“This above all: To thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day. Thou canst not then be false to any man. Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!” Shakespeare –
…As intriguing and provocative as the winding cliffside roads it is named after; the hand-crafted Rolls-Royce Corniche became the ultimate symbol of prestige and remains as such. It relinquished mediocrity and mass-production as one of the last links to old-world quality. The Rolls-Royce models built at Crewe were individual masterpieces; the artisans made sure the client was more than satisfied with the automobiles they created with such pride…
The loving care was evident upon delivery of the world’s best motorcar. The relentless quest for excellence was hallmark with Mulliner Park Ward. It took this eminent coachbuilder six months to orchestrate the hand-built Corniche two-door drophead coupé. Nothing bitch-slaps the competition more brutally than with the formidable Corniche coachbuilt drophead coupé. (Just ask Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus)
1985 Corniche coachbuilt drophead coupé
This is the car that may be seen on the Bas Corniche, home to opulent yachts and luxury hotels on The French Riviera. From St-Tropez to the Belle Époque aura of Cannes…the Côte d’Azur’s gentle microclimate is perfect to drop the top and enjoy the scenic views from behind the wheel of this masterful motorcar. And if the adrenalin-inducing drop top coupé isn’t sufficient enough to excite one to frenzy…the two-door fixedhead saloon is available for those who prefer a closed version of sheer ecstasy.
The art of coachbuilding has virtually vanished from the world of luxury motoring. Mulliner Park Ward is the purveyor of the craft. They built some of the most beautifully exquisite examples of automotive masterworks; all of which have become cherished collectibles. These highly bespoke automobiles target a discerning clientele who only seek the very best in life.
Rolls-Royce and Mulliner Park Ward collaborated to design the world’s finest two-door automobiles for this exclusive market segment. The Corniche coachbuilt coupés remain pre-eminent in the ultra-luxury motorcar arena where only the strongest survive. It doesn’t scream accomplishment…it merely whispers achievement –
Bespoke is synonymous with Corniche. Out of the six months to create this distinctive motorcar; it takes six weeks for the exterior paint work. An entire week is spent crafting the elegant wood veneers. There were exotic wood types available to choose from such as Persian burr, Paldao, Rosewood, Coromandel, Bird’s Eye Maple, and French Walnut. Special cross-banded veneers are an exclusive signature feature of the Corniche.
It took a little over a week to build the power hood for the drophead coupé. The hood trimmers at Mulliner Park Ward patiently tailored, padded, and stitched the top so the bows were invisible inside and out. The outer covering is weatherproof Everflex; the hood lining is pure wool West of England broadcloth. With the roof raised, it appears to be a hardtop. The covering is tight without a rib in sight. The artisans at Mulliner Park Ward built the Corniche with loving care per the client’s requisites.
Note how tight the roof fits making it appear to be a hardtop
The dramatic architecture is timeless – it’s a true neoclassic by virtue – so befitting an evocative interpretation of Rolls-Royce splendor. A Rolls-Royce is primarily built as a four-door saloon; Mulliner Park Ward crafted two-door coupé models for the brand exclusively. This is the reason why it changed so discretely from its inception with only minor revisions…why tamper with success? The bumpers are the only noticeable exterior change.
The Corniche is crafted in its entirety by hand; this is why it holds its value so well. The earlier versions have begun to appreciate favorably. From the classic radiator grille crowned with the euphoric Spirit of Ecstasy to the hand-sculpted lines of its architecture; the Rolls-Royce Corniche is a rich and rare experience from the heritage set forth by Sir Charles Stewart Rolls and Sir Frederick Henry Royce. Step this way for another adventure in paradise –
1986 Corniche II coachbuilt drophead coupé
The Corniche’s bodyshell is designed with a lower center of gravity which is due in no small part to its monocoque construction. This type of build is imperative to convertible construction making it hug the pavement avoiding roll-overs. They also must be extremely rigid due to the lack of roof/door pillars and basic roofline structure which surrounds a saloon model for integrity.
An independent four-wheel suspension includes a hydraulic leveling system that calibrates itself automatically as you drive regardless of road conditions or load. It also compensates for the soft coil spring ride when it becomes too passive. The earlier models were equipped with components damping both front and rear; later models rely on the rear wheels only for ride height control since it does most of the work anyway.
The hand-crafted bodyshell has a unique style; it sports a lower waist rail exploiting its sporting appeal. The integral steel construction has doors, boot lid, and bonnet made from aluminium alloy to reduce overall weight. The hand-sculpted curves and sporting silhouette sets it apart from the standard four-door saloons.
Power assisted rack and pinion steering reduces the effort and allows the driver to maintain the feel of the road. This type of crafting satisfies the sporting instinct while it provides superb handling characteristics with excellent overall stability at any speed.
The Rolls-Royce Corniche appeals to the driver who demands spirited performance and European handling without sacrificing luxury. It brings together a dedication of fine engineering reinforcing the reputation of Rolls-Royce as a symbol of grand touring built in the classic European tradition.
