Rolls Royce: The Crewe Collection
Long live the Crewe built Rolls Royce.
Eloquence, splendor, and motoring majesty are eminently embodied in classic luxury motorcars. Good taste never renders itself redundant. The uniquely regal stature of “The Spirit of Ecstasy” maintains the poised dignity which is the hallmark of every Rolls Royce motorcar. The historic facility at Crewe located in the UK produced hand-crafted automobiles of distinction. Each is a cherished masterpiece.
The perspicacious connoisseur of fine automobiles prefer this distinguished breed not only for its meticulous craftsmanship and the beauty of its bearing but also for its lucrative investment potential. A Rolls Royce is a motorcar that will not be seen at every traffic light…they are built by hand at a highly restricted pace to retain their exclusivity as well as their quality control. There is nothing to compare to the exemplary fit & finish of the hand-crafted Rolls Royce models from Crewe. Welcome to the classic world of Rolls Royce – the pride of Crewe…the envy of the entire world.
The Crewe facility in the UK was home to Rolls Royce and Bentley motorcars right after WWII. The historic plant is built on part of Merrill’s Farm. This was a railway town with a good transport infrastructure. Construction began in July 1938. Car production ceased for the duration of WWII. The factory built ferocious Merlin aero engines for fighter planes. Automobile manufacturing was relocated from Derby after the war. The first post-war models built at Crewe are the Bentley MK VI in 1946 and in 1949 the Rolls Royce Silver Dawn. It is the first Rolls Royce to have coachcrafting done in-house.
For more than 50 years, Rolls Royce motorcars were built with loving care at Crewe using principles and tradition set forth by Sir Charles Stewart Rolls and Sir Henry Royce…”Excellence is the norm, integrity the guiding principle” was the company philosophy. The last of this illustrious breed rolled off the assembly line as Rolls Royce motorcars on August 29, 2002.
At this time ownership of the marque shifted to Bayerische Motoren Werke AG. Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft purchased the Bentley brand and continued production at the Crewe factory. The new Rolls Royce is very nice…but there is a distinct difference in the manufacturing standards…they’re just not quite the same. Those of you who know the marque well know exactly what I mean –
The hand-crafted Rolls Royce models from days gone by drove off the assembly lines at the Crewe facility for men and women of exceptional taste. These fabulous automobiles are built as perfect in every detail as craftsmen could achieve. “The quality will remain long after the price has been forgotten” was the famous marketing slogan.
A Rolls Royce never becomes a used car…it becomes a classic. The most memorable Rolls Royce models built at Crewe include the iconic Silver Cloud, the eloquent Silver Shadow, the incomparable Silver Spirit, and the finale to the Rolls Royce/Crewe legacy – the opulent Silver Seraph. This is the end of an illustrious era for the Rolls Royce motorcar.
Each Rolls Royce is a one-of-a-kind creation; no two will ever be alike because of their build. Hand-crafting and the finest natural materials available yield a motorcar that is the superlative of superlatives. Take the exquisite hand-tailored leather by Connolly Brothers for example. Perfectly matched natural-grain leather is hand selected and only 1 out of 500 hides is good enough to become the artisan’s craft.
The process involves hand cutting, and hand stitching to absolute perfection…as perfect as the hand and eye can create. The rejects are crafted into high-end leather goods such as ladies hand bags, gloves, and belts. It takes up to ten hides which is over 260 square feet of leather to furnish the cabin. The very best portions are cut for the seating areas; the balance is used for door panels and other non-wearing surfaces. The off-cuts are used to edge the carpets.
Connolly Brothers finest went into each Rolls Royce
Fine wood veneers are hand-crafted by traditional cabinet makers using skills acquired handed down through generations of dedicated artisans. The car’s complete set comes from the same tree that is hundreds of years old. Multiple slivers of veneer are bundled and hand-cut; the craftsman then creates a pattern which no two cars will share. The veneers are perfectly mirror-matched to reflect the opposite side, such as that of fine furniture.
The veneers are glued together, lacquered, and then hand-polished to a glassy mirror-like finish. This process results in a finish that is so durable, a Cohiba Behike could be stubbed out on it without leaving a trace of damage. If the veneer is damaged in an accident it can be replaced, the pattern is recorded in the car’s history book – this documentary follows the vehicle through all stages of its build.
Notice how each veneer is unique
This is the elegant cross banded veneer
This is the burled veneer from the Silver Seraph
When one steps into a Rolls Royce…they enter an exclusive world of luxury. Deep Wilton 100% wool carpets reinforced with 20% nylon is woven to the highest standards. They are hand-tufted, hand-cut and edged with loving care.
