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This guide features six magnificent examples of the Rolls-Royce marque from the Silver Ghost of 1907 through to the Silver Spirit of 1980. Arguably the most famous of all British car manufacturers, Rolls-Royce Limited was founded in 1906 by two remarkable individuals: Charles Rolls and Henry Royce. Their early masterpiece, the Silver Ghost set a precedent for fine quality automobiles and popularised their famous slogan "The Best Car In The World".
Silver Ghost 1907-1926
Strictly speaking, there was only one Silver Ghost, the car built up on the 13th chassis, with a silver-painted touring body and sliver-plated fittings and given that name by the company in 1907. Its standard title is the 40/50HP, which denotes the engine type and power rating, however the Silver Ghost nickname refused to die. It was with this car that Rolls Royce's reputation of building "The Best Car In The World" was founded. Built between 1907 and 1925 in England and between 1921 and 1926 in the USA, the 40/50HP was continually improved during its lifetime before its replacement by the new Phantom I model in 1925.
Silver Wraith 1947-1959
The custom-bodied Rolls-Royce series of the post-war years, the Silver Wraith continued a famous name from the 1930s. Rolls Royce built the chassis, which was essentially a stretched-wheelbase version (127 or 133 inches) of the Silver Dawn/Bentley Mark VI platform, with the same suspension design and drive-trains. Bodywork was supplied by traditional R-R specialists - Park Ward, HJ Mulliner, Hooper and others, most with wood framing and light-alloy or steel panels. Many Silver Wraiths had classic lines, with freestanding headlamps, separate front wings, divisions between passengers and chauffeur and the characteristic Rolls Royce Parthenon grille.
Silver Cloud III 1955-1965
Introduced in 1962 as a replacement for the Silver Cloud II, the Silver Cloud III featured a distinctive new front-end style with four paired headlamps and a more powerful engine, although following Rolls-Royce tradition this extra power was not disclosed. In 1965, the Silver Cloud III was still mounted on a separate chassis with drum brakes and a live rear axle and although arguably still "The Best Car In The World", at the time the model was beginning to fall behind the rising standards of chassis refinement. A total of 2,044 "Standard Steel" Silver Cloud IIIs were produced before the arrival in late 1965 of the monocoque Silver Shadow series.
Silver Cloud DHC 1959-1965
In addition to the Standard Steel models a number of elegant coach-built body styles were produced for the Silver Cloud chassis. The design had originally started life in 1959 and was built in both saloon and drop-head forms, usually also being seen on the equivalent Bentley chassis. In 1962, the twin headlamps were angled and the much cleaner lines, with the first truly straight-through body, signalled that styling had moved into the present day. Late in 1965 the new Rolls-Royce, The Silver Shadow made its debut featuring monocoque construction, common enough elsewhere but signalling the end of traditional coach-built bodies and the variation of style that had been a feature of the marque since the early days.
Silver Shadow 1965-1980
Introduced in 1965 as a replacement for the Silver Cloud, the Silver Shadow broke new ground for Rolls-Royce in that it was the first monocoque model to be marketed by the company. The 1965 Silver Shadow was packed with new features, which included self-levelling all-independent suspension, disc brakes all-round and the use of standard automatic transmission. Standard or lengthened versions of the Silver Shadow were offered in addition to a coach-built derivative, the Corniche. The Silver Shadow II of 1978 had rack-and-pinion steering, a new air-conditioning system and minor styling changes. When replaced in 1980 by the Silver Spirit, a total of 30,059 saloons had been produced of which 16,717 were Silver Shadow Is.
Silver Spirit 1980
Rolls-Royce finally retired the Silver Shadow range in 1980 after a distinguished fifteen-year career, replacing it with a slightly larger, heavier and more rounded car in the form of the Silver Spirit. Based on a modified floor-pan, chassis and running gear, the new styling was even smoother than before, but still dignified and distinctly Rolls-Royce, and was built to very high standards. A longer-wheelbase variant of the car with four extra inches, arranged to give more rear leg-room was also available. Known as the Silver Spur, it was available from the start of production in 1980-1981. For 1987 these models received a more powerful, yet economical fuel-injected engine together with ABS braking which increased sales and enhanced driver appeal.