On a trip back home to Flint last June with my friend, Cate, I had stopped into a dollar store near downtown and scored a discounted DVD featuring episodes of the 1980s TV detective comedy / drama Hart To Hart. This show was never on my radar when I was younger, coming across in its commercials as too serious, stuffy, and “adult”, as if trying to figure out the plot twists would give me a headache. It was just so eighties, though, with actors Stefanie Powers’ feathered hair and designer outfits, and Robert Wagner’s crisply tailored suits and ascots, not to mention the interior decor of their Bel Air mansion. There was a great supporting cast of Lionel Stander as Max the butler, Freeway the dog (adorable), a canary-yellow Mercedes SL roadster, and a Rolls-Royce Corniche. For two dollars, my thought process was that I couldn’t lose, and even if I ended up hating the show, this purchase would give Cate and me something to laugh about on the drive back to Chicago.
I wound up loving the show and becoming endeared to its characters. A show which had held zero interest for me as a youth was now entertaining to me in middle-age, partially because I could actually understand and appreciate what was going on in each episode, and also because it served as such a time-capsule. Before finding this DVD at Family Dollar, I probably hadn’t thought about this show in at least a decade. On the surface and knowing myself, there was no reason why I should have liked it. The extreme wealth. The hired help. The privilege. Though not a Silver Shadow like our featured car but a Corniche which was based on the two-door version of it, the Harts’ Rolls-Royce effectively became a symbol of that ’80s era of excess. I later came to realize that any Rolls has always played this role in my mind to a greater or lesser extent.
I’m just a kid from Flint. I could probably count on the digits on one hand, maybe even with a couple left over, just how many Rolls-Royce sightings to which I had been witness while growing up in Genesee County, Michigan. The closest I had ever gotten to any “Silver Shadow” was while tuning into WDZZ 92.7 FM on my dual-cassette stereo radio to listen to the song of the same name by the great, underrated, urban contemporary band Atlantic Starr, then featuring lead vocalist Barbara Weathers. (Their Sharon Bryant era was my favorite, for the record.) I miss certain aspects of the aspirational qualities of the eighties. If one were to have asked me what a “silver shadow” was when I was in elementary school, undoubtedly I would have referred to this song and not identified it as the model name of a Rolls-Royce.
Silver shadowA glowing shadow Shining brightly For all to see
Much of my career has included service to clients with high net worth, ones who could purchase a new Rolls over the weekend that’s worth several times more than my home. It used to be a tricky thing for me to contemplate the contrast between my material possessions and those of my clientele, coming as I do from modest (but comfortable) means and catering to clients who seem to have more money than they know what to do with. My view at this writing is that wealth, by itself, isn’t a bad thing or a surefire indicator of moral deficiency. Money corrupts, but it doesn’t have to.
There are lots of good, benevolent, wealthy people. Even where my own middle-class income is concerned, the more capable of earning I am, the more potential I also have to do good for others in the world. Minimally, if I can take care of myself as I’m able and not unnecessarily burden anyone else or take up resources, I’m miles ahead of the game and doing just fine. I give the fictional Jonathan and Jennifer Hart a free pass as they seemed like nice people who embarked on their amateur, but competent, detective work with genuine empathy for their clients, and also in Jonathan’s case, concern for the well-being of his many employees.
Since I was chosen among the restI dedicate myself, I’m gonna be the very best And my shadow forever silver will remain And the world will always remember my name
Thankfully, our own Jon Stephenson has already given the Silver Shadow II an excellent overview so I don’t have to. These aren’t necessarily my type of car, so I had anticipated challenges in narrowing down the year of this particular example, of a model that was in production between 1965 through 1980. Fortunately, those alloy bumpers with rubber rub strips provided positive identification that this example is a “II” from one of the last four model years of production. Out of over 25,100 units produced over the Silver Shadow’s run, 8,400 of them were IIs, accounting for about a third of total production.
Its 6.8 liter V8 with 189 horsepower has almost 4,600 pounds to haul around, though these numbers aren’t so far removed from popular, top-tier American personal luxury cruisers of the day. For example, a ’77 Cadillac Eldorado weighed 5,000 pounds and and came standard with a 425 cubic inch (7-liter) V8 with 180 horsepower, and a same-year Lincoln Continental Mark V weighed about 4,700 pounds with its standard 400 (6.6L) V8 with 179 horses. Granted, both of those domestic luxury cars are much different in concept and execution than the Rolls, but all of these cars were intended to reflect a certain level of affluence to the outside world. One other tidbit: with an as-new cost of over $65,000 in 1977 (over $323,000 in 2023), the SS II cost over five and a half times more than an Eldorado or Mark V.
