Flamboyant Brit: 1983 Rolls-Royce Camargue

1983-Rolls-Royce-Camargue

When Jim S sent in the link to this Rolls-Royce he pointed out that the fact that this clean functional car could be had for half the price of the 356 project we featured the other day. It’s still expensive, but wouldn’t you be just as proud to have a Rolls in the garage as you would a Porsche? Well, if it’s a Camargue you may or may not be proud of it. Keep reading to find out why. Also be sure to take a look at the seller’s impressive description here on eBay. Thanks for the tip Jim!

Rolls-Royce-V8

Favored by oil barons and royalty for their durable engines, luxurious interiors, and prestigious name, Rolls-Royces have always been special automobiles. When the Camargue was first released, it was also the most expensive car money could buy. As a result very few of these handbuilt vehicles were ever produced. Rolls-Royce normally designed their cars in house. Their designs were handsome, but were also intended for sensible Brits. Well, there must have been a few wealthy buyers in other parts of the world who wanted something a little more flamboyant from the staid brand.

1983-Rolls-Royce-Camargue-rear

So, the boys in Crewe called up Pininfarina over in Italy to see if they could spice things up. The resulting Camargue was not the most flattering creation to come out of the famous design house. It was a drastic departure from the classic Rolls-Royce look and I’m sure the lines seemed radical to the marque’s long-time buyers. The company was able to sell over 500 of them though so at least a few people didn’t think they were too ugly. Today the car looks kind of frumpy, but I bet if you look closely you will be able to spot a few design cues that have influenced later RRs.

Camargue-interior

This particular Camargue has apparently been cared for by a dedicated collector. It has been well maintained, but at some point it suffered a color change from brown to white. Perhaps that isn’t such a bad thing, but I doubt the respray quality could match that of the factory. The original tan hides inside look excellent and…what the heck is that? There’s a chihuahua down there! The seller wrote a quality description and then confuses us with a few awkward photos. This is a quality car with a few awkward lines so I guess it’s only fitting. So, would you be proud to have this in your garage? I’m referring to the car!

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Comments

  1. Barry

    Looking at the engine bay I am thinking how much I would hate changing the spark plugs/

  2. Don Andreina

    I’ve come across two of these in recent years, one black and the other white. Neither colour helps hide the awkwardness of this model. The perplexing thing is that this came from the hand of Paolo Martin whilst at Pininfarina, and his Fiat 130 Coupe was such a success. Some blame the fact that this was the first RR produced in metric, but whatever the reason – its not a pretty RR.

  3. Jeff V.

    Personal luxury at its finest, at the time. Only competitors were the MB380SLC/SEC, BMW 633CSI really, imo!

  4. William Henshaw

    I agree with Don, these are not real pretty cars. I get the feeling that there is something missing, but I can’t put a finger on it.

  5. Barry Thomas

    Barnfind?? I remember when these first came out, there was nothing approaching their price. The evening TV news in Toronto actually covered it when the first one arrived in the city (oh, how things have changed). I agree, not great looking, but at the time, nothing competed price wise with this boat. If you were to buy this one, every time something needed to be fixed, one of your kids wouldn’t be going to university. Maintenance will be thru the roof.
    Barry Thomas’ “Wheel to Wheel” blog

  6. Tom S.

    You think the lines are a bit awkward? How ’bout the name Camargue (French pronunciation: ​[kaˈmaʁɡ])? Geez, I’ve never liked that.

  7. TVC15

    I like the passenger foot warmer is that Factory ?

  8. Dolphin Member

    That engine bay would sure discourage the average Joe from trying to tinker with the ‘works’. I wonder if RR still flys in one of their mechanics if the car needs attention.

    With all that white leather I’d need to have a bath and clean clothes every time I went to drive it. This is a champagne car and I’m more of a beer guy, so unfortunately I’ll have to pass.

    • Barry Thomas

      Come on, Dolphin, don’t be so negative, you probably clean up real good. I always wonder abouts folks who buy an old Roller at a “bargain” price – do they think that superb(?) quality equates with no maintenace? Same applies to today’s Ferrari find or any other high priced used car. Buyer be very aware.
      Barry Thomas’ “Wheel to Wheel” blog

      • Neil

        Wise words. I own two of the cars that underpin this model which are used for weddings. Every year, in addition to the routine (hah!) servicing, they require what’s called a ‘minor hydraulic’ service. Every three years they need a ‘major hydraulic’ service which involves dropping them off at a place run by an ex-RR mechanic for two weeks. When I get them back I am about $13000 poorer, but this requires specialist tools and knowledge – it’s not for the self-repair guy or gal.

        If you don’t do this, you will end up with an undrivable piece of junk fairly rapidly. They are built to such tight tolerances that things you would ignore in your Camry (slightly worn bushes here, perished rubber there etc.,etc.) ruin the signature driving characteristics of an RR.

        The Camargue is a bit of an oddball and was never loved here in the UK; it regularly appears in those ‘top twenty’ lists of ugliness that magazines and papers publish every now and again. It’s not for me as coupes are utterly useless in the wedding trade, but I’m sure it will find a buyer.

