Original RHD Project: 1970 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow

Old Rolls-Royces and Bentleys rarely enjoy a peaceful retirement if they fall into the wrong hands, meaning they usually aren’t long for the road if the latest owner lacks passion, cash, or in most cases, both. This is not necessarily the fault of its most recent caretaker – restoring one of these beasts is not for the faint-hearted – but it also means these once-grand specimens aren’t worth much when they fall down the slippery trail of disrepair. This 1970 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow is a European-spec model, with its right-hand drive steering arrangement a dead giveaway. While some once-cheap classics have begun to appreciate, tired Silver Shadows like this one can still be had quite cheaply. Find it here on craigslist for $5,500 in Houston.

While I’ve often thought of these cars as being extremely challenging projects that aren’t worth the time or expense they require to be brought back to life, there’s no denying their place in history as one of the more significant luxury cars of a generation. If you wanted to look like the picture of wealth and excess, you bought a Rolls-Royce. If you’re a Hollywood producer who wants to put the protagonist in a vehicle that is synonymous with luxury and prestige, you ensured there was a Silver Shadow on the set. It’s an iconic car, without a doubt. This one, with its right-hand drive steering arrangement, was likely sold new in the UK before making its voyage to the United States.

Now, I can understand bringing grey market cars into another country – in most cases. A performance model that was neutered at the hands of U.S. agencies is a perfect example, or really any vehicle with a sporting pedigree that lost a few steps when it came stateside. However, a model like this doesn’t make much sense to me, as even with a European-spec engine that likely makes a few extra horsepower, you’re not going to necessarily be blown away by the additional performance considering the car’s hefty curb weight. Plus, aside from the RHD steering, this Silver Shadow largely looks like the car sold new at domestic dealerships. That being said, if someone had a deep, personal connection with the car in its time overseas, I won’t judge how such feelings can influence decisions like these.

The seller doesn’t offer us much in the way of detail other than noting it remains 100% original and still runs – but it doesn’t drive. Or, perhaps, he is simply saying he wouldn’t recommend driving. The seller recounts that it needs all the typical deferred maintenance repairs, from brakes, to tires, to the air conditioning (really, that one should be the least of your concerns at the moment.) The leather presents well and the wood dash doesn’t look half bad either, so for a car that’s been sitting, the cosmetics are better than I’d expect. Still, given the mountain of labor required to bring it back to life, is even $5,500 too much?

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Comments

  1. Skorzeny

    I did some extensive work on one of these once. I would have zero desire to own one at ANY price.

    Like 7
  2. E63993

    In the early 80s, the gray market existed for two reasons: 1) as noted above, to obtain vehicles that were not otherwise available in the USA, and 2) the very strong dollar made it financially rewarding to buy an appealing cars in Europe (even if they were available here), bring them here, have them federalized and still be under the cost of a US spec car bought from an authorized US dealer. The downside was that the authorized US dealer would not service the cars (because they were often converted by fly-by-night opportunists, and to thwart the popularity of such gray market vehicles by making them difficult to maintain).

    Like 3
    • matt grant

      and no licensed dealer would take them in trade, nor service them. their resale was dismal and difficult, at best.

  3. PaulG

    It’s great for the mailman with taste!
    Or won the powerball…

    Like 9
    • JP

      You mean the $600 million dollar prize. Might cover the brakes and AC…

      Like 1
    • Bob Roller

      PaulG hit it dead center,an upgrade on a rural mail carrier’s car,
      I have a picture of a Duesenberg “j” made into a truck that was used to haul milk to a railroad station.A 110MPH milk delivery to keep the milk fresh {:>).

      Like 1
  4. P. Wentzell

    I had a 1968 RHD version, very much like this. The asking price is the going rate for these. Parts can be tricky, my ’68 was a year specific model. You must be very, VERY dedicated, and have deep pockets. As the saying goes: ‘The way to buy an expensive RR is to buy a cheap one.’

