“To put it quite simply: Rolls Royce is the best car in the world. Their engineering philosophy which makes the Rolls Royce marque unique has been developed, refined and upheld for over 100 years. Central to this philosophy is superlative craftsmanship and the use of the finest materials available. Painstaking attention goes into every facet of its manufacture. Each component surpasses normal standards. The traditional skills of the coachbuilder blend well with the forward-looking engineering in the craft of building the best car in the world.”
1980 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith II
1978 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II
1978 Bentley T2
A special thanks goes out to my friends at Rolls Royce Motors, UK, and Rodd Sala, Park-Ward Motors Museum, Barrington, Illinois, for allowing me the privilege to showcase their archives with Rolls Royce aficionados around the world via NotoriousLuxury………In my continuing quest to present the finest automobiles in the world as I promised, I now present number two in my “Trilogy of Luxury” series with the 1978 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II, the 1978 Bentley T2, and the formidable 1980 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith II. These iconic automobiles made mostly by hand will continue to dominate the ultra-luxury segment because good taste never goes out of style. Rolls Royce designs and builds their automobiles to reflect this by making their previous offering to appear timeless, ageless, that just get better with time….like Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1956…….it only gets better with time……………………..
A masterpiece has a way of making time stand still. For some things have a way of escaping time and shining on as they weather the years. One of them is the 1980 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith II. Its classic silhouette is at home anywhere in the world no matter how or when the world may change.
Did you know that it took at least four months to make one? The painstaking shaping by hand, fitting and re-fitting, tuning, testing, painting, and refining was done with unerring skill of experienced artisans. The result…….was a motorcar that embodied technology while embracing the heights of ageless artistry.
From its hand sculpted grille to the hand-finished Lombardian walnut veneers, hand stitched Connolly hides, and the deepest Wilton hand-tufted wool carpets make the timeless pleasure of owning a Silver Wraith II something you can touch with your hands and feel with your soul. The loudest sound in a Rolls Royce…..will be the beating of your heart. Add to this…the fact that more than half of all the Rolls Royces built are still on the road in service many appreciating positively……still unmindful of the passage of time, just ask Rodd Sala.
And since I am presenting this in a tasteful manner, I am not going into engine specifications and sprints from 0-60. After all….how can you show off your Silver Wraith II at 205 mph? Such an elegant automobile deserves an equally elegant presentation. Rolls Royce never posted such statistics, they merely replied “adequate” and case was closed. The Rolls Royce is known as the “silent motorcar.” I will put it this way; the powerful 6.75 litre alloy engine provides performance that would not disgrace a sports car.
And, when you encounter your first drive of the Silver Wraith II you will immediately notice the “scent” of the Connolly leather…..after you turn the ignition key, the engine doesn’t “roar” to life….it “whispers.” Shift from park to drive and the electric gear selector will not offer resistance….it slips imperceptibly into place.
When you take it out on the road the steering wheel will not waiver per its power rack-and-pinion steering system. The unique dual-zone air conditioning system took eight years to design. It maintains both upper and lower temperatures automatically for your comfort allowing you to set the temperature independently. When you stop suddenly on slippery pavement, it halts each wheel independently.
It maintains its poise through a hydraulic leveling system. Rolls Royce left no room for compromise, it was built to endure age timelessly……..to become a priceless asset to own long after ordinary makes have bitten the dust. Its odometer doesn’t read up to a million miles for nothing! The 1965 Silver Shadow took 10 years to design and develop.
Forty years separated the Silver Wraith II from the original Rolls Royce Wraith and little remains unchanged. The traditional Flying Goddess adorning the classic Rolls Royce radiator shell is one of them. The Paint has a gleam that comes from twelve to fourteen coats, according to the color applied. Lest we forget….the time honored materials of the coachbuilder worked patiently, slowly, largely by hand creating an elegant and completely bespoke motorcar.
It was the longer of the four door saloons which made the rear compartment more spacious. This makes the 1980 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith II a masterpiece of hand craftsmanship making it a pleasure to own and a long term asset. Owning a Rolls Royce precludes the restless quest for something better to replace it with……..
The 1978 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II is distinguished from the original Silver Shadow by more than 2,000 improvements. “The quality will remain long after the price is forgotten.” Past and present go hand and hand with the Silver Shadow II. It was, at the time, a contemporary reinstatement of the principles set forth back in 1904 when the first Rolls Royce rumbled out of a back street factory in Manchester, England. This large and luxurious saloon has the legs of a sports car. The odometer, which was the last source of possible noise, was replaced by electronics. It is a world of silence and serenity. Everything is convenient to the hand and beautiful to the eye.