        My estimate of the value of this car – $45,000 or thereabouts, so the asking price is not too far off.

  9. Jeff S.

    I have great respect for Pininfarina. They are one of the best. But, sometimes there is only so much that can be done with certain clients. For me, the rear axle is too far forward or the c-pillar is too far to the rear, whichever. Probably something to do with rear leg room and trunk space. Also, the b-pillars are very narrow, makes it look like a very large and heavy coupe. The grill, well what could they do…

  10. DT

    Nice,Is that a Toyota corona?

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Actually, from the back it sort of looks like a Caprice! Some people on Facebook thought it resembled a Nova… Bet Pininfarina would be sad to hear commentary like that!

  11. DT

    I was going to buy it ,but I am afraid there may be dog hair in it

  12. Trickie Dickie Member

    A 1983 Rolls Royce with 1930’s Technology. Rollers may have excellent quality materials but lots of old fashioned automotive know-how. A friend got a brand new RR in 1990 and in the trunk or boot were two quarts of bright green hydraulic fluid. When he asked about that the dealership told him it was useful if his hydraulic system ever leaked! He had constant problems with it and finally DONATED the car to a charity in LA, far from his home……..at 15,500 miles on it. Everyone here new what a dog it was.

  13. Eli

    Ugly as sin…..and even if you get it for a song…..almost no one will no what the hell it is!

  14. Ian Chorne

    It probably isn’t the best Rolls you can get for that money

    P.S Does the dog come with it?

  15. Ken Nelson

    Hey Trickie, that green hydraulic fluid was for the rear suspension leveling system, licensed from Citroen of course. Some folks think the Citroen hydraulics are complex, but from what I’ve heard, the Brits went bananas and complexified the leveling system way beyond what Citroen did. I got the impression that they built in triple redundancy or something as they were worried about leaks, and that just gave them more things to leak! And of course a Roller would never do that……….

  16. Trickie Dickie Member

    Hey Ken……thanks for the hydraulic fluid info. It just looked strange in a
    brand new Rolls to have two bottles of green oil sitting off to one side in a
    brand new $265,000 (1989,then) RR sedan boot. At 8500 miles ALL of the
    hydraulic window lifts failed in various down positions. We called the dealer
    and were told the car had to be returned for warranty work. The dealer being
    265 miles away. It fell on me to take that drive north from here, middle of a
    blazing summer at 100 plus degrees windows mostly down. A/C full blast doing
    little good. Perfect irony, eh what? I was tempted to write directly to the
    Queen.
    ps…….We DID ask the dealer to fly in “that mechanic” to fix our troubles but the response was a bemused chuckle and then silence.

  17. Ken Nelson

    Interesting TD – I didn’t know the Limeys had hydraulically powered the windows – thought only the MB 600 and some early Caddies did that! Funny thing is, my first side job after retirement 6 yrs ago was fixing the hemmoraging hydraulic windows on Jacques Littlefield’s ’65 Merc 600 swb limo (Jacques owned the world’s largest military vehicle collection and founded the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation, but passed away 5 yrs ago unfortunately). He’d bought the thing out of a Reno collection as it was owned originally by the Pres. of Guatemala and still had that country’s plate on it. Turns out his 3rd wife, Sandy, a Guatemalan trophy wife of sorts, used to ride in the car when she was a kid, so he bought it, but couldn’t close the windows for the 3 yrs he’d had it. The driver’s master control panel on the door leaked like a sieve, and couldn’t hold the windows open. Oh, the hyd. system also powered the: door latches, deckled lift and latch, chauffeur’s seat divider window, rear seat movement, and front vent duct doors for fresh air! I wanted to help Jacques with a Panhard-engined EBR reconnaissance vehicle (6 flat twins bolted end-to-end!), but when he heard I messed with the hydraulic Citroens, he put me on the Merc right away.
    Long story short, I fixed the system by resetting the pressure relief valve, which some so-called Merc. mechanic had boosted 1000 psi over spec, to 3700 psi – yikes! No wonder the seals blew. I shimmed it back to factory 2700 psi, replaced the blown Bosch hydraulic pressure storage accumulator (for which Bosch wanted $7K) with a Parker unit custom-pressurized for $350 and it even fit perfectly in the original’s mounts. Another $50 of standard nitrile Orings compatible with the factory green fluid (and any Dexron III equivalent) from a local hydraulics shop, and the plumbing was fixed.
    So forget having to send the Roller away to a dealer – just look up any longtime Citroen owner and I’ll bet he could fix it for a 10th the price. Hell, we’ve been fixing high-pressure hydraulic leaks since 1956 – it’s just plumbing, and not that complex. BTW, an expert on the 600 told me the 4 valve driver’s master window control, if bought from MB, retails for $13,000, a replacement engine-driven pump is $6000, but slightly modified Citroen parts could do the same job for peanuts.

