“Nil fato relinquemus”
This was the next generation of Rolls Royce
The Silver Spirit & the Silver Spur
A new breed of Rolls Royce motorcars was introduced for the 1981 model year, it was called the Silver Spirit. An all-new model doesn’t spring from a blinding flash of inspiration. It comes from many years of research, refinement, and evolution.
The latest edition of the Spirit of Ecstasy was understated yet unmistakably Rolls Royce. The Silver Spur was the long wheelbase variant. They were built from 1981 through 1997. The introduction of the Silver Spirit and Silver Spur ushered in a new era in the history of the best car in the world.
The early Rolls Royce Wraith was the inspiration for the subtle curves that grace the architecture of the Silver Spirit. This design is reminiscent of the days when they ceased constructing separate front and rear wings for cars and developed integral side panels.
Rolls Royce engineers incorporated curvilinear features that were basically ghostly outlines of the original wings. Outlines like these appeared on the other Rolls Royce models throughout the years and was repeated for the Silver Spirit. They are styling hallmarks that reveal each successive car’s ancestry.
Next was the challenge to refine the height and increase the apparent width of the Silver Spirit compared to that of the Silver Shadow. Part of the objective was to endow the Silver Spirit with a contemporary appearance. The waist line of the body was lowered.
The waist line trim was eliminated creating certain horizontal features to accentuate width and length. The head and tail lamps are examples of this principle. The green house was overstated to contribute to the lower-wider look. This also improved all-around visibility. The substantial “D” pillars allowed rear seat passenger to recline out of sight.
The Silver Spirit was an exercise in aerodynamics. The nose sloped and the windows were curved. In elevation, the front wings slope down and the rake of the windscreen was increased.
The rear of the car was kept high as a virtual wedge design to aid aerodynamic efficiency. These features and an air dam under the front bumper increased stability at high speeds by keeping the nose down and moving the center of pressure rearward, drag and the effect of the side winds were lessened as a result.
The 1987 Silver Spirit
The Silver Spirit was a modern motorcar in every respect, distinguished by many new features that provided its owner and passengers with enhanced comfort and safety, yet it was immediately recognizable as a classic design in the Rolls Royce tradition. For eight years stylists and engineers worked feverishly to create a new Rolls Royce that combined form and function with the attributes that made the marque unique.
The new Silver Spirit had everything that made a Rolls Royce a Rolls Royce. Hand polished walnut veneers, supple natural grained leather by Connolly Brothers, and Wilton hand-tufted wool carpets were hallmarks of Rolls Royce…some things will never change.
A Rolls Royce…is a Rolls Royce and must always be positioned as such. Styling and design are not as easy as they appear. These artisans contend with more problems than their opposite numbers in other automobile design studios. A proposition easy enough to accept but difficult to expedite when the demands of the market and technical innovation make the creation of a new model desirable or timely. A new legend took shape…
Then there are the signature styling characteristics that identify a Rolls Royce in the classic tradition: radiator grille and Spirit of Ecstasy mascot, RR badging, independent window surrounds, the iconic “nose-up” demeanor and curvaceous body sides help to create this effect.
The Silver Spirit was designed in such a way to satisfy the demands of form and function. Case in point: American regulations are stringent. The bumper system required the position, shape, and strength of the bumpers for cars sold internationally.
Rolls Royce adopted a logical solution. In order not to alter its appearance, the Silver Spirit was designed around the bumpers incorporating them into all cars because bumpers acceptable to the US were accepted everywhere else as well. The entire body was designed with the bumpers in mind.
Another area that simplified production were the rear tail lamp clusters. There are different laws in different countries regarding their disposition, shape, size, and brightness of rear lamps and reflectors. To remedy this issue a universal housing for all the rear lamps and reflectors were installed on all Silver Spirits and a simple procedure of inserting fittings that complied with any set of regulations.
One of the Sliver Spirit’s new features was its rear suspension. The front suspension had been refined in 1972 with the Silver Shadow’s compliant version. This resulted in a significant improvement in handling and suppression of vibration. It also allowed the use of radial tires.
Engineers realized the rear suspension needed refinement. There were objectives: better handling, improved ride, and less road noise. The new rear suspension was installed on Camargue and Corniche models but it was agreed upon not to introduce it on four-door saloons until the introduction of the Silver Spirit.
The new rear suspension design retained the semi-trailing arms of the original assemblies. In order to improve the handling of the car the arm pivots were more inclined. This caused a pronounced change in camber as the wheels rode over uneven surfaces the ‘swing axle effect’ of the suspension is greater. Roll center height of the wheels was raised, therefore, stay more upright when the car rolled…thus, the car rolls less. This gave the tires more cornering power improving the car’s handling and reducing tire wear.