As I watched this car head west toward and only a block away from Wrigley Field, I didn’t feel envy or longing. Rather, I thought about my own ideas of wealth. I don’t lack for anything, and most of what I want or need, I can usually afford. I pinch myself from time to time, thinking about all I’ve been blessed with, including intangibles like my mind, good health, and life in this incredible wonderland called Chicago. Thankfully, too, I have inexpensive tastes, and courtesy of a local thrift store, my treasured music collection has exploded over the past several years with many choice, top-tier finds purchased for dimes on the dollar.
At the same time, I have come to realize that while it’s fun to come across new acquisitions, whether music, clothing, home furnishings, or anything else, there’s only so much stuff I can have and fit in my residence. What would I do with more square feet of living space if I moved up to a bigger home? Fill them up with more stuff? I loved looking at this Rolls-Royce as a beautiful, expensive motorcar (you have to call it that), and as a reflection of the owner’s good taste and penchant for the good life. Would I have wanted one for myself ? I’m honestly not sure.
Lakeview, Chicago, Illinois.
Sunday, April 30, 2023.
Song lyrics by David Lewis and Wayne I. Lewis.
It’s been a loooong time since I saw “Hart to Hart,” although one of my local libraries has a bunch of it on DVD.
My recollection is that it’s one of the many latter-day attempts to recapture the vibe of the MGM Thin Man movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy (based of course on the novel by Dashiell Hammett). For those who aren’t familiar with them, William Powell played Nick Charles, an (ostensibly) retired private detective who has married a wealthy socialite, Nora (Myrna Loy, natch) and intends to settle down to a life of leisure and frequent drinking, but keeps finding himself pulled into murder investigations — partly under pressure from Nora, who finds his detective exploits a great thrill. The Charles are also of the monied class (in the second and fourth installment, we see them driving some nice Packards), but a running gag is that Nick still has a large assortment of miscreant friends and acquaintances.
There were six movies (The Thin Man, After the Thin Man, Another Thin Man, Shadow of the Thin Man, The Thin Man Goes Home, and Song of the Thin Man), all delightful. There was also a long-running radio show (very few episodes of which have survived), unfortunately not with Powell and Loy; a fifties TV series starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk; a 1975 TV movie; a Broadway musical (!); and innumerable imitations (e.g., The Ex-Mrs. Bradford with Powell and Jean Arthur) and pastiches, including Dick and Dora Charleston (played by David Niven and Maggie Smith) in Murder by Death.
If you like “Hart to Hart,” it’s worth checking out the Thin Man series — the originals, as it were.
If you like old radio shows or audiobooks, the first two Thin Man movies were both adapted as one-hour radio plays for “The Lux Radio Theatre in 1936 and 1940, both with Powell and Loy. The adaptation of The Thin Man actually includes most of the movie cast, and is hosted and introduced by the director, W.S. Van Dyke.
Don’t forget ASTA, real name Skippy, who was the Charles’ dog.
Of course! Mustn’t forget Asta. (When the Charles had a baby, Asta got a mate and had puppies of his own.)
It was entirely unrelated apart from the shoutout of the title characters’ names, but it would be remiss not to mention “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” not least because of Nick (Michael Cera)’s Yugo!
Thank you so much for this recommendation! I love detective shows as well as classic films, so I’m definitely going to have to check out the Thin Man series.
I will add to the chorus of fans of “The Thin Man” film series!
Ah yes, symbols of wealth.
On our evening walk yesterday, Debbie and I started counting Teslas. In the space of two short (but hilly) miles we counted 18 of them. Most were Ys, some were 3s and there was one S; and most of the Ys wore twin engine call-outs.
Our route took us through the local high school property and then out onto a main road. While not in Rolls-Royce’s high cost territory, Teslas are the current high status ride in our town competing mostly with big Jeeps and Audi/BMW SUVs.
While not logical, I equate Rolls-Royces (and Bentleys) with the original H1 Hummer. Each outrageous in their own way. Each loudly conveying something to the world about the owners, but exactly what that is – I cannot guess.
Many years earlier the Prius was the [anti] status ride around here, and based on a look at the 2024 Prius redesign, may become one again.
