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Silver Shadow

Silver Shadow Published: 15th Jan 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Silver Shadow

Fast Facts

  • Best model: Shadow II/T2
  • Worst model: Anything bodged
  • Budget buy: Mid 70’s cars
  • OK for unleaded?: Yes
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L5194 x W1829
  • Spares situation: Very good
  • DIY ease?: Not bad at all
  • Club support: Especially good
  • Appreciating asset?: Good ones, certainly
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Now a classy yet classless classic
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In its day, the Silver Shadow claimed to be the best car in the world. Today, this magnificent and majestic saloon is reasonably affordable to buy and surprisingly easy to run, plus smacks of sheer good ‘old money’ taste – unlike some of the modern Rollers

How can any car claim to be the best in the world? It’s a subjective statement, but it’s a fact that no car can ever be the very best in every department. However, the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow claimed this accolade when it was launched 50 years ago. For many, it still is one of the best cars ever made, and the good news is that this classic is both highly affordable and surprisingly easy to buy and own plus is gaining value. So, why not have the best, while you still can!


1965 Announced, although deliveries didn’t start until the following spring. Unlike any Rolls before, the Shadow featured a monocoque body with no separate chassis, and was the most technically advanced production car in the world. Re-grilled Bentley T-Series launched soon after. 1967 After a bespoke two-door coupé was launched in 1966, a convertible followed in September 1967 with a power hood.

1968 Rear anti-roll bar fitted and front bar enlarged to improve handling.

1969 The most important milestone was the new three-speed gearbox care of General Motors, the latter always fitted to export cars. Longer wheelbase saloon option, identified by Everflex vinyl roof.

1970 Late in 1969 for ’70 models saw air conditioning made standard along with US-inspired safety padding for interior. A smaller steering wheel with altered gearing is fitted, while the engine’s power is upped by a 6750cc engine in July.

1971 The two-door range was rebranded as Corniche with a revised, somewhat sleeker look. Steering ratio changed again.

1972 Radial tyres are adopted and the chassis is retuned to suit. Enhancements include wash/wipe, centralised locking and a modified ventilation system.

1973 Ventilated front disc brakes fitted, eight track cartridge player now standard.

1974 Wheelbase increased to 120inches, flared wheel arches incorporated to accept lower profile tyres. Superior quadraphonic tape player fitted. Engine’s compression ratio lowered, plus subsequent upgrades to fuel and ignition systems.

1976 Engine beefed up with tougher ‘bottom end’. Silver Shadow II launched for

1977; improvements included rack and pinion steering, new dual zone automatic air conditioning with superior dash and new, US style rubber bumpers incorporating front spoiler. In February, the Corniche was similarly revised. LWB saloon model is now called Wraith.

1979 Final change was to mirror the Shadow’s replacement, the Silver Spirit, receiving that car’s new rear suspension and mineral oil hydraulics. Air conditioning system is further revised to provide better face level ventilation.

1989 Corniche III has active suspension, ABS and fuel injection, and IV in 1992. The final run of 25 cars was designated Corniche S in 1995. 16,717 Shadow 1 were made, along with 2776 LWB versions. In contrast, half as many Shadow IIs were sold, but 2144 Wraiths. Less than 2000 Bentleys (which gained the same mods and upgrades as Shadow) were made in total.


Best car in the world? To be honest, the real satisfaction comes from owning rather than driving one. The earliest cars are now very wallowy, although handling improved greatly after 1972 tweaks. Post ’76 cars boast rack and pinion steering and other mods best. However, these cars are for gliding along, not tearing around bends.

The real pleasure comes from just wafting around, luxuriating yourself in all that finest wood and leather. The creamy, classy nature of a good Shadow (or Bentley T) is still hard to match half a century on, but the ride is appreciably better in an XJ6.

Some prefer the original cars for their purity rather than driving, but if you must have a chrome bumper model, it’s best to avoid the pre-1969 cars as they suffered a poor four-speed gearbox and were never set up to run on radials, which many now ride on. Shadow II is the best driver of all but some R-R experts say late 1976 cars are currently the most wanted.

