CC Capsule: 1991 Rolls-Royce Corniche III – Dark Suit And White Gloves Compulsory

(first posted 7/9/2017)     It was a hot day to be out and about in Shibuya, one of Tokyo’s trendier districts. And it seems whoever owned this Corniche was so busy he just parked his immaculate white convertible on the side of the avenue, warning lights on, door ajar and white-gloved driver waiting nearby. It looked like something out of a pre-war movie, but some obscenely wealthy folks can pull this off in present-day Tokyo.

A Rolls photobombed (of all things) by a blue Renault Clio: the joys of curbside photography in Tokyo.


The driver kindly moved aside so I could get a couple of snaps. Yep, this was not your usual Rolls (if that makes any sense). The Corniche III was made for a little over two years in 1990-92, now featuring colour-coded bumpers as a main visual difference to its immediate predecessor. Only 452 of these cars were ever made, plus 180 Bentley-badged models.

One of these (actually a 1993 Corniche IV, complete with the obligatory wing-mounted mirrors) is regularly used as an imperial parade car in Japan – probably the only foreign-built official car still used by the Japanese monarch. So to have one of these to putter about Tokyo, one must have an ego to match one’s wallet, I suppose.

1966 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow two-door coupé by James Young


The Rolls-Royce Corniche is obviously derived from the Silver Shadow, arguably the first really modern Rolls, which debuted in 1965. The Silver Shadow’s two-door variants outlasted the saloon by 15 years – quite an achievement. I guess Rolls figured the Silver Spirit’s more massive bodyshell and squarish looks would not have lent themselves to the drop-head coupé look, and I would have to agree with my own assertion there. The first two-door Silver Shadows were made in 1966-67 by James Young – only 50 cars though, Bentleys included, as the old London coachbuilder was about to go under.

1967 Silver Shadow two-door coupé by Mulliner-Park Ward. The drop-top came a couple of years later.


Mulliner-Park Ward launched their own interpretation (designed by John Blatchley) in 1967, featuring a slight beltline kick and a less staid greenhouse. The Corniche name only appeared in 1971, there to remain until 1995.

1979 Rolls-Royce Corniche – big bumpers were less conspicuous than on MGs, but still pretty awful.


Fat ugly rubber bumpers appeared in 1977 and stayed on the car until the bitter end. The Silver Shadow disappeared in 1980, taking the Corniche hardtop coupé with it. The convertible soldiered on, stratospherically priced and impeccably finished, throughout the ‘80s. The car’s mid-‘60s styling was completely out of step with the times, but then this didn’t seem to harm sales. By the time the Corniche III came around, Mulliner-Park Ward was getting ready to close down too. The last Phantom VI limos and Corniches went out the door in 1992, after which all Rolls-Royce bodies would be made in-house. The end of an era…

The Corniche IVs were made until the summer of 1995 by Rolls-Royce themselves, instead of the body being made in London, then shipped to Crewe to fit the mechanicals and back to Mulliner-Park Ward to be finalized to the last detail. There was a Corniche V model, based on the Bentley Azure, made in 1999-2002 – the last Rolls-Royces made at Crewe and the only case of a Rolls being based on a Bentley, apparently. But these obese-looking cars lack the appeal of the earlier Corniches, in my opinion.

When I first saw car, the chauffeur looked busy – probably clearing Cohiba butts from the ashtrays.


I would never dream of owning anything like this white Corniche. A mite too pimpy and/or jet-setty for my taste. But I sure would like to ride in that gorgeous thing on a hot July day. Top down, white-gloved driver in front and a glass of bubbly from the hamper, of course. Home please, Oddjob. And don’t spare the V8.


Related CC posts:

Curbside Classic: 1982 Rolls-Royce Corniche Convertible – The Crème de la Crème, by Mike Butts

CC Capsule: 1985 Bentley Continental – What’s Not To Like?, by Roger Carr