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Fully Depreciated: 1989 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit

Now here’s one you don’t see on Barn Finds every day? This car is doctor-owned and is described as 9.9 out of 10 for the interior and exterior of the car. You won’t find any scratches or dents on this one, because the owner has been kept it in meticulous condition. Here is a 1989 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit for sale here on Craiglist in Wake Forest, North Carolina, very near to where I live.

In 1984, my wife and I went to Palm Springs, California. I passed the Rolls-Royce dealer several times during our stay there. It was so tempting to stop and go into the dealer and peer at the cars and get a brochure. But I figured those salesmen would see right through me pulling up in my rented Toyota Corolla and seeing the way I was dressed. Have any of you ever seen the Mike and Molly episode where they test drive a Rolls-Royce?

The engine is a 6.75 liter V-8. This car is described as immaculate in every way, except one. There is an issue with the cooling system. It runs hot after 15 minutes of driving and pushes coolant out of the reservoir. There are no head gasket problems and no leaks, so the seller suspects the radiator is stopped up. I would think that not just any mechanic could work on a Rolls-Royce. There is now a Rolls-Royce dealer in Raleigh near where this car is being sold. With regular car repair hourly rates what they are, I can’t imagine what it would be at the Rolls-Royce dealer. I even got excited a couple of weeks ago when I rode near the dealer in Raleigh and got behind a Rolls-Royce. It made an otherwise uninteresting drive a little more interesting.

The only thing you won’t find original about this car is the radio. Look at that dash with the real wood inlay. Rolls-Royce is a quality hand-built car, and from 1980 to 1989 there were only 6,240 Silver Spirits built. Everything works properly.

The car has been driven 63,000 miles which equate to only about 2,100 miles a year. You can tell the driver’s seat bottom is showing a little wear but is holding up rather well. I’m sure that is some top quality leather on those seats. Even the sheepskin floor mats are first class. The car even comes with a car cover. The owner cleaned the car after each use over the years. If you can get past the potential repair bill for the cooling system, is this something you could be comfortable with? The price seems reasonable at $8,500 considering that this car originally sold for $130,000!


  1. exbenzo tech

    Head gasket problem or cracked head or block.
    Exhaust is going into the coolant and so the pressure is going up.
    But I am sure the seller knows that and that’s why the paperweight is for sale.
    29 day cars don’t need new engine , so this is another scam artist.
    Otherwise why not fix it.

    Like 17
    • grant

      WTH is a “29 day car?” I agree with you that it needs head/gasket repair at a minimum and the seller knows it but I don’t think I’d call him a straight scammer. There’s a real car there, and get over yourselves, guys! This is just an engine. Get a manual and dig in. Parts are going to be spendy, but honestly if the motor is toast; THIS is where the SBC swap is totally appropriate. Do it right and on your time and you might be driving a Rolls for less than the cost of a Camry.

      Like 18
      • Chuckie

        That’s a big car; I’m going to go with a BIG block Chevy – like an 8.1 Vortec with a Holley carb.

        Like 5
      • Dovi65

        SBC solves only part of the issue. Every other electrical & mechanical system requires constant attention. You might be able to tackle some of the maintenance with a Chiltons manual, but you can’t walk in to your local NAPA for a set of brakes. There’s good reason why many of the Rollers, & Bentleys from the 80s-90s are showing up on CL, and the secondary market, the repair costs can’t be justified. The folks that can afford the repairs don’t want the cars as they’re too old to be a status symbol

        Like 6
      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

        This ain’t like a normal engine swap. It’s VERY complicated and not for an inexperienced mechanic with access to a machine shop. I’ve owned many Rolls-Royces from 1932 to a Silver Spur, and the Spirit/Spur is a VERY complicated car mechanically.

        Like 2
      • grant

        Replying to Bill, if a shade tree greasemonkey in Florida can resurrect a burned Ferrari the kind of guy on here could revive this car.

        Like 0
  2. canadainmarkseh

    What a beautiful car and a bargain, the overheat issue would not scare me off. As a mechanic I’ve tackled much tougher problems then this. Someone is going to get a true classic on the cheep.

    Like 12
  3. Scott Tait

    Defective water pump / thermostat , then head maybe?

