Becoming a Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit owner has never been so affordable.
WHY YOU WANT ONE
If the cachet of Rolls-Royce ownership and all the style and elegance it represents has always appealed, but you’ve never quite been able to justify the bank loan to afford one, then the Silver Spirit is the answer. Older Silver Shadow prices are now beginning to firm up, which means that the less desirable 1980s and 1990s Silver Spirits are currently more affordable than ever.
The boxy bodywork is pure 1980s and the styling is much more contemporary than any Roller that came before it. That will no doubt be a turnoff for some, but while the blunt looks and vast proportions now show their age, there’s no denying that the Silver Spirit has a certain period charm. Factor in the powerful V8 engine and the sublime ride quality, courtesy of self-levelling suspension, and the appeal starts to broaden. Being a Roller, it’s also decked out with more high quality leather and wood than you can possibly imagine.
So if you’re after all-out luxury or are planning on setting up a wedding car business on a budget then few cars can top it at this price.
AT THE WHEEL
The appeal of a dirty great 6.75-litre V8 is hard to ignore. Granted, a Rolls-Royce isn’t a car which one should drive furiously, but the acceleration is delivered in a conservative and smooth manner. It’s a behemoth of a lump and drinks like a fish, but all the time emits a soft, easy-on-the-ear V8 burble.
The ride, on sorted cars with the Auto Ride electronic suspension systems, is one of the best around. It’s relaxed and wallowy, but both front and rear passengers could never complain about being uncomfortable. Press on and later cars fitted with the aforementioned suspension set-up will hunker down a little and adopt a slightly sportier stance. The light action of the skinny steering wheel complements the car’s ambience well.
Exact characteristics of the Silver Spirit will y depending on the age and exact model you drive. Later models gained more power courtesy of tweaked cylinderheads and a new intake manifold, among other changes. Then there’s the rare and extremely fast Flying Spur with its brutally powerful turbocharged engine.
1992 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit II
Torque 325lb ft@1450rpm
Top Speed 127mph
Gearbox 4-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
1. Steer clear of pre-1984 cars as they can be a lot of trouble. Much of the bodywork was poorly designed and didn’t fit properly. The door and window frames of the first cars to leave the factory had a terrible fit and finish, which let a lot of wind into the cabin. These early cars were recalled for modifications and the door seals were redesigned.
2. Fuel injection was made standard in 1987, so it’s worth buying a car that has it fitted. The carburettor engines are simpler, but the fuel economy benefits that come with fuel-injected engines are worth it.
3. Corrosion can be a serious problem on cars built before 1992. It occurs in obvious places such as the wheelarches and the sills. The bottom four to six inches of the body are the worst areas for rot, as are the rear arches and the panel behind them.
4. Interiors are well-built and generally hard-wearing, but pay particular attention to lighter shades of leather. Magnolia and other pale hides will show wear more than darker equivalents, particularly on the driver’s seat. Cars that have been used for wedding transport may be more worn than usual on the back seats.
5. Carefully inspect the front and rear screen before you open the doors, then have a look at them from inside the car. If you can see any mist then there’s probably damp beneath the carpets that’s been caused by water ingress. It’s also worth getting down on your hands and knees and patting the interior floor for any more signs of damp.
6. V8 engines like the Roller’s can guzzle oil, so check the level, which will also be an indicator of whether the car has been well maintained. For the truest reading, do it after the engine has reached peak operating temperature and then been allowed to cool down.
7. An advanced Auto Ride electronic suspension system was introduced in 1990. This automatically adjusts the suspension settings to firmer or softer depending on how hard the car is being driven at the time. Be aware that it can go wrong and lead to an irregular, lumpy ride, which should become obvious on a test drive. Repairs are eye-wateringly expensive – dampers alone cost around £800 each.
8. A recall was issued in December 1995 for ious Rolls-Royce models that were manufactured with incorrect oil in their braking systems. The cars in question were built between June and October 1995, and while the majority will have been corrected, it’s worth thumbing through the service history to find out whether they were.
9. Later cars are generally much more reliable than early examples, but cars built between 1995 and 1998 are prone to head gasket problems. This is easily spotted by removing the engine oil filler cap and inspecting the bottom of it. If you see a pale, gloopy residue then the head is on its way out. Oil that smells of rotten eggs is another indicator.
10. When it’s working properly, the ride is one of the highlights of the Silver Spirit. However, the rear suspension gas springs can lose their pressure and become hard, which will be noticeable on a test drive, particularly from the back. If you can, go for a ride in the back of the car as part of your inspection/test drive, as any faults with the suspension system should become obvious.
With the Silver Spirit, there’s no question that later cars are the better bet, so it’s a case of finding as recent a model as possible that suits your budget. Cheap cars may look attractive from the outset – and you can pick up a useable example for as little as a few thousand pounds – but it’s worth remembering that parts and repairs are seriously pricey, so spending more in the first place is advisable.
Apart from the affordability, the beauty of the Silver Spirit is that there’s probably a Rolls-Royce specialist somewhere near you and it’s young enough for parts to be easy to obtain. Big space, big comfort and a very big engine mean you’ll be the most cosseted commuter around if you use yours every day. But be quick prices of good, last-of-the-line cars are now on the increase. Becoming a Rolls-Royce owner has never been so affordable.