Were road testers taken in by the ‘Best in the World’ claim? Autocar got its hands on one of the first in 1966 and put the record straight by saying such an accolade is no longer “entirely realistic” but admitted the Shadow was “an exceptionally comfortable and refined car with effortless high speed cruising speeds”, although said it was not a car hurrying along. The test said remarked export cars, with their three- speed autobox, were better than the older four-speeder utilised for the home market.

By the time Motor retested the Rolls in 1973, the game had rolled on somewhat and cheaper rivals, such as Jaguar and Mercedes had caught up and in many areas beat the Shadow at its own game.

However, the testers still praised the car for its space, comfort, improved handling and beautiful build. “We cannot deny that riding in a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow gives one a special feeling of contentment with the world”, was its verdict.

Three years later and Autocar is evaluating the last Shadow I, fresh from a latest round of upgrades, which included a revised chassis and suspension plus wider tyres. These changes improved the handling further but Autocar rightly pointed out that “Rolls know their market”, and it’s one that “does not demand Ferrari-style handling and steering – and doesn’t get it.”

What was interesting was the comment over its pricing. When the magazine last tested the car in ’72, it retailed at £10,550 – four years on it was almost 20 grand, but, the report remarked, “this underlines what many owners have found, that a Silver Shadow can turn out to be an investment.”

By the turn of the decade, the same weekly was testing a Bentley for a change, and a bang up to date T2 at that, with yet another revamped suspension set-up and now a sharper rack and pinion steering. Carrying a £36 grand price tag, it was the first test car to hit 60 in under 10 seconds

What To Look For


* Although half a century old, Shadows are still quite complex cars and certainly not for the average DIYer as special tools are demanded. However, thanks to their workmanship, they are a pleasure to work on.

* It’s not just the car you need to look at – check out the owner before making that buying decision. If they look impoverished then it’s likely the car has duly suffered (many have)! What you need is a well-heeled owner who has kept the service history up to date.

* Ever been in one, let alone drive one? Possibly not. So try out as many as possible to set a datum because these cars may be so far removed from what you are used to, what seems a peach may be a rotten pear.

* It’s not a bad idea to join an owners’ club before buying They are a helpful bunch andof valuable assistance. Apart from an army of independent specialists, there are also R-R salvage and breakers, so running a car needn’t prove to be too expensive.


* On early car, it’s not worth trying to swap the old four-speed auto for the three-speed (with torque converter) Turbomatic 400. On all, the change should be smooth but can jerk when initially selecting a ratio. Regular oil changes are important on all.

* The auto boxes are lined to the engine’s cooling system and the pipes that line the two can rot, so look for evidence of leaks and part repairs.


* As well built as they are old Rollers will rot like any classic if neglected so you need to check. Beware of a fresh respray and especially if the flanks have been two-toned because while it looks smart, it may be hiding rust and filler.

* Check the sills, it costs £3500 per side to properly replace. Other areas include the wheel arch tips, front and rear valances, around the screens and so on.

* Underneath inspect subframe, mounts, floors, inner wings and boot floor, the latter because that’s where the battery resides and spilt acid will attack the metalwork – after it has eaten through the wood baton work Rolls kindly fitted at the factory.

* Once screen seals perish, water attacks the floors and bulkheads. At the rear, look at the suspension spring pans; these rust away at the suspension trailing arms causing the spring to fall away but thankfully cost not more than £100 to replace.

* No worries about the bonnet, boot, doors as these are all alloy. What you need to be careful of however is the electrolytic reaction of the different metals where they meet steel, such as hinges, etc.


* A well maintained V8 can rack up 250,000 miles with ease. Problems occur if anti-freeze isn’t changed and it loses its anti corrosion properties, causing block’s iron lines to contract and squeeze the pistons resulting in a knocking sound. Fitting new ones isn’t a DIY job as block has to be heated up.

* A typical top end overhaul and decoke runs into thousands but can be done at home fairly easily. A kit costs around £300 but valves cost £100 a go.

* Frequent oil changes are vital to prevent sludging up of the hydraulic tappets. Exhaust manifolds known to crack and if they can’t be welded up means new ones at £250-500 a bank although second-hand ones are available but check their condition.

* Don’t be alarmed to find a oil smeared engine as they are prone to leak a bit, usually the rocker covers, sump and rear main bearing, rather like a Jag XK unit.

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