    Like 7
    • canadainmarkseh

      It does’t sound like head gasket to me based on the information. One of the first things I’d do is pull the dip stick and check the colour and texture of the oil if it looks like grey paint its more likely to be an intake gasket then a head gasket. The seller said there was no external leaks so after checking the oil I’d do a pressure test to see if that information is correct, then I’d change out the thermostat and do a proper cooling system flush using a actual flushing machine finally check the cooling fan system for correct operation. One other check would be to put your own temp gauge on it to get an accurate read on the running temp. I’d do all these things before I’d arbitrarily pull the heads. Some of the responses I’ve herd tells me that a lot of you guys don’t know how to hunt down the route cause of this problem and your quick to condemn differant components including the engine with out doing a thorough investigation. This engine is fairly simple if you compare it to what’s coming off the production line in 2018. 4,6,8, engines, variable valve timing, dis systems to name a few. My biggest concern is if the good doctor drove it to long while it was over heating which would cause the piston rings to collapse This is still repairable just more work.

      Like 23
      • grant

        What Mark said!

        Like 2
  4. Mountainwoodie

    Reminds me of a Checker Cab……long way from the classic Rolls of the mid sixties and earlier.

    Like 4
  5. Mark

    They should use a tool that sniffs exhaust gasses in coolant to verify a head/headgasket issue. Maintenance history unknown, it may be a t-stat recently installed backwards. Seen it before.

    Like 1
    • canadainmarkseh

      Coolant in the exhaust is obvious it usually goes hand in hand with a big white cloud coming out of the tail pipe like a boiling kettle. And that can still be an intake gasket leak.

      Like 1
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      Mark, it may well be a thermostat problem, but they cannot be installed incorrectly, Rolls-Royce designed them to fit in only one direction. It also can be a hose cavitation problem too, as the water pump is very powerful.

      Like 1
      • canadainmarkseh

        That’s true about the hoses that’s why some cars come with a big coil spring in the lower rad hose to keep it from collapsing. As for thermostats a lot of engines are designed so the stat will only fit in one way, thats just good engineering. I guess I just didn’t hit all the points thanks for the additional imput Bill.

        Like 0
  6. Drew V

    They are nice cars,I have looked at a cpl of lower priced ones like this before but shied away from them… A big farmer here bought a used Rolls back in the mid 90’s for his wife to show off in front of her friends, anyway the first time he took it to get the oil changed at the local quick lube they told him it would be over $200 when the regular price was $15.99… They told him that Nobody carried a filter to fit the car so they had to order one at a cost of $175.00 .. Needless to say, his wife didn’t get to show off for long…lol

    Like 2
  7. Kenneth Carney

    I agree with you Grant. A Chevy based
    engine swap would save this fine car
    from the crusher. Face it folks, aside
    from the Germans, no other country
    in Europe can build a decent, reliable
    car not even if their lives depended
    on it. Maybe that’s why many European
    car makers have bought licenses from
    American firms like Ford, GM, and
    Chrysler to build stable and reliable
    V-8 engines for their high end cars
    since the 1930’s. I myself installed a
    350 Chevy V-8 into a late ’50’s Jaguar
    sedan–not to make it a hot rod, but to
    make the car a reliable daily driver that
    wouldn’t break down every five minutes.
    After word got out about my Jag, other
    folks in my town that had cars like mine
    began doing the same thing. I saw two
    Bentleys and a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud
    that were running 454 Chevy rat motors
    and later 455 B.O.P. engines as well. The
    fastest British car I saw in town at that time was a ratty looking Ford Counsel
    ragtop owned by a friend of Dad’s.
    This poor guy really loved that car even
    after the original engine took one last crap and left him stranded. I got the job
    of putting a 271 horse 289 V-8 and 4-speed tranny into the car for him. Let
    me tell ya’ folks, that thing was fast!
    118.5 MPH in the standing 1/4 mile at
    Assumption Dragway in Assumption, Ill.
    Boy did I get my jollies watching him
    beat the crap out of a Camaro that went
    up against that little ragtop!! If this car
    were mine, it would get a 454 with the
    latest EFI system and an RV cam and
    no one would be the wiser. I can just
    see Mom and Sis toolin’ around in this
    car after the swap was done. My only
    problem would be that both of them
    have a lead foot!

    Like 5
    • Fiete T.

      Germans don’t build a reliable car these days. Haven’t for quite awhile-

      Like 5
      • Al

        I think they still build Leopard Tanks. They are just a little tough on the roads. Anyway, who is going to stop you from wrecking the roads.