“Money corrupts, but it doesn’t have to.”
I agree, but based on what I’ve seen, wealth can often have a negative impact on the brains of the children of the wealthy.
It’s interesting because I used to count Teslas regularly. After reading this comment, I’m sure I’m probably going to notice more of them. Just last week, I saw one with the “Dual Motor” call-out, and it made me wonder how much more power it had than the other one. (Which I’m sure I could look up.)
Sadly, your last general observation has been mine as well, though I’m always happy to see happily functioning exceptions to this.
I haven’t thought about Hart to Hart in years, although I later became a big Robert Wagner fan via the Austin Powers films (Who Does Number 2 Work For???!!!!). I think that when Hart to Hart was on TV, I just wasn’t in a place – being a college student at the time – where I’d sit down and watch an hour long mystery/detective/buddy show. Same reason I never took to (or watched any) Magnum PI.
Stephanie Powers though does have some awesome 80s hair!
As for the car, I just never understood a Rolls. They always just seemed stuffy in a “Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?” self-parody kind of way. I always figured that any wealthy person who could spend that kind of money could buy any number of more interesting, fabulously expensive, cars. Still, it’s fun to see one, and the specimen you captured looks perfect against its Chicago background.
I’ve been noticing Stefanie Powers a lot more in many shows of the ’70s before her breakout success on H2H. She had such great dry, comedic timing in addition to that great ’80s hair. Wagner was also really great in this show, keeping cool in all sorts of predicaments.
For Stefanie Powers
Check out, an 80’s mini series called “Deceptions”.
She plays twins.
And, Jeremy Brett, plays a really great bad guy.
Great sound track too, mostly by the Pointer Sisters.
All of this sounds win-win… thank you, Steven!
Loved Hart to Hart, MacMillan and Wife,Banachek, and similar shows. Banachek had multiple autos,including a Cadillac limo and driver! Remember TV show GREEN HORNET with Kato driving the BLACK BEAUTY (a Barris customized Imperial)? These guys worked hard with their money 💰. 😉 On the flip side COLOMBO drove a sad little piece of crap and looked like he slept 😴 in his clothes 😳
On the other hand, in “Try and Catch Me” with Ruth Gordon (Nov. 21, 1977), Columbo drives the suspect’s blue Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible, leading to the following exchange:
Columbo: You know, I can remember the only new car my father ever bought. How proud he was, the way it smelled — kind of like the inside of a Pullman car. It wasn’t like this, though, I’ll tell you that.
Abby Mitchell: Mmm. My father never owned a car — not until I bought him one. I was 20, I’d just sold my first book. Shall we compare poverty stores, Lieutenant?
Columbo: Not in a Rolls-Royce, ma’am.
Didn’t see that Colombo episode, but remember Ruth Gordon doing at least one Subaru commercial, AFTER she PRAYED for ROSEMARY’S BABY! 😉
Ack, “poverty stories,” not “stores.”
(The teleplay, one of the wittiest and cleverest of the series, was by Gene Thompson, Luther Davis, and Richard Levinson.)
I can’t get enough Ruth Gordon. Not since first watching Harold & Maude as a college student. Liked her Subaru commercial, too.
I like watching episodes of Banacek for the contrast in the kind of character George Peppard played in this and as “Paul Varjak” in Breakfast At Tiffany’s. All of these old detective shows had a great automotive supporting cast. Kojak’s brown ’74 Century actually had me staring to like the four-doors!
My late brother worked hs way up from nothing to a very successful business empire. As he moved up, so did his vehicles. First new one was a VW microbus. In 68, he decided a Cadillac Series 75 and driver would allow him to do paperwork going from one business location to another. Soon realized he was not accomplishing much work and folks thought he was putting on airs. He traded the 75 for a Silver Shadow and drove himself. While owning that, he found a 62 Cloud. Then traded the Shadow for a Corniche. All were great cars. Meanwhile his wife was driving Mercedes sedans (never my favorite 😒). For some reason I never understood, while keeping the Cloud, he switched to Mercedes! Interesting how public reaction influences people. A local manufacturing head of several generation family business always drove Bentleys, thinking 🤔 ROLLS-ROYCE would reflect poorly on his image! Go figure! While comfortable, I am the proverbial Poor Relation. Most of my cars have been upscale previously owned. Current daily driver is 2007 Town Car Signature Limited. These last generation Town Cars were recently referred to as American ROLLS-ROYCE! And my Lincoln rides live a CLOUD ☁️ ☺ 😊! 🏆
I’d still like to read that article you keep referring to regarding a TownCar being akin to a Rolls Royce, please do share it. You mentioned it’s a recent one, I can’t seem to find it myself.
