The 1980 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow profiled in yesterday’s CC represented the last of the line for this generation of uber-upscale sedans. What better way to follow it up than with a look at the first of the breed? In researching that article, I relied heavily on a book off my shelf titled, fittingly enough, Rolls-Royce. It’s a compilation of Rolls-Royce articles taken from Autocar magazine from 1904 to 1978. Yes, that British magazine was around in 1904. In fact, looking it up reveals it goes back to 1895 and it’s still going today. Impressive.
How this book printed in Great Britain in the late 70’s came to be sold by Half-Price Books in Texas in 2014, for a very reasonable price, I don’t know, but it’s a wealth of information on these fine automobiles and too good not to go home with me. If you are a subscriber to that magazine, which I’m not, they do have archived articles available. However, I couldn’t find much on the general internet and none of the ones in the book. So, I figured I’ll provide the World Wide Web with two article scans that should be of particular interest to fans of the Silver Shadow.
The first is a very deep dive on the features of the Shadow upon its introduction in late 1965. It’s nine pages and chock full of technical drawings and photos. The other is their first Road Test done in 1967. Between the two, it’s pretty much everything anyone would want to know, and probably more, about the early Silver Shadow.
The next nine photos are the October 1965 article. Commentary resumes after the article.
The above two pages are combined for the intended effect. Sorry, my scans didn’t line up perfectly. I also include both the individual pages below because you can see the detail better that way.
If any layman was left wanting for more detail about the new Rolls-Royce, there’s probably something wrong with him. The drawings are fantastic, especially the large cut-away of the whole car with exploded drivetrain and suspension, which is worth the price of admission by itself.
Next is Autocar’s first Road Test of the Silver Shadow, which they couldn’t get their hands on until the March 1967 issue. Presumably, few readers would be in the financial position of actually buying a new Rolls-Royce, but as the flagship of the British auto industry, it surely was of keen interest to many English car enthusiasts.
The article is five pages. Commentary resumes afterward.
These articles together give one a very detailed picture of the Silver Shadow. Note the prices listed as £5,425, plus a tax of £1,244 for a grand total of £6,669. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about £138k in 2022. Tax is 23%. Ouch! I only found one reference for the Shadow’s U.S. price in 1966, which says it was $19,500 (over 3x the price of a Cadillac in the U.S.). That would adjust to $175k. Consider that a 2022 Ghost (RR’s “entry level” sedan) would set you back at least $332k.
For the road test, the editors spent several weeks with the car, which strikes me as a luxurious amount of time for car writers. They were favorably impressed, though not without criticism. The steering was the main point of criticism and is a common theme in reviews of Silver Shadows until they got new rack and pinion steering in 1977. The editor speculates that the car was designed with an eye towards the American market, based on the low-end power preference, emphasis on straight-line performance and soft ride.
The spec and testing result pages are very detailed, much more than I’m used to in modern magazines. Check out the detailed dashboard call out illustration!
Also notable in the specs was competitor comparison charts. Apparently the editors thought the Rolls-Royce competed best (in the U.K.) with the Cadillac Fleetwood and Buick Riviera, along with the Mercedes 600SE and Daimler Majestic Major (???). It’s news to me that the Riviera was even available in England. The prices are interesting. The Mercedes 600 is significantly more expensive than the Rolls, about the same difference as the Rolls is from the Riviera in the other direction. The Cadillac is less expensive than the Rolls, but not by nearly as much as the difference between the Rolls and the Merc. The Caddy is much more expensive in England than it was in the U.S. (as is the Riviera). That is probably due to currency exchange rates, as well as a mark up for them being so exotic there.
Surprising no one, the Americans got the worst gas mileage. The Cadillac was the slowest, but not a lot slower than the Rolls. The Rolls, Daimler and Mercedes were all within a second or so of each other in 0-60 and 1/4 mile. Anyone bold enough to drive a Riviera in England in 1967 could rest easy that his car was faster than any other oversized luxury liner on the narrow roads. Jaguar was not included in the comparison, but I suspect it would outperform these cars as would some smaller Mercedes.
As an amateur car writer, I’m impressed by these English writers’ skill. They really know their way around the language. I know, shocker, right?! It’s not just vocabulary, but precision and clarity in conveying a lot of detailed information. Modern car magazine writers tend to write with more opinion, if not outright snark, which is not necessarily bad. These writers in the 60’s were more low-key and seemed to just let the facts speak for themselves. The articles could perhaps be accused of being a bit dry, still, the writers’ ability to turn a phrase, choose the right word, and deftly and efficiently express a thought was admirable and kept my interest throughout.