        Like 4
      • Doc

        Porsche would beg to differ. BMW and Mercedes on the other hand…

        Like 0
      • Dick A Member

        I can sure put a second to this comment on MBZ German cars in particular. I have had two diesels, a 1982 300D and an 1987 300D. Just about everything possible went wrong with both cars. Both were bought new. Once the ’87 had just over 30,000 miles on it, things started to happen. I thought the ’87 would be better than the’82, but it was even worse. I then went for good reliable transportation and got my first Honda Accord. I am now on my fifth Honda Accord, having never spent a nickel on repairs on any of them, just usual good maintenance. Most of my family and many friends also drive Honda Accords. No, I don’t sell them, but I sure could.

        Like 1
    • James A. Mogey


      Like 0
    • Concinnity

      Many? Rover bought the rights to the Buick 215 alloy V8 and very slightly redesigned it for sand rather than die casting, later on developing larger capacity versions and…. that’s it.
      No-one else.
      The Rolls Royce V8 is a great big simple Rolls Royce designed American-like V8 made out of aluminum, it would be easier to fix it than go through all the complication of a swap. Rolls Royce, as one of the largest engine makers on the planet, do know a few things about designing big engines. P51 Mustangs still aren’t being re-engined and their Merlin V12s replaced with other motors -and that was Rolls Royce 80 years ago.
      These engines are very understressed, later versions, including the current version fitted to the Bentley Mulsanne are amongst the most powerful production V8s made, with over 500 bhp and nearly 800lb/ft of torque.
      More powerful and far torquier than any big block production V8 from the US.

      Like 4

    Well… not to sound like a negative Nellie, but nothing in recent memory, is more expensive than a bargain Rolls Royce.
    I agree with others, put a BBC in it, and you will have a really nice car. Do they still use Lucas electrics?

    Like 5
    • canadainmarkseh

      You want it to be expensive doing a bbc conversion will do it for you.

      Like 2
  9. Phinias

    Having taken a lengthy ride in a RR of similar vintage, all I can say is…meh. They are heart-stoplingly expensive to maintain. Even if a regular mechanic can work on them, the parts are stupid expensive. The ride is good, but not as good as a modern car. The looks are…meh. This era is lacking in the distinctive style of older and newer ones. I’d never spring for one of these luxury cows, but then, maybe I’m missing the point.

    Like 7
  10. Al

    Bill (Bill Owens)
    Why don’t you just go in to a Roller dealership. The sales people don’t walk on water, they are just as human as you are.
    I’ve seen people dressed to the sevens maybe 8’s, who go into a Mercedes dealer, I guess to impress someone. I think they are trying to impress themselves. They spent their time ooooing and ogling, but they don’t buy anything.
    I wear shorts, short-sleeved shirts and runners almost every day, and a Roller dealership is happy to see me, I didn’t buy anything, but I found the Ghost is the size of a compact. No room in the front and no room in the back either, at least for me. They didn’t let me get into the Phantom, but that was owned by someone, so it was understandable. So I got stuck with a Wraith. Didn’t buy it though as it is too close to the ground and too difficult to get out of, but it was really enjoyable to drive.
    I’ve tried a Maserati, Mclaren, Aston Martin and I’ve even tried a Maybach still wearing s/s shirt, shorts and runners, except for the Maybach, the rest were really small inside, a Smart has considerably more room than the first 3.
    So, I suggest Bill just go into a Roller shop and forget about other peoples perceived dress code, just wear what you are usually comfortable with. If you can’t afford the car, who cares, just try what they are selling.

    Like 11
    • Al

      Don’t try the s/s shirt, shorts & runners at Ford, GM or Chrysler, they ignore you.
      So I figure they have nothing to sell or want to sell.
      I just don’t waste my time on those guys anymore, and therefore won’t buy anything from them.

      Like 4
  11. Dovi65

    Beautiful car. A real head turner, but a real heart-breaker.

    Unless the new owner has a physician/lawyer income, this car will bankrupt you in short order with it’s constant need for attention.The reason the current owner is selling is simply that it’s not cost effective to rebuild the engine. An engine swap will solve that, but the rest of the mech, & electric systems will pay for your mech’s kids thru med school

    Like 2
  12. StuB

    For those offhandedly suggesting a “simple” engine swap there is far more to it than putting something in there to drive the rear wheels. The high pressure braking/ride leveling system relies on hydraulic pumps and pressure accumulators that are an integral part of the engine. Even if it needed head gaskets it would be far more cost effective to repair it as designed than to try and retrofit/create an alternative braking and suspension system. Not saying it can’t be done but it would present major challenges not considered by most who aren’t familiar with these cars.