An article by Tom Klockau at JB’s site?
It frankly sounds more like something one might write in a classified ad, I’m just interested in seeing who actually believed that or what the actual context was if it was in fact a serious article. The last new Town Car I’ve driven was around 2005, while it was quiet inside, not much if anything else really reminded me of Rolls Royce.
I was kidding. Do you take his comments seriously? I haven’t, since day one. Which why I never respond to them.
No, but I was interested in finding out if there is an actual publication that seriously published that assertion. Of course I’ve asked this question three times now so I can now assume there never was such an article.
Unfortunately I have not found the article. But will continue to look. Believe it was in one of Hemmings magazines.
There’s classy and there’s tacky. Too often the latter is misappropriated or misunderstood as the former but only noticed as such by those on the outside making it a joke to everyone but the attention-seeker. In RR’s case, usually the cars as envisioned and created are not overly ostentatious or extravagant, at least not for their own sake, and especially not the Silver Shadow.. Not that RR would deny one with the means to “personalize” their order.
The Rolls-Royce in general is about more than the sum of its parts or the bottom line of the invoice, it’s more about an uncompromising and traditional way of going about making the things, although that’s of course somewhat gone by the wayside as well.
Is it an objectively better “car” than many others? No, not in many ways. But it is fairly unique (especially I’d say the middle years ’50s–’80s or so) when volume production overwhelmingly crowded out any remaining craftsmanship aspects of the rest of the industry. To those that were around in the 20s and 30s, perhaps Cadillac and Lincoln (and Mercedes?) were the best cars in the world, I don’t know, they were likely quite good, however to someone of my ilk becoming car-cognizant in the 1970s, Rolls Royce was certainly a big step above and known worldwide in every godforsaken corner of it as a pinnacle of luxury whether one was into automobiles or not in a way that (by then) other marques were not or no longer. You had your volume production cars on one level, you had your Mercedes above that, and then, above all that at the pointy top, you had RR.
After all, it did get you to stop and take pictures of it and mention wealth as a central tenet of the essay in a way you likely would not have had it been a Cadillac or Lincoln or Mercedes or whatever.
The word you’re after is hosey.
I think in the ’30s it would have been the 3 Ps – Packard, Pierce-Arrow and Peerless that were the aspirational marques, plus Duesenberg and Marmon. from what I have heard, Cadillac was not really seen as the “standard of the world” until they brought out their V16 and the others either folded, or went down market.
When Rolls-Royce started, they were considered, Vulgar and only for the “Nouveau Riche”.
The (British) Royal Family, used Daimler of Great Britain, for their transportation needs.
And until a Daimler Limousine, disgraced itself, when its Automatic Gearbox failed, while carrying King George the 6th, to an official engagement.
In 1950, The Duke of Edinburgh and the then Princess Elizabeth, ordered a new Rolls-Royce Phantom 4.
When she became Queen in 1952, this became, the first Rolls-Royce state Limousine.
I love Hart to Hart! It comes on periodically on Cozi TV/MeTV/FETV. And The Thin Man films are shown occasionally on the TCM network. And remember, the character of Jonathan Hart was a self-made millionaire (as described in the opening theme narration). Which makes the Rolls, the two Mercedes and the mansion all the more enjoyable because he had to work hard for these luxuries (one would assume).
H2H really is great, and I wasn’t anticipating as much appreciation for this show in the comments! Makes me happy. I’m an early riser in weekdays, and this show is on on COZI TV when I first turn on my TV in the AM.
Aha! Hart to Hart, I remember that one. Early eighties, every Saturday evening (IIRC) on TV here too, it was called Harten 2 in NL. Dutch subtitles, like everything else from abroad. Unlike the German TV-channels (ARD, ZDF, WDR) we often watched as kids/teens, they dubbed everything (and still do).