Significant improvements were made to the subcontractor Pressed Steel Fisher at Crowley. They were in charge of producing the Silver Spirit’s bodyshells. Body panels for the Silver shadow II were clipped by hand to clean the edges and flanges. The Silver Spirit’s panels were die-trimmed. This was a mechanized process that reduced distortion during finishing procedures resulting in a more accurate panel. Bodyshells were assembled at an even higher level of quality.
Even the manner in which the bodyshells were moved was all-new. Instead of using a crane to lift them at work stations, they traveled on a sophisticated rail track and were not lifted until they were complete. The bodyshells were subjected to less trauma, therefore the risk of distortion was reduced.
Tolerances were checked when the bodyshells were delivered to Crewe. A Portage three-dimensional coordinate measuring machine was used to randomly select sample bodies checked at pre-selected points and were shown in metric units on a digital display. The findings were compared to original specifications and the extent of any part of the body that exceeded optimum manufacturing tolerances.
The inspectors would in turn notify the affected area’s production supervisors to make the necessary adjustments to their jigs and fittings. This system allowed body tolerances to be mounted accurately and ensured errors were caught and fixed before they caused problems during the assembly of the car.
The 1987 Silver Spur
Complete new production facilities and assembly procedures were introduced to enable the Silver Spirit to be built more efficiently than any previous Rolls Royce. More planning and preparation were devoted to the Silver Spirit than any other. The philosophy behind their efforts was to achieve greater efficiency, better jigs, and tools for every production area.
Rolls Royce invested a large sum of money into the introduction of the Silver Spirit. Their goal was to remain profitable while they refined the production departments. They actually ran a parallel assembly line for the Silver Spirit concurrently with the last of the Silver Shadow II models for end of their production.
The Silver Spirit and Silver Spur were powered by the traditional 6.75 litre 412 CID 16-valve OHV V8 engine. Its block and cylinder heads were made of aluminium alloy. The engine was more responsive and efficient. It was mated to GM’s Turbo Hydra-Matic 3-speed automatic transmission. This impressive duet operated virtually silent, without vibration, with gear shifts that were imperceptible.
The Silver Spirit and Silver Spur saloons were built as monocoque construction where the bodyshell and chassis are fused into a single entity. Its integral chassis had separate front and rear subframes.
Four-wheel disc brakes and the patent Rolls Royce dual braking system assured 100% braking at each wheel even if one system failed. Ventilated discs were fitted to the front axle and solid discs to the rear axle. Power rack & pinion steering made these large saloons drive as if they were much smaller cars.
The Silver Spirit rode upon a long 120.5” wheelbase, had the luxury length of 207.4” and was 74.3” wide. The Silver Spur with its exclusive 124.5” wheelbase added extra leg room for rear seat passengers. The Silver Spur had the luxury length of 211.4” with the same 74.3” width as the Silver Spirit. The Silver Spur was a more formal vehicle with its roof covered in Everflex.
Silver Spur had more rear legroom
Rolls Royce now offered mechanical insurance. It was called “Warranted” by the Car Care Plan. It was available through authorized Rolls Royce dealers that operated authorized service centers. The service contract covered vehicles up to seven years old with less than 70,000 miles.
It wasn’t available on vehicles less than three years old, they were still under their original factory warranties. There was no limit to the cost of individual claims, however, total claims could not exceed the value of the vehicle. The coverage also included up to three months traveler’s bond protection to cover the vehicle while on holiday, and 14 days car rental with a subsistence allowance per claim.
1987 Silver Spirit
A new legend was launched with the introduction of the Rolls Royce Silver Spirit and its long wheelbase variant called the Silver Spur. They were saloons of unsurpassed luxury and elegance. It was the all-new edition of the Spirit of Ecstasy. Powered by the legendary 6.75 litre V8 engine, Silver Spirit and Silver Spur moved with aplomb like no other ultra-luxury saloon.
Their silhouette was long, low, and wide unlike any of their predecessors. The Silver Spirit and Silver Spur retained all Rolls Royce hallmarks such as its radiator grille with the Flying Goddess, RR badging, and the formidable “nose-up” demeanor. The Rolls Royce Silver Spirit and Silver Spur were the next generation of the Rolls Royce saloon.
1987 Silver Spur
Thanks to Rodd Sala at Park Ward Motors Museum
The quality remains long after the price has been forgotten…