Its power is derived from the legendary 6.75 litre 16-valve 412 CID V8 engine. The Corniche is tuned to deliver a surfeit of power, acceleration, and road manners. It reflects a luxury sport demeanor eloquently, on the grand Rolls-Royce scale. The temptation to use this elegant luxury cruiser as a sports car is simply irresistible…
1991 Corniche III drophead coupé
Tap the accelerator, you look out at the road ahead. The Spirit of Ecstasy points out the way. A Corniche glides gracefully without resistance. You immediately sense this is a driver’s car in every respect. You also notice…aside from its beauty, it is very fast…and there is still room underneath the accelerator – to go even faster.
Surprise! You found the secret that only the owner of a Rolls-Royce experiences…the Corniche is not just a stodgy old luxury car. It will cruise effortlessly…silently…at 100+ mph. This is thrilling to the novice that has never driven a Rolls-Royce…they now are aware of the fact this is the grandest grand tourer in the world –
1969 Silver Shadow MPW fixedhead coupé
The Mulliner Park Ward Corniche is built in five series. It began in 1971 as a re-name for the Silver Shadow Mulliner Park Ward two-door fixedhead and drophead coupé models. The magnificent Rolls-Royce Corniche was built from 1971 until 1995 with the drophead coupé having the longest tenure; the fixedhead coupé series ended production in 1981. The original platform rode upon a 119.8” wheelbase; it was extended to 120” in 1974, and extended again for the last time to 120.5” in 1979.
For the 1974 model year the Corniche appearance was freshened using US mandated 5 mph impact-absorbing bumpers with hard polyurethane inserts for the front and rear. Rolls-Royce never redesigned their cars annually for the sake of change. Let’s face it…a Rolls-Royce Corniche is the superlative of superlatives…how does one go about correcting perfection? There are 1,108 built as Corniche I fixedhead coupés and 3,224 built as Corniche I drophead coupé models.
1974 Corniche coachbuilt fixedhead coupé
Corniche II was introduced to the USA in 1986 and built through 1988. During this series anti-lock brakes, interior detail, and new rear back-up lamps were the only model revisions. A total of 1,234 are built as Corniche II models. Corniche III debuted at the 1989 Frankfort International Motor Show with production running through the 1991 model year.
The basic overall design wasn’t tampered with. Color-keyed bumper inserts and alloy wheels are the only exterior revisions. Series III received suspension upgrades, refined fuel injection systems, and the introduction of air bag restraint systems. The cabin received new seating configurations, dash and console. Only 452 are built as Corniche III drophead coupé models
1992 Corniche IV coachbuilt drophead coupé
Corniche IV coupé models were now being built in-house by Mulliner Park Ward which had moved to the Crewe facility. This series is built from 1992 until 1995. There is visually no exterior difference from Series III except for a glass rear window which replaced the plastic version.
The 4-speed GM 4L80 automatic transmission replaced the 3-speed GM 400 series. Adaptive suspension, CFC-free air conditioning, and an improved top mechanism which doesn’t require manual latching are the only upgrades. There are 219 drophead coupé models built as Corniche IV. There are 25 more built as turbocharged models named “Corniche S.”
Corniche V coachbuilt drophead coupé
The Corniche V drophead coupé was revamped for the 2000 model year and built until 2002 when the Rolls-Royce Dynasty at the historic Crewe facility ended. There are only 374 built for the last of this eminent model series. This was the most expensive model offered by Rolls-Royce for the day at $359,900 USD.
The first 21st century V12 engine to power a Rolls-Royce
The end of an era…
A Rolls-Royce Corniche is a timeless pleasure to own. They are among the last of the coachbuilt masterworks from Mulliner Park Ward. In the history of Rolls-Royce, two men are credited with ensuring this grand marque became synonymous with luxury and excellence.
Sir Charles Stewart Rolls and Sir Frederick Henry Royce pursued a relentless quest for perfection: Sir Charles was led by his love for championship driving…and Sir Frederick with his passion for engineering. Their philosophy – “Nil fato relinquemus.”
In the construction of the Crewe-built Rolls-Royce there was no room for compromise. The Corniche in all its majesty is a true spirit of excellence…a true “Spirit of Ecstasy.” From its rich hand-crafted coachwork to the impeccably hand-tailored cabin – excellence is the norm…integrity is the driving principle, both of which is the heart and soul of a masterpiece. The Rolls-Royce Corniche eminently states the fact: “The quality will remain…long after the price has been forgotten – “
Special thanks to Rodd Sala and Park Ward Motors Museum, Daniel Schmitt Classic Cars, and Balmoral UK for the use of these rare photographs.
1962 Silver Cloud II HJ Mulliner drophead coupé
1964 Silver Cloud III HJ Mulliner drophead coupé
1965 Silver Cloud III MPW aluminium bodied coupé
Rolls-Royce…Riva Yachts…you have arrived
“Whisper…tick…soar – the loudest sound one will hear in a Rolls-Royce is the beating of their heart…”
The Rolls-Royce Corniche is NotoriousLuxury