My absolute favorite TV-detective will always be Columbo, the complete DVD box is within reach. The character, the other actors, the cars, the houses, the scenery, the score, the “gadgets” of yore, the high overall quality. I can watch them over and over again, especially the episodes from the seventies. There must be something wrong with me…
This is great! Columbo had surprising longevity, and I liked Peter Falk, but I could never quite get into it. Maybe I’ll give it another shot. I have seen bits and pieces, but maybe I’ll commit to watching an entire episode to see it I like it now. Like I did with Hart To Hart.
There’s one specific really really bad episode that mostly took place on a marina that happened to be the first episode of Columbo I ever saw, which turned me off the whole show for a time but once I gave it another chance I really enjoy it. There’s some hokey plots here and there but the one I remember is the only one I can say is totally bad. The good part of Columbo is that there aren’t all that many total episodes of the original run of show and it’s purely episodic in nature so it’s not really a commitment where you need to start at episode 1, so you can go by the description, guest actor or whatever appeals most to you, and bail out to the next if it doesn’t hit.
Skip the revival episodes from the 90s, Falk isn’t bad in them but the quality is night and day from the 70s episodes
Some installments of “Columbo” are definitely better than others — if the marina episode you mention is the one I’m thinking of, it’s considered notoriously terrible.
I find the best episodes are the ones where you feel a certain amount of sympathy for the villain, which is relatively uncommon, since the whole point of “Columbo” is to watch this rumpled little public servant dismantle arrogant, rich jerks who think they’re smarter than everyone else. There are three of those in the seventh season (1977–78): the aforementioned “Try and Catch Me,” with Ruth Gordon; “Make Me a Perfect Murder,” with Trish Van Devere as a TV network executive whose career is about to be ruined because the boyfriend who got her promoted has sold her out (which also includes an interesting supporting role for Lanie Kazan); and “The Conspirators,” with Clive Devlin as a charming Irish poet and author who is secretly running guns.
However, some better samplers might be “An Exercise in Fatality” (season four, episode 1), with Bob Conrad as a murderous health club executive; “Swan Song” (season three, episode 7), with Johnny Cash and Ida Lupino as a gospel singer and his wife; or “Candidate for Crime” (season three, episode 3), with Jackie Cooper as a senatorial candidate who bumps off his own campaign manager.
I can highly recommend this blog (maybe you’re already familiar with it), with a comprehensive review of each episode (“Columbo episode list” at the top):
Last Salute to the Commodore seems to be the one, indeed it is the bottom of their episode ranks(which is how I found it)! That’s a cool blog, that might make for some fresh late night reading for me.
I agree with the assessment of sympathetic antagonists being among the best episodes, I just saw one recently with Janet Leigh that fit the bill. Those and the ones where Columbo shares a certain mutual respect for tend to be a lot of fun. Generally apart from the one episode I don’t like I haven’t seen an episode I’d outright tune out on, worst I can say there are moments in a couple episodes where the wrap up borders on planting evidence and entrapment that seem uncharacteristic to Columbo and as a viewer can’t help but think were written to quickly wrap up an otherwise compelling episode
Like you, I have inexpensive tastes, so I’ve never actually longed for a car like this. But that doesn’t stop me from admiring them.
When I was a kid, I had a poster of a Silver Shadow hanging in my bedroom (really a poster of various Rolls-Royces, but since the Silver Shadow was the newest among them, that’s the one I remember). I used to dream of riding in one – now, several decades later, I realize that I’ve never been in a Silver Shadow. Maybe someday.
Eric, like you, I have never been inside a Silver Shadow! I wonder which one of us will be the first one to ride in or drive one… And no, I’m not challenging you to a race or anything. LOL
Interestingly, I’ve seen more Rolls Royces & Bentleys around the DC area than anyplace else I’ve lived. Still not too many, of course, but they turn up surprisingly often. So perhaps there’s hope for us getting a ride in one yet.
The CC effect is working! I went to our local grocery store this afternoon and one of these was pulling out of the parking lot. It was the traditional “sand over sable” (two tone beige roof, brown body). I live in a small town in southern Ontario and I know that the Rolls is not local, but there are a significant number of wealthy people and more in the summer as the cottagers arrive. Last weekend was the first holiday of the summer and I saw a Lamborghini SUV on High Street.
I grew up in Toronto and lived there until 10 years ago. Although they were not common, Rolls were also not rare. There was a dealer on Bay Street, handy to the financial district.
There is actually a Rolls collector in town. He has 3 cars from the 20s and he and his family often drive them around town. Last week I had my first sighting of the season. It is always a thrill to see one of them glide by.
