The Last Dance: Rolls Royce and Bentley

These are the last vehicles produced by Vickers

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1998 was the finale for these stablemates

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Rolls Royce Silver Seraph

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Bentley Arnage fix

The Finale for Rolls Royce Motors under Vickers ownership was the Rolls Royce Silver Seraph and the Bentley Arnage. This was the last dance…the last time a bodyshell would be shared by the two. The 1998 Silver Seraph and Bentley Arnage were basically one in the same. The classic radiator grille and mascot along with the engines were the only modifications. These were the last saloons built as Rolls Royce Motors. The Volkswagen Group offered the winning bid at £430m trumping BMW’s £340m.

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The VW Group acquired the historic Crewe facility, and the rights to Rolls Royce Motors that included Bentley. Here is where it got dicey…the “Rolls Royce” brand name and logo belonged to the aero-engine maker Rolls Royce plc. They licensed the brand name and logo to BMW for £40m. They were already in a joint venture with BMW.

Just in fun…the fight begun…before long a web of hate was spun. BMW pretended…same with VW, but fierce competitors they’d always be…VW had Crewe, Bentley, and the ‘rights’ to the Spirit of Ecstasy and radiator grille – but lacked the authority to build the car using the “Rolls Royce” name…BMW now owned the “Rolls Royce” brand name and logo with ‘rights’ to the Bentley Flying “B” and radiator grille – but lacked the authority to build the car using the “Bentley” name…

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T’was a vicious battle…as mentioned BMW supplied Rolls Royce with the 5.4 litre V12 and Bentley with the 4.4 litre V8. BMW had the option to withdraw their engines with as little as 12 months’ notice. In the midst of the brawl between the recalcitrant ultra-luxury automakers a truce was called. Since they each had something the other needed…and after numerous outbursts and temper tantrums in the time-out room, they came to an agreement. BMW would get Rolls Royce, all trademarks, logos, etc. VW kept Bentley, all trademarks, logos, etc. VW got the better deal because Bentley sells two cars for every one Rolls Royce sells.

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From 1998 until 2002 BMW would supply engines for the cars allowing The VW Group to use the name “Rolls Royce” and the former Rolls Royce/Bentley division would produce cars called “Bentley” only. Bentley was now authorized fully by The VW Group. On Jan 1, 2003 at midnight BMW delivered the very first Phantom named the “Celestial Phantom” which has a fibre optic display of the constellation sewn into the headlining depicting it exactly as it was the night that beautiful car was delivered to the very first owner under the new Rolls Royce Motor Cars.

VW

Probably the most mind-boggling aspect of the entire sale is the fact that Volkswagen made Rolls Royces from 1998 until 2002…a Rolls Royce being produced by a non-British parent company? It was the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s until discipline came in the form of the “line of demarcation.”

And as modest as a Bimmer used to be…now producing the Rolls Royce?

BMW

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Both Rolls Royce Silver Seraph and Bentley Arnage are sumptuous luxury saloons. The Silver Seraph was the more expensive of the two at $220,695. The Bentley Arnage Green Label is equipped with a Cosworth twin-turbo. The Silver Seraph was built from 1998 until 2002 while the Bentley Arnage had a production run from 1998 until 2009. The Silver Seraph is the rarer of the two with only 1,570 built.

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Cabins for the Silver Seraph and Bentley Arnage were similar but unique. The Seraph remained true to its style with a column mounted gear shift selector and NO tachometer while the Arnage uses a console mounted shifter and a gran turismo theme to its cabin. The Arnage is as luxurious as it is sporting. Only the finest hides hand-stitched by Connolly Brothers graced Rolls Royce and Bentley as always. The same high quality hand-polished mirror-matched veneers, and 100% wool hand-tufted carpets with lambswool rugs adds a decadent touch to both. The Silver Seraph was the more formal saloon.