These luxurious carpets are garnished with lambswool rugs for decadent elegance. Distinctive leather grain patterns, burled veneers with unique character along with features and accessories chosen by the owner make each Rolls Royce motorcar a highly individual work of art –
Even the foot rests are covered with plush Wilton Carpet
The Crewe built Rolls Royce is legendary
The deep, glass-like paint finish is due in no small part to meticulous loving care provided by skilled craftsmen. It’s completely finished by hand. The surface is thoroughly cleaned for up to four days. After the base coat of primer is applied an inspector “feels” every square inch of the body shell using a grease pen to mark imperfections that need attention.
Next, depending upon the color, between 14 and 20 coats of primers, fillers, and paint are hand applied. Each coat is hand-sanded and hand-polished. The bodyshell is oven-baked for added durability. After the extensive hand-finishing, numerous hours are clocked hand-polishing the flawless paint work to perfection. This is the reason why a Rolls Royce shines with such depth – like no other car in its class. The Crewe built Rolls Royce is a magnificent work of art.
The long wheelbase saloon with power glass division
The formidable Corniche coachbuilt drophead coupé
1966 MPW aluminium bodied fixedhead coupé
The classic Rolls Royce is synonymous with bespoke. Each motorcar is built to the customer’s exact requirements. When the best wasn’t good enough…there were alternatives available. The hand-built Rolls Royces from Crewe were customized by distinguished coachbuilders.
H.J. Mulliner, Park Ward, James Young, Hooper & Company, and Vanden Plas were prominent masters of the art that created some of the world’s finest masterworks. These one-of-a-kind custom crafted automobiles have become highly sought collectibles by connoisseurs world-wide.
The Silver Cloud III drophead coupé
H.J. Mulliner and Park Ward Studios located in the UK were the most popular coachbuilders and also purveyors of the craft. They combined to become Mulliner Park Ward eventually becoming an in-house design firm for Rolls Royce and Bentley at the Crewe facility. The most famous models crafted by the highly distinguished firm are the Corniche and the epochal Phantom limousines.
A Rolls Royce was built as a four-door saloon primarily. Mulliner Park Ward converted them into two-door fixedhead coupé and two-door drophead coupé models. The Silver Clouds were majestically transformed into two-door configurations that command six figures in today’s market. The Silver Shadow is also built as a two-door fixedhead and two-door drophead configurations as early as 1966.
Rolls Royce coachbuilt drophead coupé
Beginning the 1971 model year, the opulent Corniche series replaced the Silver Shadow two-door configurations in both two-door fixedhead and two-door drophead coupés. To give you an idea of the painstaking attention to detail; it took up to six months to build just one Corniche coachbuilt drophead coupé …the power, fully automatic folding fabric covered hood alone required numerous hours clocked for its construction.
The Corniche was built with loving care by hand and eye what no machines could replicate. Any Mulliner Park Ward coachbuilt coupé remains highly collectible with connoisseurs world-wide. A Corniche is associated with the good life wherever it appears and will always remain one of the most readily identifiable Rolls Royce models in the history of the brand. The Corniche was also built as a Bentley in two-door fixedhead and two-door drophead configurations. The Rolls Royce Corniche was built from 1971 until 1995. The Corniche gets its name from three winding cliff-side roads in the south of France.
Rolls Royce coachbuilt fixedhead coupé
1959 Phantom V Park Ward
Mulliner Park Ward created the most revered of all coachbuilt limousines, the Rolls Royce Phantoms. They were built specifically as limousines and not merely a stretched version of an existing model; it was built in six series. They are the absolute epitome of luxury. The Phantoms are highly bespoke limousines of distinction; and were built to exacting specifications.
The Phantoms are for the connoisseurs who demand the ultimate in chauffeur-driven elegance. Passenger and driver compartments are separated by an electrically operated power glass division for privacy. Individual air conditioning and intercom systems along with myriad features and accessories make them strikingly individual motorcars. Rolls Royce Phantoms are without conjecture a tribute to craftsmanship and engineering perfection.
1964 Phantom V Mulliner Park Ward
1992 Phantom VI Mulliner Park Ward
1986 Silver Spur limousine
1955-1962 Silver Cloud I & II
The iconic Rolls Royce Silver Cloud is the single most readily identifiable model from the Spirit of Excellence. From its hand-sculpted radiator grille to the matched walnut veneers; the Silver Cloud left no room for compromise. They are built in three distinctive series: The six-cylinder Silver Cloud I built from 1955 until 1958; the Silver Cloud II built from 1959 until 1962; and the Silver Cloud III built from 1963 until 1966.
Both Silver Cloud II and Silver Cloud III are V8 powered. The Silver Cloud series evolved from a line of distinguished predecessors; they inherit the traditional craftsmanship and painstaking attention to detail in the Rolls Royce tradition. The magnificent Silver Clouds remain the epitome of opulence and are the collector’s dream…
1963-1966 Silver Cloud III
1972 Silver Shadow
From the Clouds…emerged the Shadows. The elegant Silver Shadow is another of the longest and most successful production runs at the historic Crewe factory. It has the largest production volume of any Rolls Royce. No Rolls Royce motorcar appears out of a blinding flash of inspiration capriciously. The Silver Shadow took ten years of research and a million miles of testing before its introduction.