    Like 2
    • Bob Roller

      I was a machine shop supervisor for a local doctor who also manufactured optics for our military and his wife had a 1974 RR Corniche convertible.This car developed a power steering hose leak and a RR dealer said he didn’t have one and I suggested a local hose and hydraulic shop and they made one in an hour and I
      installed it,road tested the car and all was well.At that time my own daily driver was a 1968 Lincoln Continental and it ran better and handled better than that Corniche.

      Like 1
  5. cobrajetter

    There’s no such thing as a cheap Rolls Royce. At least not one you want to be able to drive.

    Like 5
  6. JP

    Put it up on blocks and turn it into an executive office/lunchroom. But first knock off $5000 from the asking price.

    Like 1
  7. Cobra Steve

    Having owned a couple of Shadows (1969 & 1976), I, too have no desire for another. Sure, they’re stately, elegant, and comfortable, but unless one is a diehard purist, it simply did not make sense to keep one in my collection.

    Perhaps I was spoiled by having Mercedes-Benz cars for so long, the older ones mind you–not today’s junk. Personally, I’ll keep driving my 380SE (126) and forego the exclusivity. Sure, it’s “common”, but so are the maintenance costs, and it doesn’t handle like a 1968 Cadillac.

    Like 1
    • John

      A 68 Cadillac is a Porsche compared to one of these. They are better compared to a very quiet 3/4 ton 1967 Chevy truck. That huge steering wheel is there to ensure proper leverage. Have you ever seen a RR with a small sport steering wheel?

  8. Michael Malcewicz

    A cheap luxury car is the most expensive car in the world.

  9. ChingaTrailer

    RHD isn’t European spec!! Europe uses LHD just like we do because we and they drive on the right side of the road!!

    Like 2
    • Bill McDonough

      RHD could be Australian specs as we drive on the left (correct) side of the road. Had many British cars over the years, but never a Roller – Thank God!!

      • Bill McCoskey

        There is a digit in the VIN that is either an H or an X. Home means it was made for the UK only, and X for export to the rest of the world. So it’s possible to have a RHD Silver Shadow from Australia, marked with the X.

      • Chuck Dickinson

        Curiously, per your comment, a very good Sydneysider friend of mine, who has driven extensively in North America, said that he actually finds driving LHD in a country which drives on the RIGHT (& correct!!) side of the road is more intuitive to him than the way he drives at home.

    • Lee Scotney

      UK spec 🇬🇧

    • Chuck Dickinson

      Yes, RHD is NOT European spec. It’s UK, Australia, NZ, Japan, India, etc., but in Europe only the British Isles drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.

      Like 1
      • Bill McCoskey

        Up until a few years ago, when the Chinese started making cars in large scale production, there were more RHD cars made each year than LHD cars. With China in the equation, the numbers are just barely tilted to favor LHD numbers.

        Like 1
      • Pierre

        Some drunk people also do, occasionally…

        Like 1
  10. Stan Marks

    $$$$$ pit….

    Like 1
  11. Bill McCoskey

    A note on USA imported gray market early Silver Shadow cars with RHD;

    There was a shop in the south London area of Bexleyheath, called Brooklands of Bexley, they specialized in selling older “less than stellar” Rolls-Royce & other cars, to gullible Americans and Canadians who flocked to England in the 1985 to 1989 period when the British Pound had lost half it’s value.

    I’ve dealt with several of these cars here in the States that were modified to get EPA and DOT approval certification. In 3 out of 4 of these cars, the supposed changes that were not easily checked, like the side intrusion supports inside the doors, simply were never done! I invited 2 of the car owners together with their certification papers, and to my surprise, the photographs [showing the internal door supports] that were submitted to the DOT were THE VERY SAME PHOTOS, and on close examination, the photos were not for either car!

    In this case, both cars were late ’60s and early ’70s Daimler DS420 limousines. But in also working on a couple of Shadows converted by this dealer, I’ve noted the same situation where the work not done, & other work not done correctly.