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Both Silver Seraph and Bentley Arnage have stiffer bodyshells to manage the thrust from the all-new powerplants. They are both built as monocoque construction with an all-steel bodyshell. The unique integral design is quiet and vibration-free. With separate front and rear subframes and the engine mounting all being separate components, road noise and road impact are contained and cancelled before reaching the cabin.

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They both share virtually the same dimensions, at an impressive 212.2” in length, with a 122.7” wheelbase and 76” width. Their independent suspensions are highlighted by four-wheel disc brakes with large diameter ventilated micro-alloy discs with single fist calipers, and Adaptive Ride Control. The hydraulic power braking system has a dual master cylinder with dedicated hydraulic lines and hardware. This facilitates independent front and rear braking systems. Should one system fail, each wheel will still be halted individually.

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The Silver Seraph and the Bentley Arnage have four-wheel independent self-leveling suspensions. They have independent double wishbones front and rear. Computer controlled adaptive damping system with 1/100th of a second response time keeps the vehicle at optimum ride height regardless of load. The self-leveling system had a load compensator and headlamp leveling. Both cars have a perfect 50/50 weight distribution aiding their overall operation.

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The Rolls Royce Silver Seraph has the first 12-cylinder engine since the 1939 Phantom III. It is powered by the 5.4 litre alloy 24-valve V12 engine mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission. Modern electronics including a digital engine management control system, computer-controlled ZF 5-speed gearbox, adaptive ride control and anti-lock brakes increase the Silver Seraph’s efficiency.

The V12 produces 326 hp @ 5,000 rpm with 489 Nm of peak torque @ 3,900 rpm. Performance is rated as 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds with a top speed of 140 mph. The electronically controlled automatic transmission is swift and positive. The electric gear range selector is silent and precise.

The power assisted rack & pinion steering has a light touch. The Silver Seraph’s behavior is always predictable. Advanced and infinitely patient engineering are the major strengths for the new breed of Rolls Royce. The Silver Seraph went basically unchanged from 1998 until it ceased production in 2002.

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The Bentley Arnage is a dashing saloon with grace and excellent road manners. It outperforms the Silver Seraph, but then Bentleys are NOTORIOUS for high revs at low rpm, that is one of its hallmarks. Bentley went through quite an ordeal engine-wise during the sale. For its introduction in 1998, it was named Arnage “Green Label.” It was powered by the BMW 4.4 litre 268 CID 32-valve DOHC V8 engine with Cosworth Twin-turbo and intercooler.

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The engine is mated to the electronic ZF 5HP30 5-speed automatic transmission. It is equipped with a Bosch Motronic M 5.2 electronic engine management system. The engine produces 349 hp @ 5,500 rpm with 570 Nm of peak torque @ 2,500 rpm. Performance is rated as 0-60 mph in 6.6 seconds, 0-100 mph in 17.2 seconds with a top speed of 155 mph. It did the ¼ mile @ 93 mph in 14.9 seconds. This is the engine BMW held hostage during the sale. The Arnage Green Label was built from 1998 until 2000.

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The Rolls Royce Silver Seraph and the Bentley Arnage transitioned through a turbulent corporate battle between the VW Group and BMW. The outcome has been very successful for both. It is just so hard to conceive…Rolls Royce and Bentley as fierce competitors when they used to be one in the same. The Silver Seraph is the rarest with only 1,570 built. The Bentley brand had to scramble to refine an engine for the Arnage but, as you may see…they landed gracefully on their feet with the formidable Bentley Mulsanne. But then, the epitome of luxury is a Rolls Royce Phantom EWB…so I like them both ok?

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Rolls Royce Silver Seraph

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Bentley Arnage

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Requiem for a legend:  Rolls Royce Motors 

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2 Responses to “The Last Dance: Rolls Royce and Bentley”

  1. Hi there, yes this piece of writing is actually nice and I
    have learned lot of things from it on the topic of blogging.

    thanks.

  2. Very informative, nice pictures. Thank you

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