Seeing a 1920s Rolls in the metal would probably make me gasp in awe, if I could recognize what it was. There is (or was?) a mid-’80s Silver Spur (or comparable Bentley – honestly, I couldn’t tell) that I used to see pulling into the parking lot of the local grocery store. It was in the moment of that first sighting that brought to the forefront of my mind that all of us, regardless of socioeconomic status, need to get the groceries. People gotta eat.
My Grandfather was one of the first registered Auto Dismantlers in the UK, in the 1930’s.
Post WW2, the British Government, would only let companies, that were exporting have Steel for manufacturing.
So it was make do and mend for around 10 years on the home front.
He converted a Rolls-Royce 20/25 Hearse, into a Milk Churn collection Pick-Up Truck.
My Dad, always talks about the time, in the late 1940’s they were braking a 1920’s Rolls-Royce for scrap
My Great Uncle Jack said “I have never, taken so many, washers and nuts off any motor vehicle”.
He kept, calling people over to show them over to see the quality. “They’ve even balanced the Clutch Plate & Thrust Race”,
“The Fan’s been balanced”,
“My God, the Fly Wheels been Balanced and Polished, just like the insides of a Watch”. little drill marks all over, apparently.
The early 1980’s Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit & Spur and the Bentley’s of the same period, were the same except for the Grill & Flying Lady.
Vickers PLC, who had owned Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, since the 1971 bankruptcy, never really spent the money on Bentley.
It was only the rich Arab Princes and the Sultan of Brunei, that pushed sporting development.
This was fascinating to read – thank you. I feel like I’ve learned so much about these actual cars in the comments section.
For me what Rolls Royce exudes first and foremost is hoity toity pretentiousness, followed very closely by pompousness. Those traits can of course come with great wealth and the ego that comes with the achievement of it but it’s not always the case. Most other luxury brands – Mercedes, BMW are aspirational, something the common man aspires to, even supercars like Ferraris McLarens and the like are cars someone like myself would probably blow a big chunk of our would-be lottery winnings on. A Rolls Royce though?
I personally have never known anyone old or young who aspired to own a Rolls Royce as a dream car, instead it seems like an obligatory acquisition, an trophy bestowed upon yourself like a DIY knighthood for the accomplishment of making(or inheriting) gobs and gobs of money and achieving a state of power/influence in life that most mere mortals cannot accomplish. I even feel like there’s a secret radio frequency that only Rolls Royce’s can access that plays Eine kleine Nachtmusik (which if TV taught me anything is THE rich people anthem) on an endless loop but I can’t verify it, yet.
I guess my thing is just that though I can admire the impeccable craftsmanship and materials that go into an RR (which I respect), I can’t imagine me, personally, being able to fully appreciate them. Stated another way, on a bell-curve of low-to-high quality, I see the RR all the way to the furthest extreme of quality, to where the statistical “bell” has sort of flattened out at the end and I wouldn’t be able to tell the different between extremely excellent and exquisite.
I used to live in Chicago’s East Lakeview nabe, and years ago a bright yellow Silver Shadow could be spotted in the parking lot of the now – closed upscale Treasure Island grocery store (at N. Broadway & Cornelia), sporting vanity plates spellind out “SNOB”…
The owner was a wealthy matron who lived in one of the nearby Lake Shore Drive luxury high – rises. She was a great gal, very down – to – earth and with a fine sense of humor. I was chatting with her once in the store and she said, “Oh, honey, I’ll have to give you a ride in my Rolls, so you can see how the peasants react!” I never got that ride, but that yellow Silver Shadow brought a smile to many who saw it…
I know that intersection well. In place of that Treasure Island is going up a mid-to-highrise residential / commercial building. I used to get some grooming done across the street when Treasure Island was still standing. A bright yellow Silver Shadow is, actually, exactly the kind of car I could see at that Treasure Island, with the finer import groceries. (I’m still sorry they closed, even though I never shopped there.) I love that you had the opportunity to talk with the owner of that car! That’s a quotable quote, for sure. LOL
I’ve had the opportunity to work on many different older Rolls-Royces when I owned a restoration shop that specialized in the marque. When I was a kid in high school, I worked for an old car shop run by people who also worked on the marque, and while I’ve always been a Packard enthusiast, working on Rolls-Royces introduced me to a very different side of the automotive world. Letting a good mechanic work on a Rolls-Royce is akin to having him work on an aircraft’s mechanical systems just before flight.