    Like 4
  13. Kevin Harper

    Head gasket for one of these is 75 bucks. I can find a good used head for 5 to 600.
    Some parts are expensive such as factory intake and exhaust valve at around 50 bucks each. But I could find aftermarket valves in the 15 dollar range. Engine wise while not cheap parts are not outrageous and it would be less expensive to fix than try some type of engine change. Being a good mechanic and good parts searcher on the net helps

    Like 5
  14. Nessy

    You know there is something really wrong with the car at this price and looking that good. The cars have gone down in value but it’s still hard to buy a totally perfect low mile example of a Spirit or Spur in the 8k range. This white example of the classy looking longer wheelbase Silver Spur with low miles is also online at 8k. Says the power steering has a leak, so assume it needs a rack rebuild but looks, runs and drives excellent. I think I would put 8k on the white long wheelbase example over this one.

    Like 7
    • canadainmarkseh

      Or it needs a hose changed which is way more likely. If the rack is bad it will affect it ability to provide power assist.

      Like 7
  15. Nessy

    Same guy with the white Spur had this sharp red Bentley listed also at 8k. Looks like it sold fast. Looks outstanding. Lot of flash for 8k.

    Like 7
  16. Maestro1

    I agree with Canadian Mark. You are buying a lot of car for very little money. And it will add some style to your life. Follow Mark’s instructions on repairs or give it to a Rolls dealer, let them do it for you, and anything else it needs (not tires; go independent for that) and assume $4000.00 in repairs. Offer $6000.00 for the car, you are in it $10,000.00 when it’s finished and stunning. If repairs are more than $4000.00 reconsider.

    Like 0
  17. ICEMAN from Winnipeg

    With regard to your Palms Springs 1984 story, no salesman should ever pre judge a potential customer. Here is another story. Way back in 1972, Boston Bruins star Derek Sanderson signed a huge multimillion dollar contract with the upstart World Hockey Association Philadelphia Blazers. Mr Sanderson walked into a Philly Rolls dealership and the asked to test drive a Rolls. Rememeber, this was 1972. Sanderson was dressed in jeans and jean jacket, and had the hippie hair of the era. The snooty Brit accented sales rep told him to leave. Irate, Mr Sanderson demanded to speak to the dealer manager, and told the manager (neither the manager nor the salesman were sports/hockey fans so they had no idea who Mr Sanderson was) that he was going to go across the street to his bank to get a bank draft to buy the most expensive Rolls in the store, under the condition that the snooty sales rep NOT get paid any commission. Never pre judge.

    Like 3
  18. Bob

    Years ago Ronnie Hawkins, dressed in his jeans, denum shirt, cowboy hat and boots, walked into the Rolls Royce dealer in Toronto Ontario and couldn’t get the time of day from anyone. When enquiring about a car in the showroom it was “suggested” it was beyond his means and asked to leave. Hawkins asked how much as he was leaving the showroom. After leaving he went to his bank and returned shortly after placing the brown paper bag on the hood of the Rolls stating I’ll take this one. To the surprise of the RR salesman the bag contained cash for the purchase of the car. Needless to say, he was treated with much more respect. Google Ronnie Hawkins (Country & Rock & Roll singer)

    Like 2
    • Peter

      Imagine my surprise one night early in the morning when a Roller stopped and picked me up hitchhiking. It was Rompin Ronnie riding comfortably in the back. I will never forget that. He lived not far from where my family lived and had clubs in Toronto.

      Like 2
      • glen

        Peterborough area isn’t it? You gotta love the “Hawk”.

        Like 0
      • Peter

        Hey Glen Mississauga actually

        Like 1
  19. John

    Actually, these can be very reliable if properly maintained. Many owners are just not car people. Accordingly, while the cars are usually kept spotless and beautiful, they may only get their mechanical needs attended to when they misbehave. All too often, that’s too late to avoid extensive repairs.

    To my mind, these cars drive very much like an older pickup truck. They are just not “fun” to drive. They can be quick, but their steering is heavy and ponderous. I have never seen or heard a discussion of how many “Gs” one of these can pull on a skidpad. Many of the tactile controls feel almost industrial. they work perfectly, but without passion. The steering wheel seems to be about the same size as the one on the Titanic. And they burn a lot of gas.

