental back in the 1990s and they share many good qualities as well as a similar style. Sportier to drive than the Camargue due to a shorter chassis while Turbos are a two tonne blast. Prices are roughly the same but the Rolls is the rare car.
Rolls-Royce Corniche
Rolls-Royce Corniche
It’s mechanically the same as the Camargue, but the shape is more elegant and there’s a convertible version for those who like to feel the wind in their hair. Values are higher though – especially for open-topped cars, but if you want to feel like royalty, few cars do the job as well as a Corniche.


Unlike the Silver Shadow that provided its basis, you can’t pick up a Camargue for a song, so you’re unlikely to fall into ownership on a whim – especially as there are so few about. However, just like the Shadow, there are plenty of ropey examples of the Camargue about, with rust a common – very costly – issue.

If you do decide to take the plunge, get the car professionally inspected before buying and go for the latest car you can fi nd – and only buy something that’s got a decent history fi le with it. Also don’t go for anything with a tacky colour; white paintwork and gold-plated badges are to be avoided at all costs. Buy a Camargue in a sober metallic that’s had money lavished on it and you’ll have one of the most interesting and luxurious classics going. Even better, you’ll also have a car that’s bound to gain in value in the coming years; just don’t expect to buy and run one on a shoestring.

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