A great way to summarize the difference between the older [pre-war] Rolls-Royce and other manufacturer’s designs, was described to me by Mr. Cal West about 30 years ago. At the time Cal was head of Rolls-Royce North America’s Technical Division.
In designing 2 parts to join together, perhaps a stamped steel cap to a cast iron body, the intent to keep oil inside and dirt outside, Henry Ford might use a single bolt at one end, and a slot & tab at the other end, with a thick paper gasket in between. Chevrolet would use 2 bolts and gasket, Chrysler 3 bolts & gasket. Packard would use 4 bolts & gasket, Duesenberg 8 bolts and a thin gasket.
Rolls-Royce would insist on using 2 cast pieces, the cap probably alloy, both parts machined to such tolerances that no gasket was required. The bolts would be bronze alloy, and certainly use a minimum of 16 bolts, possibly up to 32. All the bolts would be fine thread. 60 years later the Rolls-Royce parts would still not leak any oil, and could easily be taken apart for inspection.
I was a member of the Rolls-Royce Owner’s Club for about 20 years, and got to know many club members. Yes there were those who were super rich, but there was a large number of middle-income owners who had bought a car because of it’s engineering and build quality, not because it suggested immense wealth. My customers who owned a Rolls-Royce or Bentley varied from men who owned successful mid-sized companies, to a few enlisted men in the military who loved driving their vintage cars to shows.
That said, many times when a stranger found I owned or was driving a Rolls-Royce, they automatically assumed I was immensely wealthy. I am reminded of a true story;
I was dating a very attractive young lady about half my age. One day she asked if we could visit her father who lived just over the Virginia line into West Virginia, a couple of hours away. It was a beautiful summer day so we drove my 1969 Silver Shadow sedan out to his home, a small single-wide mobile home he rented on a farm.
On meeting her dad, he saw our age difference before he saw the car, and having given me a cold stare, he asked what it was. His daughter excitedly said “It’s a Rolls-Royce daddy — he collects them!”. The old man, with a perfectly serious look, turned to me and said “You have my permission to marry her!”
Nope, not gonna happen!
Bill, thank you so much for this. This is helpful perspective for someone like me, in helping understand more the demographic and appeal. It brings me back to the idea that an expensive luxury car was supposed to *last*, versus what we see today with tech-laden cars (with necessary, life-saving equipment, etc.) that are meant to be used and discarded / traded after a few years.
After reading about the tolerances of the pieces meant to be joined together on a Rolls, it’s clear these cars were meant to last for the long haul. I suppose that’s part of what makes it that much more jarring to see a wrecked or stripped example in Curbside Recycling or another such feature.
Whoah, how did that figure get loose of its cage? I’ve been led to believe RR publish their horsepower figures not numerically, but with a single word: “sufficient”.
Some vile hooligan absconded with the vehicle and hooked it up to some newfangled “instrumentation,” no doubt. Off to the Workhouse with him for a right good thrashing!
Oh, dear! I do hope the lad didn’t say anything uneconomic to the wrong sort of people!
That is correct.
Also, for the engineers at Rolls-Royce, they were always more interested in the Thermal efficiency of the engine.
But, before the V8 was retired, due to emissions, the Bentley Mulsanne with the 6.75 Litre V8, with the 90’s L cylinder head, was producing 505bhp, at 4,000rpm.
More importantly, the Bentley Mulsanne, kicked out 1020Nm of Torque at 1,750rpm.
I can’t even begin to imagine what thet much torque must feel like to drive.
For this, I think one may blame the Boche (which of course Ian Fleming always did): West German type approval required disclosure of actual power output, presumably in PS DIN.
Hart to Hart was huge in the UK when I was a kid – I remember watching it!
The Roller you picture is a particularly tasteful example and the design has retained its dignity over the years – unlike its boxy successor. It is indeed a rather handsome thing!
Your reflections on wealth are thought provoking: I feel that real wealth is not only being able to afford lots of possessions, but about who you have in your life and the ability to support them and spend time with them. It can be a great look to drive an expensive car, but no one sees that you are going home to an empty apartment….
Yep, ITV, 8pm, Sunday, Night.
Mum and Dad hated it. Too Cheesey. “If I was a bar of Chocolate, I would Eat Myself”, were the to things they would often say of the show.
Sadly, the Ferrari Dino 246 GTS from the opening titles, seldom featured in the series.