    They remind that I have always preferred the spunky cheerleader in jeans and a t-shirt over the beautiful but icy blonde in designer clothes. YMMV. The Rolls is cool, but I’d rather have an MGB.

    Like 2
  20. Gay Car Nut

    Lovely looking Rolls-Royce. IMHO, this has always been my favourite year for the Rolls-Royce/Bently cars.

    Like 1
  21. Fhuket

    A friend here in New Zealand fixed his one many years ago and fitted a strong 460 4V Big Block Ford into it.
    Still looks stately with the white walls and kept in immaculate condition.
    Have quite often seen it cruising the seedy red light areas in the early hours full of cheap hookers and shredding the tyres effortlessly.

    Like 2
  22. Metoo

    My odd RR story. Back in the 90’s i lived in Sitka AK. The local computer store owner had flown over and done some work for a Saudi prince. They became friends. When he left the Prince gave him a RR he had just had gone over. New paint, engine rebuilt, etc., etc. The computer nerd just had to pay for it to be shipped to Sitka, which he did. He then had one of only 4 or 5 RR’s in Alaska at that time. He would take it out on the rare sunny, rain free day and drive it around.

    It is important to note that Sitka is on a island (Baronoff Island) and has only 9 miles of road to drive on. And there are, on average, only around a dozen bright, sunny, rain free days a year. LOL.

    Like 2
  23. Dik S

    Hi, I am not a Rolls Royce knower. But I had a Land Rover v8 in the past that I bought with similar problem and I also thought it would be headgasket or something like that. The local garage should solve the problem for me. But they could not after the first time of removing the heads. Then I started to look what the possibilities could be. There is sometimes a problem with these blocks, one of the liners tears. So after a while, when the block heats up, the tear will open a little and the gasses blow in the coolant, although the engine does not overheat at that moment.
    The description here reminds me of that issue and when it is true, the engine needs a really expensive rebuild, as the possibility is there that the block is outlined.
    Good luck to all of you. Dik S. from the Netherlands

    Like 2
  24. Mark

    Something fishy Can’t contact seller

    Like 0
  25. #69pacecar

    A story from England of a guy walking into a RR dealer in London and was looking around the cars when one of the salesman told him to leave as he couldn’t afford one of them. He was dressed in torn jeans and t-shirt with long hair and a beard. After several minutes the salesman was going to call police if he didn’t go. The guy turned to the salesman and told him to leave as he now fired, I am the owner of this place. Goes back to the old saying don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

    Like 1
  26. Dave Wright

    All this whining about cost is annoying………these cars were never intended to be owned by anyone or everyone. If you have a Chevy budget, don’t whine that you can’t afford a Rolls. The advantage of purchasing something like this is to have a little better entry fee allowing you to take it to a trusted mechanic to repair. Then you know exactly what you have eliminating the nagging insecurity of what you own. This is a cosmetically attractive car needing some mechanical work. Obviously the owner is trying to get more money than Tony Handler will pay for it……more power to him………anything made by man (and some things not) can be repaired. The trick is to discover the best and most economical way to do it. Worst case, see what Tony wants for a good used engine, best case do the top end if that is all it needs.

    Like 1
  27. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member


    Well said.

    Like 1
  28. Gay Car Nut

    Although I’ll probably never be able to drive a Rolls-Royce or even a Bentley, never mind buy one, I’ve always loved the style of the 1987-90 Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars. I love the rectangular taillamps, the headlamps.

    Like 0
  29. Jim Z Member

    Ahhh, yes. Listening to the whiners and the SBC/BBC lumpers…and just giving a big Sigh. (Have owned a lot of Jag XJS’s with the V12 than many ignorant owners will lump for a V8 rather than realizing what a gem the V12 is.)
    I for one would love to own this, and betting that if it has an alum block it probably has the ‘Northstar’ problem, ie, head bolts loosening allowing compression into the coolant. Had a ’98 Caddy Limo with exact same symptoms that ran perfectly but lost coolant at highway speed. Did the head-bolt repair, problem fixed. IMHO, swapping out the original motor creates more problems, and degrades the value of the vehicle.

    Like 1
    • John

      It would seem to me that for a true “car guy” there would be more satisfaction gained from returning this wonderful car to its design spec than would ever come from simply making it another SBC powered 4-door sedan. Its kinda like imagining Audrey Hepburn with puffed out lips, Size D implants, and a tattoo on her arm. There really are some things that are best left exactly as their creator intended for them to be.

      Like 3

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