Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow

By: Cliff Chambers/Steve Cropley, Photography by: Unique Cars/Wheels archives/Marque Publishing

Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow

The Rolls-Royce was an aristocratic beast for the 1970s private jet-setter

Bargains for the brave


It is almost 50 years since Rolls-Royce discarded the separate chassis and ’30s-inspired coachwork for a more modern if regimented approach to luxury car construction. Along with the ‘unitary’ body, the new Silver Shadow pioneered features that helped Britain’s premier prestige brand skip an entire developmental generation.

Elsewhere you will read about the innovative Citroen DS and it was from there that R-R acquired the rights to the self-levelling suspension under its new luxury car. All-wheel disc brakes provided a safety improvement over the previous Cloud range and the boot was larger and more sensibly shaped.

However, the systems that made the Shadow drive, ride and feel like it truly was the best car in the world all had a lifespan and even the very latest Shadow II will now be almost 35 years old. Deciding which Shadow to buy depends very much on how many of the costly bits have been renovated or replaced to date.

Specialists have the knowledge and equipment to keep these cars running almost indefinitely. However the survival of these businesses relies on a shrinking pool of owners with the will and funds to undertake proper maintenance and the occasional full-blown restoration. Car values depend largely on quality, although the rare long-wheelbase Spur can attract premium pricing.

If your heart is set on a Shadow then the cars to get are not the ones you might most easily afford. Talk to a specialist about the cost of rebuilding an errant transmission or making ancient air-conditioning blow cold air again and you will understand why a lot of old Shadows no longer exist.


While inspecting a Shadow, anywhere you glance could conceal the potential for crippling cost. Important places to look include the suspension which uses accumulators to keep the rear end level, and check the head gasket for leaks. Purchasing parts to rebuild a worn engine will absorb the better part of $12,000, with labour to come.

A Shadow with cracked timber veneer and worn or split leather is almost past redemption and certainly won’t represent prudent buying.

A complete retrim to as-new condition will cost more than $20,000 and even a set of good second-hand seats can cost over $5000.

Words: Steve Cropley - December 1978

The big Rolls won Wheels' heart...

The Rolls owner acquires automatic license to be seen as rich, discerning and at least a little bit aristocratic. He might even be famous. The bronze-coloured car we drove had covered nearly 80,000 kilometres and it was at least 18 months old. Ours had some scratches on the door kick plates and some wear on the front carpets as evidence of its many drivers, but apart from that there was simply nothing wrong with it. Not that we could see.

Rolls-Royce describes the Shadow as compact – and alongside the biggest American aircraft carriers it is – but the Rolls is still bulky. The body is a superbly crafted all-steel integral structure. It is built, believe it or not, by a division of British Leyland but checked minutely for quality flaws when it gets to Crewe.

The Rolls’ power is an aluminium alloy V8, the biggest British made car engine there is. The V8 is not intended for spectacular power; RR still describes its engines’ outputs as ‘adequate’. The ’box is built for big engines and big torque ratings and in the Rolls, it excels itself. Unobtrusive and fast, somehow you can hear the smoothness.

The Shadow’s controls are a mix of good and poor. Every switch or lever works with satisfying precision. There are two huge leather bucket seats which practically envelop their occupants. Dominating everything is the walnut veneer which is decidedly real and selected, matched and fitted by artisans at Crewe. There is an interior thermometer and an electric clock with traditional face and hands (none of this digital nonsense). The wiper switch is on the lower dash between a switch which puts sump oil level on the fuel gauge and a fog light switch. When you’ve reached for it a dozen times in a mile it gets annoying.

A Wheels staff man who has previously never regarded a Rolls as a fit member of his more favoured dozen cars says it’s a bastion of hand-built solidity in an ocean of the plastic, the frail and the short-lived.


Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow

Number built: 19,497 (Shadow 1), 10,560 (Shadow II & Wraith)
Body: All-steel, integrated body/chassis 4-door sedan
Engine: 6230cc or 6750cc aluminium alloy V8, OHV, 16v, twin sidedraft carburettors or fuel injection
Power & torque: 166kW (est) @ 4300rpm, 460Nm (est) @ 1500rpm (6.75l)
Performance: 0-100km/h 10.7sec; 0-400m 17.4sec (Shadow II)
Transmission: 3- or 4-speed automatic
Suspension: Independent with upper & lower control arms, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers (f); Independent with semi-trailing arms, coil springs, self-levelling struts, anti-roll bar (r)
Brakes: Discs, power assisted
Tyres: 235/75HR15 radial
Price range: $5000-$40,000
Contact: Rolls-Royce Owners Club of Australia,




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