Huey, I agree that the styling of the Silver Shadow has held up really well. And the thing about the II is that the revised bumpers really don’t alter the styling that drastically, in my opinion. Still a handsome car.
And yes, I was in an existential frame of mind when I wrote this, but those are indeed my thoughts about wealth and things (or “stuff” as I referred to them in this essay). I was remarking to friends recently that my mind is shifting focus more to people and experiences over the acquisition of objects. And I still don’t have a car. 🙂
Thinking of Private Detectives and their Cars.
Can anyone top, “The Persuaders”, Curtis & Moore’s,
Danny (Daniel) Wilde (Ferrari) Dino 246 GT &
Lord Brett Sinclair’s, Aston Martin DBS V8 (But actually fitted with a straight 6 as the V8, wasn’t ready).
Don’t forget the Ford Capris featured in “The Professionals.”
Technically they were Government agents.
CI:5, was a cross between MI5 and the FBI.
The Ford Escort RS2000, like the one Doyle, used from the second season, are regularly fetching £50,000 = $62,000, for a car with a 2 litre Ford Pinto engine.
Season 1, was Doyle, Triumph TR7. Bodie, Triumph Dolomite Sprint 16valve.
It was only in Season 4, that they both drove, Ford Capri Mk3, 3.0 S,
Directors liked them, due to the rear wheel drive, allowing outrageous skids, that made cars chases look awesome.
Isn’t that the long wheelbase version? Was it still the Silver Shadow, or was it Silver Wraith, or was that the next generation?
In America, the lines between the social classes are fluid and permeable. The Middle class is large, and it extends from those that are just above working class to those that are almost in the upper class. A lot depends on a person’s orientation, aspiration, and self identification. Our current President chooses to identify himself as just “plain old middle class Joe.”
Thankfully in America, the opportunities to benefit from public education and the freedom to work as hard as one wishes, moves a lot of people up and down the class scale. Some strive to move into the middle class, some have to work hard to remain there, while others strive to remain philosophically in the middle class, even when their level of financial success moves them closer to the upper limits.
So there are many of us that can enjoy the benefits of higher education, home ownership, financial security, a vacation trip, and even some goodies like an occasional new car. When we or our friends buy a new car, we are happy for them, be it a Hyundai, Chevy, or a Honda. We also will know people that can buy a Cadillac, BMW, or Mercedes. These types of cars are more expensive than the norm, but they are not too far from our familiarity.
Then we see something like a Rolls Royce, these exist in a rarefied atmosphere far above most of our experience. They remind us that there are levels of wealth and material consumption, and social access, that are well above anything that we have ever been exposed to, or even imagined. They reveal the higher levels of income and entitlement that exist far above our financial horizons.
“Let me tell you about the very Rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them…” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald. I think that this is correct, that those of inherited, generational wealth, inhabit a society that is very different and is separate from the common masses.
I’m not going to begrudge them their wealth, either they, or some ancestor, worked or schemed to achieve it. I’m just thankful that my immigrant family was able to achieve our level of the American Dream.
Seeing a Rolls Royce just reminds us that there are things going on that we are not privy to.
Jose, thank you for this. So much of what you’ve included in your comment resonates with me personally with nothing to add or subtract. I’m a both a child of an immigrant on one side, and Midwestern farmers on the other. I feel like I live the American dream every single day. The trick is to try to remember this on days that don’t feel so great.
Very stately and conservative (which is not something you can say about the new ones). There’s a certain air of “It just looks right” about it. It doesn’t shout to everyone “Look how rich I am!”. It kind of passes under the radar of the socially-obnoxious (be they rich or poor).
Its look is especially refreshing to me given the current styling trends in exaggeration and extremes, especially among luxury makes.
I never watched Hart to Hart when it was on the air – it seemed like the kind of show geared towards my mother. But I have watched occasional episodes as an adult and enjoy it for all the reasons you mentioned. But when it comes to Robert Wagner, I am more of a “To Catch A Thief” guy – that was his show that I liked in the late 60s.
As for the Rolls, I too have spent time doing work for some really wealthy people. In the late 80s my office had a client who bought a brand new Bentley Turbo R and brought it around to show us. It was bright red, so maybe he was not the kind of guy a RR was aimed at.
I never really lusted after one of these, but I do respect the old-fashioned ethos of craftsmanship for craftsmanship’s sake.
Loved “To Catch A Thief”