  18. Bill McCoskey

    Back in the mid 1980s I was poking around in the back storage rooms of the largest seller of used Rolls-Royce & Bentley motorcars; “Frank Dale & stepsons”, in the west end of London, England. Over in a dim corner I found what has to be the oddest postwar Rolls-Royce ever made. Or should I say almost made.
    It was a 1970’s Rolls-Royce Phantom limousine chassis, with a 7 passenger full drophead (Convertible) body that appeared to be a long wheelbase limo version of the Camargue. I say “almost made” as it was not a finished car. According to one of the employees at Frank Dale’s, the person who commissioned the car’s creation ran out of money before completion. If memory serves me correctly, the costs had run well over $1 million and it wasn’t finished. I’m also thinking it might have been built by the coach building firm of Scaglietti. In any event, I’m unable to find anything about the car on the internet. Anyone who knows what happened to this car, let me know! (And yes, I do have pictures of it somewhere, so I know it’s not from a bad dream!)

  19. TVC15

    Love to see your photos Bill !

  20. Gregory Allen Stegall

    Funny, I had a 1979 Silver Shadow II for 7 years. Drove it regularly. Sold it with 37,000 miles, and honest to god I never had ANY problems! Was it luck, or do people like picking on anything British that is on 4 wheels?

    • Neil

      Apologies for the length of reply – this is a pet subject of mine!

      An interesting question! Rolls Royce were always built to a standard, not to a cost, but I have a suspicion that you had the means to maintain your car properly. A lot of people make the mistake of assuming that an originally expensive and quality vehicle = no maintenance, but if you follow that formula with a RR then it will eventually deposit all of its fluids on your driveway at some inopportune moment. By now, any Rolls with a full service history (a must) and a wallet full of bills will have had everything fettled and will run nicely, but it needs to be properly looked after otherwise you will just end up ‘using it up’, as it were.

      I don’t believe that British cars are inherently bad; quite the opposite. The engineering of most British-designed vehicles has generally been very good, but the execution of those designs has, in the past, left a lot to be desired:

      The E-type is a fantastic example of this – cheaper than anything in its class, beautifully designed and styled but full of cost-cutting components where the accountants thought they could save a shilling or two. Instead of properly crimped electrical connections, they substituted cheap Lucas plastic connectors which would eventually burn out somewhere deep inside the bowels of the car, leading to all sorts of problems. The same with the humble Triumph Stag. Most of them here in the UK have enormous after-market electric fans fitted to counter the tendency of overheating which plagued this model almost from day one. Thing is, if you dismantle them and then put them back together properly, instead of the rushed job some disgruntled, militant Brummie did back in the 70s, they work perfectly well in stock form.

      We had our own malaise-era in the UK through the 70s and 80s (the disaster that was British Leyland is well documented!) and I could write an essay on it but, inherently, there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the cars… just how they were built in an era of industrial discontent, inept management and a class system that was just starting to fragment. It’s as much a comment on socio-political history as it is on engineering!

      Looking back at Triumph we have the TR4, 5 and 6. After Leyland we have the TR7. Oh dear! Cheap, thin steel, cheap electrical components, shoddy construction – everything wrong with the British car industry of the time. The Toyota Corolla and the Datsun 120 had the same impact on the UK market as it did on the USA – they made everything domestic look dreadful – but it took a while for the industry here to react.

      In a strange, ironic twist, the UK is now one of the largest manufacturers of Japanese cars and our home-grown products, albeit under foreign management, are hugely in demand. Jaguar/Landrover, Aston Martin, Rolls Royce, BAC, Arial, Caterham (we’ll forget about Bristol!!) – these are all fantastic machines but the lack of quality those decades ago cost this country enormously in terms of marques, jobs and reputation.

      To put it into perspective, I have owned a 1976 Cadillac Coupe de Ville for nearly twenty years now and all it has needed in that time is a radiator re-core, a new propshaft and some minor rust repair to one of the skirts. It’s not a fantastic piece of engineering the way an E-type was, but it was put together properly and it shows.

      In answer to your original question (finally!), was it luck? Probably not. Bear in mind that in the UK during the 70s and even the 80s, the people who bought a Rolls would not have intended to drive them – they had ‘staff’. It didn’t matter that the crank seal was made out of rope normally used to seal ships’ propellors because ‘your man’ would sort out any problems with the dealer; you, as the owner, wouldn’t have seen what it took to keep it on the road. Yours didn’t break down because, unlike many second and third owners who bought them cheaply, you had the means and/or skill to look after it.

  21. Mark E

    I remember when these first came out I was with my friend one Saturday and we stopped at an import dealer to look at the used cars. There was a new Camargue on the showroom floor and I showed it to him. He could not believe it was a Rolls and insisted it looked like a Toyota Camry with a gland problem! ^_^

  22. Ren

    Well I am one of those who has bought an old cheapish Royce’s, could do with a respray but not noticeable as it is dark blue, My brother in law and myself dismantled the rear shocks and had them overhauled for £120 each, put them back on the car started it up and it bled it self, in to working order, that was some 4 years ago and no problems since, I have changed the spark plugs recently, and worked on the exhaust myself. we do have to change the seal on the clutch, so far I am trying to get away from non synthetic to semi to help supple it up.
    I have a Rolls mechanic friend who has suggested this to me.
    Of course it can go terribly wrong, I have stayed away from garages and so far OK,

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