    It’s fairly easy to spot one of these cars from this specific shop, as the workers created rather crude brass plaques [hand cut with tinsnips] with the EPA and DOT hand-stamped information and VIN, the plaque affixed with 4 screws to the inside of the glove box lid. So if you see that plaque, beware!

    Like 1
  12. wardww

    Used LS swap, keep the patina and daily drive it.

    Like 2
    • Bill McCoskey

      wardww,

      I’m not going into great detail, but it’s damn near impossible to safely swap out a Rolls-Royce V8 engine with ANY other car company’s engine, without also changing the entire braking system, and on some cars the suspension & steering as well.

      Many have tried, I’ve yet to see one work.

      Like 2
      • wardww

        I hear you Bill but as an engineer myself, I just can’t imagine a problem like this that could not be overcome with good design and good execution. ;-) It is my core belief that anything is possible with car restos and retro re-engineering. You may not have seen a good one but I am sure they exist because there are some very smart people out there.

        Like 3
  13. Bill McCoskey

    wardww,

    I agree, but consider this;

    On the Rolls-Royce shadow V8 engine, two pumps driven off lobes on the camshaft, provide brake fluid at 2,500 PSI [yes, brake fluid at 2,500 PSI] to twin nitrogen charged spheres where the fluid is kept ready for use. If it’s in excellent working order, that fluid remains under pressure for several months. Pushing on the brake pedal activates the manual master cylinder, and once it begins pressurizing the backup manual hydraulic system, a toggle then begins opening 2 special needle valves, allowing the fluid to go out to 6 4-piston calipers, that have the power to stop the 3+ ton car from 100MPH without locking [and without ABS]. There is much more to the hydraulics, but what I describe is the biggest hurdle.

    Somehow you need to create that high pressure, high volume brake system, while still maintaining the manual backup system that provides the brake pedal feel. It’s an incredible set up when it’s working as it should, and a nightmare when it doesn’t.

    The big challenge for these guys is to find a 2,500 PSI pump THAT CAN HANDLE BRAKE FLUID. Many have tried using power steering pumps, but brake fluid quickly eats the pumps up, and the best ones only achieve about 900 PSI.

    I’ve had really talented custom car guys tell me they cannot find any available pumps that can deliver brake fluid at 2,500 PSI. [I’ve not wasted my time trying to find any either.]

    Like 3
    • Bob Roller

      There is always the bumper of the car in front of you for a brake.
      It was called a French brake.
      Having worked on a lot of high end Euroklunkers I am convinced my choice of Lincolns for the last 50 years was a wise one

      Like 1
  14. Steve Clinton

    A Rolls in Barnfinds? Now I’ve seen it all.

    Like 1
  15. Bill McCoskey

    Steve,

    There have been numerous Rolls-Royce [and Bentleys] here on Barn Finds, but almost all are Silver Shadow style, however there are a few Silver Spur style cars. Most of these cars in Barn Find listings are “non runners”, or have major mechanical issues, usually due to deferred maintenance. With these cars, every Dollar you defer, usually results in the need to spend $5 or more in repairs.

    On the subject of a quiet car, I don’t believe ANY vehicle ever made, is as quiet as a Rolls-Royce, especially when you compare them to other cars with similar mileage. While many cars are indeed very quiet when new, most lose that “quiet quality” beginning about 20,000 miles, and by about 100,000 miles they can’t even come close to how quiet a Rolls-Royce still is.

    Making a vehicle with noise levels matching a Rolls-Royce or Bentley is quite expensive. For example, the door glass on a Silver Shadow is thicker, and it has a higher level of lead in it, much like expensive Waterford crystal stemware. It reflects a higher percentage of sound, rather than allowing it to pass thru. The channel the glass rides in has a much better fit to the glass, reducing not only the ability of noise to go around the edge of the glass, but it helps in keeping the glass panel from acting like a loudspeaker’s cone, so it mimics the high quality glass used in a recording studio.

