The Silver Shadow is the epitome of luxury motoring, but buy carefully
The Rolls-Royce name always stood for unbeatable comfort and luxury, and the Silver Shadow delivers these attributes in spades. Settle into the gentleman’s club interior and there is a huge feel-good factor, and as you gaze down the bonnet to the iconic ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ it’s hard not to feel a sense of real pride. Driving a Rolls has that effect somehow.
On the road, the ride is a touch wallowy – Shadow II models handled more adeptly – but it doesn’t matter as you soon settle down to a sedate pace, gently guiding the delicately-rimmed wheel with your fingertips. There is enough poke if you want it though, a prod of the throttle causing the nose to rise majestically as the old girl gathers up her skirts, but frankly a scary thirst for fuel soon puts paid to those antics. Far better instead to relax, and enjoy the wonderful surroundings.
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II
Power (bhp@rpm) 200bhp
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 250lb ft
Top speed 115mph
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
Terrifying restoration and repair costs makes sound bodywork a priority with the Silver Shadow. Well documented rot spots include the front wings, the rear wheel arches, the inner rear wings below the bumper, and the front/rear valances. You should also check for signs of reaction where the aluminium panels meet the steel monocoque, and look out for damp carpets – the floorpan is notoriously rust-prone. When you realise that complete sill replacement can attract a £3500 bill (for each side!), the need to be careful becomes clear. Many cars came with an ‘Everflex’ vinyl roof so ensure this isn’t peeling or bubbling – a possible sign of corrosion underneath.
Models up to 1970 used a 6.2-litre V8, but it’s the later 6.75-litre unit that’s most familiar. It’s an engine that can cover big miles with proper care, but there are some issues to be aware of. A lack of regular oil changes will sludge-up the hydraulic tappets and can contribute to cam-follower wear, and you need to watch for any signs of oil leaks or head gasket failure. Cracked exhaust manifolds are costly to put right, but perhaps most important is the need for correct levels of anti-freeze to be maintained. Combining with a build-up of sediment, lack of maintenance here can lead to serious problems with the cylinder liners. Evidence of ‘piston knock’ should ring alarm bells.
Early cars used a four-speed automatic gearbox, but the later GM three-speed unit is better and more reliable. The electric selector mechanism can play up with age though. You should also check for oil leaks and whining from the differential, and for knocks from worn universal joints. Check the ground for oil after your test drive.
The complex suspension system needs the same fastidious maintenance as the rest of the car. Leaks from corroded pipework and perished seals will require a costly overhaul, and the fluid needs regular changes too. Front ball joints can wear and need specialist knowledge to check properly, and it’s worth checking for signs of worn subframe bushes or corrosion around suspension mounting points. Signs of uneven tyre wear will need further investigation.
The braking system must be in tip-top condition if a £5000 overhaul bill is to be avoided. Seized brake calipers and corroded metal brake pipes over the rear subframe are known problems, while the flexible hoses need renewing periodically. There are mroe than 10 of them so ask when it was last done. Brake fluid leaks are a worry too, though a small weep from the distribution valves beneath the driver’s seat area is to be expected. Brake work can require the use of expensive specialist tools, so be wary of cars that haven’t received regular attention here. Make sure the brake warning lights on the dashboard illuminate correctly. Be aware, left hand wheels used left-hand threaded wheel nuts!
The cabin uses only the best materials, so it’s vital to check for signs of wear or damage. Restoring or replacing the leather or the matched wood veneers is a job for the experts, and is expensive. Mustiness signals water ingress, and don’t be satisfied until you’ve checked that all the electrical items are present and correct – getting failed electric windows or seats working again will cost plenty. Inoperative air-conditioning is another wallet-buster so make sure it blows cold with no signs of water in the cabin from a leaking heater matrix.
There is huge pleasure to be had from owning a Rolls-Royce, and the Silver Shadow is no exception – the quality and luxury on offer are very beguiling. But never, ever be tempted to buy a cheap car that’s been run on a shoestring as bankruptcy is almost sure to follow. A sound, cherished car is definitely the way to go. We advise getting a specialist inspection.