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Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow

Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Published: 2nd Dec 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
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Why not own a...? Silver Shadow?

Whether or not the Silver Shadow was The Best Car In The World during its 15 year production run remains open to debate, but for many, owning a Rolls remains the stuff of dreams – if they had the money! The good news is that you don’t have to win the Lottery to turn that wishful thought into stark reality. Like all Rolls-Royces, Shadows (and Bentleys) can prove exceptional value if you buy right and right from outset – or that dream can fast turn into a nightmare.

Model choice

Ignoring coach-built models and convertibles, there’s a choice of Rolls and Bentley badged saloons and limos. In all, a total of 37,000 were made until it was replaced by the Spirit in 1980 and out of interest, 16,717 Shadow I versions were made and 8422 Shadow IIs. In contrast, just over 1750 Bentley T-Series cars were made, of which just 558 were the superior T2 saloons so you can see the Bentley is the much rarer pick but this doesn’t automatically equate in great price variances.

To the layman, they all look the same and yet a claimed 2000+ improvements were drilled in before the range made way for the Silver Spirit, itself heavily based upon the Shadow, itself hailed as the most technically advanced production car in the world when introduced in 1965. Understandably, the later the car, the better, although many purists prefer the early cars.

The most important milestones included the fitment of a rear antiroll bar and stiffer dampers during mid 1968, a three-speed GM box (replacing a four-speeder, strangely) in 1969, introduction of the 6750cc engine in ’70 with an altered steering ratio, then radial tyres. A suspension retune in mid ‘72, along with vented front disc brakes came next.

The next year saw cruise-control and a tape player fitted as standard, while for ’74 the wheel arches were slightly flared to accommodate an increased track and wider tyres but the most significant changes came with the Shadow II in 1977. This was the final fling for the Shadow and the most critical improvements included rack and pinion steering, new dual zone automatic air con with superior dash, US style rubber bumpers and a boy racer front air dam.

Together, it transformed the Rolls, making it a much tauter handling car that many will prefer.

The next big change was to mirror the Shadow’s replacement, the Silver Spirit, receiving that car’s new rear suspension and mineral oil hydraulics in 1979, a year prior to its launch. At the same time, the two-door saloon version was quietly phased out and production soldiered on with just the convertible, becoming Corniche III in 1989 (with active suspension, ABS and fuel injection) and IV range in ’92.

Bentley versions were dubbed ‘Continental’ from 1984 and it’s as well to remember that all of the above applies to the Bentley T-Series which shadowed the Shadow during production. All models have their own loyal following, but we’d recommend seeking out a Shadow II or T2 as these are much friendlier to drive in modern traffic conditions. That said, there are many who like the S1 for its serene and less sporty drive plus favour the classier look which isn’t spoiled by a vulgar boy racer spoiler.

But the early cars are wallowy on the road and not up to the standard of the later, post ‘76 Shadows – drive a few and see for yourself.

Behind the wheel

For such a big heavy luxury limo that’s half a century old, the Shadow still impresses. Performance was decidedly brisk in its day and naturally totally unflustered. A dash to 60 may seem an unremarkable 10 seconds but it was good going back then. “The discerning driver derives enormous quiet satisfaction from the way one can hurry along…” said Autocar who heaped similar praise on the car’s ’77 revamp, especially the new steering which the mag said, “is perhaps the best thing that has happened to the design in its evolution” before adding that “the car handles pretty well for its size and class… and its [all disc] brakes are beautifully weighted”.

In contrast, the old recirculating steering box is vague found on Shadow/T1s and can be a handful on winding roads and it’s generally regarded that pre-70 models, designed for cross-ply tyres, aren’t that nice at all. On the other hand, who goes GTi-chasing in such a fine old cruiser where swanning around in a Rolls or Bentley remains a privilege few experience? Economy is never going to be great, and at 15-17mpg it isn’t, but there again for the restrained use the car will receive – it’s not much worse than a Mk2 Jag or XJ6. Talking of the XJ, the XJ12 is smoother and quieter than the Shadow but you’ll always feel that little bit special in the latter because there’s more room and great comfort for all, particularly so in the longer wheelbase and Wraith variants.

What to pay

There’s what’s now a familiar pattern with Rolls values and the time to buy a Shadow is asap! As soon as a new model is launched the old models can fast fall from grace and values plummet, as did the Shadow’s during the production of the Spirit, while the previous model (Cloud) gained favour, overtaking Shadow prices in the process. Now the Spirit/ Brooklands is suffering a similar fate, Shadow values regularly outstrip those of the newer model (so consider buying a good, cheap Brooklands now!-ed).

Shadows could be picked up very cheaply about a decade ago but now values are rising for really good ones with a proper service history. Expect to pay £30 grand or so for a superb Shadow – that’s about the rate for a modern Seraph – in today’s market (late Corniche IIIs can sell for up to £100K) and usually a touch more will be asked for Bentleys due to their rarity.

Sure, you still see cars for Mondeo money, and average cars for under £15,000, but the majority will be tired and that much again, and then some, will need to be spent on making a Rolls regal and reliable. Two-door and early Corniche models usually command an extra £20,000.

Making one better

No one’s going to buy a Shadow to turn it into a brutal Brooklands Turbo even though in theory you can as the engine did go into the Corniche S! However, sensible upgrades to make a good car even better don’t go amiss, especially to the suspension.

Even those who like to cruise will find the handling a bit too soggy once they step out of their daily driver and should be stiffened up but without spoiling that magic carpetlike ride. You can’t fit the Shadow II front end to enjoy its sharper rack and pinion steering as it’s too involved say specialists, so opt for the long stroke damper conversion at £235, teamed with better shock absorbers. The long established Harvey Bailey handling conversion works a treat, too and we hear that simply upping the tyre pressures by six pounds helps a lot on standard cars so try that first along with fitting quality tyres suited for the car – as opposed to the sub standard budget ones that adorn too many tired cheap examples – and a thorough geometry check and adjust is a must.