The extremely precise power assisted rack-and-pinion steering provides the positive feel that an experienced driver demands. Responsiveness was improved by modifications to the independent suspension by keeping the front wheels more upright during cornering. It also prolongs tire life by reducing the roll-angle making less scrub and noise. The Silver Shadow II provides safety and stability. It holds the road with precision, and corners accurately and effortlessly. The operative word is effortlessly, the “Best car in the world” does everything with style and grace with a little panache. It is powered by the aluminium 6.75 litre V8 engine, overhead valves and hydraulic tappets with a twin stainless steel exhaust system.
The “Spirit of Ecstasy” mascot which graces every Rolls Royce was designed by Charles Sykes. R.A. in 1911 to express the sensation of “soaring.” She is carefully cast in stainless steel by the ancient “lost wax process.” So precise in fact, the process is still used today to cast turbine blades for jet engines.
Another interesting fact is that Rolls Royce quality control engineers will pull an engine out of production to run it on a test bench for the equivalence of 500 miles. It is then stripped down and actual dimensions of each component are checked against the original blueprints with the aid of a computer. Now mind you, this is 1978, and Rolls Royce was utilizing computers for product R&D. This is just one of the checks in the process of manufacture. Nothing is left to chance.
Rolls Royce has always been a bespoke automobile. Each Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II is built for its owner. A specification book follows the car through manufacture, and ensures the owner’s detailed requirements are met; the artist then signs the history book. The Silver Shadow II used eight hides to upholster the cabin. Another bit of RR trivia, the self-adjusting hydraulic tappets were assembled in a paraffin bath because a single speck of dust could cause eventual wear and noise.
And noise is sought out and eliminated, even noises that are so slight to be imperceptible to the human ear. The cabin is silent as a whisper. This is why you pay more for a Rolls Royce because it costs more to do things as well as they can be done….period. The Silver Shadow II is still as silent and responsive as it was when it left Crewe, ask Rodd Sala.
In Detroit each fall when the automobile manufactures “reinvent the wheel,” or “vastly-improve” something….. or close to it…..Rolls Royce with tradition in mind will only introduce a new model only after it has been conceived, created, tested, and perfected a new model that merits the Rolls Royce logo. The Shadow has maintained a stately demeanor as it evolved into the Silver Shadow II. Evolution is the vehicle for refinement.
The 1978 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II is absolutely sure of itself. A Rolls Royce becomes more classical with time, not out-dated or old fashioned. Fashions change….but not at Rolls Royce. Every Rolls Royce included a Lucas Opus electronic ignition system. Remove the Silver Shadow II’s ignition key and the transmission automatically shifts to park. An electronic current locks the transmission making it virtually impossible to start without an ignition key.
In making a Silver Shadow II, there is no rush. For instance, it takes a man 10 days to create that famous Parthenon-inspired radiator grille and very few can make one. It looks like silver, it is highly polished stainless steel and that silvery look comes from five hours of polishing. The shell appears to be bent from a single piece of material. It is built up of eleven single pieces. It is traditionally hand soldiered by irons heated over an open flame. The shell appears perfectly rectilinear, and to achieve this look each line and surface has to be slightly curved. The ancient Greeks used this process known as entasis. It takes a team of twelve acolytes to make that famous radiator shell and they have done this for over 25 years, no one could walk into the shop and do what they do no matter how skilled they are.
It takes nearly two weeks to paint a Silver Shadow II. There are mandatory inspection checks, double checks, even triple checking to ensure quality. Every crankshaft was checked for balance and made over-sized so that a piece of it could be removed for metallurgical testing. Engine valves undergo at least two fluoroscopic examinations during the build to detect minute cracks. All connecting rods were also crack tested and packed in protective plastic jackets awaiting final assembly.
Only Circassian walnut from trees at least 100 years old is selected by a two man team to Italy to buy the tree for the year’s production run. The veneer is mirror matched, lacquered, and hand buffed to a glassy shine almost as hard. That fine leather is from Connolly Brothers hand stitched of course, and requires the upward inspection of 500 for every one chosen with the rejects ending up as expensive ladies hand bags. The Wilton wool carpets are hand tufted. In fact, the entire car is made mostly by hand…..excellence cannot and will not be rushed is the Rolls Royce theory. The Silver Shadow II is still an attractive investment. If properly maintained, a Rolls Royce will last a man’s lifetime.