    A famous Ford ad from 1966, mentions the new Galaxy LTD was quieter than a Rolls-Royce, the ad focusing on the ticking of the clocks of both cars. It’s easy to make a mechanical clock quiet. Ford did it by using vinyl gears and bearings. However those clocks didn’t keep good time, and often failed after only a couple of years.

    Rolls-Royce Veglia or British Jaeger clocks generally stop working because [like almost all the 6v or 12v mechanical car clocks] it has a 12 volt winding system that uses a set of points, and if the car was allowed to sit for long periods, the points corroded due to lack of use. I have had Veglia and Jaeger clocks that were still keeping great time even after decades have passed, only requiring occasional servicing of the points. One reason is because they used genuine RUBY jewels as the pivot bearing points, much like a Rolex and other fine watches do.

    I am always quick to point out that the phrase “A car is a car”, where most cars are comparable in various categories, A Rolls-Royce is in a class with VERY few vehicles.

    I love to use the following comparison. If an automotive engineer is designing 2 parts that must be assembled, to contain lubricating oil inside, here is how various companies might tackle the challenge.

    Henry Ford would design the parts so one part has tabs to hold the other part in place, and use a single bolt with a gasket to secure them together.

    Chevrolet might use 2 bolts and a gasket.
    Chrysler might use 4 bolts and a gasket.
    Cadillac might use 8 bolts and a gasket.
    Packard might use 8 bolts and a gasket, with lock washers.
    Fred Duesenberg would use 12 bolts & washers, with a paper thin gasket.
    Rolls-Royce would use 32 fine thread bolts with washers, with tissue paper for a gasket, as the 2 pieces were so well machined that it would never leak. [Tissue paper being used because at a molecular level there could be slight oil seepage, and to limit corrosion between the metal parts!]

    Show this comparison to any person who regularly works on Rolls-Royces, and they will agree.

    Like 3
  16. Chinga-Trailer

    Re: Bill McCoskey – I do work on Bentley and Rolls-Royce regularly, but only from time span 1932 – 1965 and my observations of Rolls-Royce design philosophy is thus:

    1) Never use 2 or 3 bolts when you can use 12
    2) Never make something accessible when it can be hidden.
    3) Never use a standard fitting if something obscure and irreplaceable is possible.

    Like 1
  17. Bill McCoskey

    Chinga-Trailer,

    I’m not going to ask you why you work only on Cloud III cars and prior. I know the reasons well! For me, it got to the point where the only time I worked on Shadows and “T” cars, was if I bought one on the cheap, and was repairing it for resale.

    I had a 1985 Silver Spur Centennial edition [1 of 25 built for the 1885-1985 anniversary of the automobile]. One of my customers, who had a Cloud I that I worked on, was disappointed I wouldn’t work on his Spur as well. He said I worked on mine, why not on his? My reply was that my car kept reminding me why I should not work on more of them!

    And you just HAD to remind me about #2 and #3. I was just beginning to enjoy retirement, and NOT working on “Proper motorcars” anymore, having sold my last one a number of years ago. That said, I DO miss having a 6-cylinder Cloud to drive.

    • Stan Marks

      This conversation is way above MY pay grade. LOL!!!

  18. Bob Roller

    Way above my pay grade too.Back in the early 1950;s during my days in a garage working on English cars and Duesenbergs I was finishing a head rebuild on a Duesenberg when a local musician stopped in see what we were then working on.He had a Rolls Royce convertible coupe with an inline 6 cylinder engine.It was new in 1930.He watched me for a few minutes and asked what I was doing and I told him.He then said “I will never have to do that to my Rolls” and my reply was “That Rolls won’t run fast enough to wear out”.He was a bit vexed with that reply and left with no comments.The Duesenberg was SJ528,one of 3 built by Herman Brunn called Riviera Phaetons.

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