The brakes (all disc with vented fronts after 1972) were some of the best in their time and poor braking may simply be because common working class Escort Mk2 pads may have been fitted, either by mistake or to save money! Incidentally, even the Mulsanne Turbo employed the same basic system so you can uprate accordingly but the system has a hard time because of the Roll’s sheer weight (Shadows typically weigh around 4700lb, or 2136kg) – and even the correct pads can easily wear out in less than 10,000 miles.

Maintenance matters

By far the biggest problem is probably cash-strapped owners, rather than the cars, as many just spend the minimum of time and money on keeping their Roller rolling along as values plummeted. So, vet the owner as much as the car; do they look the type to have maintained one in the style they were once accustomed to – if you know what we mean!

A good car will enjoy a solid service history, despite being now 36 years old at best. Look for a fat wad of receipts etc proving that the car has been looked after. Tyres are a giveaway – cheap rubber always suggests corner cutting has also been done elsewhere, for example.

When you consider that a Shadow can be bought for £10,000, it only needs rotten sills and the repair bills will match the purchase cost and why the dearest car will work out the cheapest in the long run.

Despite being half a century old, the Shadow is still a complex piece of kit and just because you’ve rebuilt an MGB doesn’t mean it’s well within your ken. The Citroën-based hydraulics, that power the brakes, steering and the self levelling suspension, still require expert knowledge as well as a specified £2000 overhaul, and the Shadow’s electrics has servos and motors all over the place, and is not for the novice either. On the other hand, it’s a delight, when spannering away, to appreciate the engineering that went in-to building these hand-built cars although being heavy-duty they demand suitable jacks and stands.

Most cars are used sporadically and this can be bad news, especially for the V8 as it can lead to scuffed pistons and ‘picked up’ cylinder liners – although these are easily replaceable and fairly simple to do. The greatest threat to its lifespan is a lack of coolant changes; it has to be done annually – despite the cost – using the correct Castrol/ICI fluid from a Rolls-Royce dealer/specialist.

Far from being elitist, Rolls Owners’ Clubs are some of the friendliest and accommodating you can find and are brilliant for advice and help. The RREC even runs workshop seminars to help DIY owners but if you don’t fancy that, there’s plenty of good specialists (and even dedicated breakers) who can contain costs to Jag-like levels. Dutch-based website rrsilvershadow. com is recommended by the RREC.

In conclusion

Last of the real Rolls-Royces and better built than the later Spirit, are reasons why Shadows are still well loved. Full of culture and class many, remain good value and not over-dear when you consider they were once regarded the best cars in the world.

Buy a good one and you won’t lose on the deal says our contributor and Rolls’ owner Stuart Bladon. His detailed owner account in our March issue showed that his seven years of ownership had cost him ‘nothing’ yet given him a lot of enjoyment.

Buying tips

1. General

Shadows greatly vary in quality and condition and it’s vital to check out as many as you can to set a datum.

A solid history is vital and with more than any glitz and glam that’s been added. A thorough service and set up by a good specialist transforms most cars. There’s a good spread of specialists who deal in pattern and used parts (such as Intro Car, based in London).

Two-tone paint jobs are common and can look classy. But be wary if it’s recent as it may be a ploy to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear…

Shadow II heater matrix can be prone to leak – replacing the matrix means taking out the dash and the coolant will have leaked onto the climate control circuit board…

2. Body

It may be a Rolls but they rot like any common classic! The usual suspects are sills, wheelarchs and valances.

Look at the spring pans for the trailing arms at the rear. Repair kits are available for this problem however. A main worry is the likelihood of pans rotting away, allowing springs to fall out.

If you’re looking at a car with an Everflex (vinyl) roof, check the condition. Replacing is costly, which is why most owners prefer to simply repaint the roof once the material has been removed.

3. Engine

That trusty V8 which stayed in service for half a century is as unstressed as they come, and shouldn’t have been revved too hard in its life. Even if the engine has had it, you don’t have to fork out for a new unit; specialists can sort out a used unit for you.

Cylinder liners contract through corrosion, squeezing the piston and causing a knocking suggesting a worn bearing or sticking tappet. Lack of use can lead to scuffed pistons and ‘picked up’ cylinder liners and it’s not the end of the world.

Exhausts manifolds can be a problem and they vary in price from £200 to more than £400 depending upon model and what side requires attention. A new system ranges from £400-£700+ depending whether you go for mild steel or stainless.

4. Running gear

Automatic gearboxes are linked into the engine’s cooling system. The pipes that carry the automatic transmission fluid to the radiator and back for cooling run alongside the gearbox; you need to ensure there’s no corrosion here.

The suspension and brakes incorporate a hydraulic self-levelling system which works well as long as its fluid is renewed every four years. Despite its complexity, the system gives few problems if maintained, so check the sight glass on the hydraulic reservoir (on the nearside of the engine bay) for fluid level and condition.

The Shadow’s braking system is maintained at a very high pressure for as long as the engine is running. There are two pumps so give the brakes a thorough work out and ensure all is well in the anchors department. Because the hydraulics are kept at high pressure, the various hoses are under a tremendous strain and why they have to be replaced every 96,000 miles during a full (£2000) overhaul of the system, even if they look fine.

The rack-and-pinion steering is far superior to the re-circulating ball set up of earlier cars, but it’s not possible to swap over. However, if there’s lots of play in a Series I car’s system, the worst can usually be adjusted out. There’s a shed load of bushes which wear and give the car an odd feel.

 



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