See for yourself how the legend has held up. Owning a Silver Shadow II is one of life’s greatest satisfactions. It will be a symbol of your good taste and a valuable investment. No two Rolls Royce’s will ever be alike, so you will always be totally unique arriving at your destination with envy. The Silver Shadow had the highest production volume of any Rolls Royce series; it was made from 1965 until 1980 in various forms. Don’t take my word for it….ask Rodd Sala at the Park-Ward Motors Museum. Tell him “99MilesPerHour sent you!
And last but not least is the 1978 Bentley T2. A Bentley was always the “super-charged” Rolls Royce for the owner/driver that wanted to maintain a lower profile without compromising luxury. Actually, Bentley and Rolls Royce shared most of the same parts except the bonnet and radiator grille. The Bentley T2 was a dashing sporting machine with the flying “B” mascot. It took the eagle eye to tell the difference from a Rolls Royce and a Bentley. The Bentley T2 was tuned as the Touring Thoroughbred is truly was.
Retro back to the days when the Bentley Boys enjoyed major wins at LeMans. Or better still, to spotlight one of the more famous Bentley Boys: “I’ll be at my London Club before the Blue Train reaches Calais…..” were the famous words spoken before Woolf Barnato, Chairman of Bentley set out in his H.J. Mulliner bodied Bentley Speed Six. He wagered 100 pounds sterling March 12, 1930 at the Carlton Hotel in Cannes France as he scoffed at a Rover claim being faster than “Le Train Bleu” Express……he said it was “no big deal.” March 13.1930, Barnato and friend Dale Bourne as relief driver started the trek. They battled heavy rain, lost time in Auxerre searching for a pre-arranged refueling stop, and got hit with heavy fog in Central France. They blew a tire after reaching Paris requiring the use of their only spare tire. The unaffected Bentley raced non-stop over uneven pavement all night on the “Routes Nationales.” They reached the coast and sailed across the Channel on a packet steamer. The Bentley was parked outside “The Conservative Club” on prestigious St. James Street in London……four minutes before The Blue Train arrived in Calais. The famous Bentley Blower came from this era as well. Bentley has always been about performance. The 1978 T2 is no exception.
The Bentley T2 is a five-seat four door saloon of integral steel construction. It shared the identical energy-absorbing front and rear bumpers with polyurethane inserts. Individually adjustable power front seats were standard as the Connolly Brothers leather upholstery with Wilton carpets and lambs wool rugs.
Walnut veneer graced the fascia and garnish rails mirror matched and hand-buffed to a high gloss. Vanity mirrors in the rear quarters and head rests to the rear seats made the interior identical to the Rolls Royce saloons. Standard was the dual zone air conditioning system with separate temperature controls. In fact, riding inside a Bentley T2, one couldn’t tell the difference from it and the Silver Shadow II.
The engine is the aluminium 6.75 litre V8 with twin exhaust system and stainless steel silencers. The engine was fitted with two SU HIF 7 carburetors with automatic enrichment mixture. The transmission was a three-speed automatic with torque converter, and electric gear range selector. It utilized a single piece propeller shaft with hypoid bevel final drive. The Bentley T2 rides on an independent front and rear suspension. The front has a lower wishbone, stabilized upper lever, coil springs and telescopic dampers. The rear is fitted with independent trailing arms, coil springs and telescopic dampers with anti-roll bar and a hydraulic leveling system. It utilized power assisted rack-and-pinion steering. Doesn’t that sound like Rolls Royce verbatim?
The Silver Shadow II, Bentley T2, and the Silver Wraith II were designed and constructed to the finest engineering principles, and only the finest materials were used. Only the best standards of finish and craftsmanship were good enough. The result is a steady process of evolution. Sadly, the Rolls Royce and Bentley parted ways in 2003. The new Rolls Royce Motors, a subsidiary of BMW now are the masters of the craft. Volkswagen now creates Bentley, which seems so odd…..I grew up loving them as a team….now they are fierce competitors. But still, one thing they cannot take away from us is our memories of the good old days when Rolls Royce and Bentley rocked the world of the ultra-luxury market segment together. But I still am truly in love with them both. Keep up the good work Rolls Royce and Bentley because the world still loves you both!