It is the first Rolls Royce to be built as monocoque construction. This is the beginning of the contemporary Rolls Royce which drew a younger generation of buyers. The Silver Shadow was built in various forms as Silver Shadow I from 1965 until 1976 and Silver Shadow II from 1977 until 1980. The Silver Shadow was available as a long wheelbase model from 1969 through 1976 and was renamed Silver Wraith II from 1977 until 1980. The Silver Shadow offers power, prestige, and presence as the ultimate British status symbol for its day.
1977 Silver Wraith II
This is my signature car for NotoriousLuxury
1987 Silver Spur
Out of the Shadows…commenced the Spirit. The Silver Spirit and its long wheelbase variant the Silver Spur are the first Rolls Royce models to feature aerodynamic styling. Sleek, low, and contemporary…the Silver Spirit and Silver Spur has a look and character like no other Rolls Royce that preceded them. They are designed for today’s world. This distinctive design took eight years of intense development; they are completely new from the ground up. Their refined silhouette is elegantly understated; it whispers eloquence and an uncommon prestige.
The classic new body style of the Silver Spirit and Silver Spur immediately established new standards in refinement, elegance, and sophistication. The classic radiator grille is lower and wider and is adorned by the iconic Spirit of Ecstasy flying Goddess; both are hallmarks of the brand. The larger glass expansion, lower waistline, and modular lighting gives them an entirely new look. It’s the contemporary Rolls Royce designed as a dramatic departure from the past.
The exciting new manifestation of the marque is an incomparable blend of advanced technology, comfort, and exemplary craftsmanship with a superb consummation of refinement. It took three months to build the Silver Spirit and Silver Spur. These supreme achievements in motoring represent a rare investment in technology, the finest materials and the formidable Rolls Royce hand-craftsmanship. This is why the brand remains the true Spirit of Excellence…
The finale in the Rolls Royce legacy at Crewe is precluded by the Silver Seraph saloon. This is the first contemporary V12 powered Rolls Royce. Times have changed…so should your luxury car. The 322 hp Silver Seraph set new standards of excellence. Its sleek aerodynamic lines allow it to move effortlessly with aplomb with a reduced drag coefficient.
The Silver Seraph is an electronic network of technology like no other Rolls Royce from the past. The intricate electronic microprocessors and electronic subsystems are designed to anticipate, obey, and assist…but never dictate. It is a driver’s car developed for today. Why waste all of this exhilarating performance on a chauffeur?
The all-new Silver Seraph didn’t share its engine, transmission, suspension, brakes, or body shell with any Rolls Royce that preceded it. The Silver Seraph was built from 1998 until 2002.This is clearly an exercise in form and function. It is more than just a beautiful car…it’s a Rolls Royce.
Every aspect of the Silver Seraph accomplished two major objectives: to ensure that everything the artisans performed was as perfect as the hand and eye could do, and most important…to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible. The Silver Seraph is truly another supreme achievement in motoring built in the grand Rolls Royce manner in the grand Rolls Royce tradition. It’s almost as if Crewe saved the very best Rolls Royce…for last –
Those who know the meaning of success can fully comprehend the true nobility of a Rolls Royce motorcar hand-crafted at the historic Crewe facility in the UK. Each is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. It took months to build as the tasks involved for leather crafters, tinsmiths, sheet metal workers, cabinet makers, and seamstresses to do by hand and eye what automation cannot replicate.
From the exquisite detail of the cabin to the meticulously hand-applied exterior paint finish…a Rolls Royce precludes the restless quest for something better to replace it – there will never be another Rolls Royce built at Crewe…but their legacy will live on forever as the classic cars built there increase in sentiment and in value.
Previous generations of Rolls Royce craftsmen and engineers at Crewe have created motorcars of exceptional quality, these fine automobiles have become part of motoring history. Per Crewe: “To cover ground swiftly, but never to feel hurried…to be distanced from the outside world, yet not isolated from it. To appreciate the fine details of craftsmanship and design, without being distracted by them…these are the qualities that you are entitled to expect of a Rolls Royce motorcar…” This is why a Rolls Royce doesn’t scream accomplishment…it merely whispers success.
Special thanks to Balmoral UK the finest Rolls Royce dealer in the UK, Rodd Sala with Park Ward Motors Museum the finest caretaker of the brand in the Midwest, and Daniel Schmitt Classic Cars the finest caretaker of the brand in the western United States…keep up the excellent work!
Park Ward Motors Museum
The Rolls Royce Crewe collection is NotoriousLuxury
Thank you for creating such a well done article. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to do a similar write up for each of the Rolls-Royce series featured herein.
Thank you for reading! I am planning several new articles featuring Rolls Royce models and eventually I will be dedicating an entire site to the Spirit of Ecstasy. Stay tuned!