On The Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow…

rolls-royce-silver-shadow-alireza-behpourRestrained classic.

By Gunnar Heinrich | IMG Alireza Behpour

E’ER since I spied a brown Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow (Series I) with black everflex roof this morning, my mind has been transfixed. I’m almost smitten – what a beautiful Rolls!

The Iranian coupe example you see above – shot by the talented Alireza Behpour – is a close facsimile to the superbly maintained example I found today. This particular car was parked – or “positioned” – discretely next to a new Honda Accord. Still discretion couldn’t disguise its unique form from these eagles eyes…

The elegant, if ultra-conservative Silver Shadow is understated in the sense that it’s proportions are restrained; unlike a Silver Cloud’s billowing fenders, the old Shadow is actually “small” for a post-war Rolls-Royce due largely to the constraints Crewe faced with the then-new monocoque chassis.

Where the old Royce is conspicuous is in its tall Greek temple grille and the large Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament. Both set the old Rolls apart from everything else in a parking lot and manage to carve an imperial path upon any avenue.

What grace.

May 14, 2009

About the Author: Gunnar Heinrich is publisher of Automobiles De Luxe online and is executive producer of the Automobiles De Luxe Television series on PBS member station CPTV.

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Filed Under: ROLLS-ROYCE


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  1. Gunnar,

    First off, the photograph is awesome! What justice it does this elegant automobile.
    The first R-R I ever drove was a Silver Wraith, which is a LWB Shadow. I fell in love. The Shadows lines are more restrained than the earlier designs, and this results in the quintessence of understated elegance. The design is timeless.
    If you’re considering acquiring this PMC, talk to some Shadow experts on the RROC forums. If you’re not an RROC member, consider becoming one. In the meantime, I would be more than happy to post your questions on the forum.
    Wonderful posting, by the way. Thoroughly enjoy the site.


  2. What struck me the first time I slipped behind the wheel of a SS was how narrow the interior felt and how close to the dash the driver sat. Knee and leg room wasn’t an issue with the upright seating position, nor head room. It was so different from other luxury cars of similar vintage that I’d driven.

    Alas, that particular vehicle, while for sale, was a potential money pit, so I passed.

  3. Thank you for your kind compliments, Brad. And you’re right, that Iranian photog is truly talented, though, if you’ll visit his flickr account you also notice he has a predilection for taking pictures of roadkill. It’s a funny world…

    I may take you up on the offer to post Q’s…

    Jim, interesting you should mention, narrow dashes – the Silver Cloud had a narrow dash as well. Though, the difference was the Silver Shadow had this leather wrapped arc as opposed to something that looked like one solid piece of tree.

    Also, the Silver Cloud had a narrow feel upfront and capacious cabin in back.

    I’ve also heard that the Shadows are expensively temperamental cars.

  4. “I’ve also heard that the Shadows are expensively temperamental cars.”

    This is my understanding also, but it should be noted that relative to today’s economy cars, a 60’s-70’s Rolls is uncomplicated and not beyond the skill and tools available to most do-it-yourselfers. Most of the electrics can be diagnosed with a simple test lamp and the rest with a multi meter. The engines are carburated and simple in design. Many of the sub systems were sourced from GM.

  5. Gunner:

    The Shadowe has the unfortunate positoion of following in the footstrps of the Cloud Series, the last of the grat coachbuilt Rolls-Royce, and to many, the “Last Real Rolls-Royce”

    A thoroughly modern design in 1967, it has finally begun to get its due. They are truly over-engineered, and have stood the test of time well.

    As for service, thay can be very expensive to fix, but with careful maintneance are relatively trouble free and loing-lived. They seem to have gotten a bad rap because so many were bought by 2nd and 3rd owners who loved the idea of owning a Rolls-Royce, but were financially unprepared forthe commitment such an automobile requires. Hence many are now moldering in gargaes for want of a serious repair. The braking and hydraulic systems are truly amazing but frightfully expensive to repair.

    These are great cars, and really embody the Rolls-Royce spirit. IF you can find a low ,ieage example with full maintenance records and complete ownership history, they can be a rewarding experience. On the other side, a “cheap” Rolls-Royce will be a fiancial nightmare.

  6. Ah, Zarba, another country heard from!

    I like the verb “moldering” it works well in so many cases :) Yes, I’m going to have experience a Shadow first hand…

  7. Gunnar,

    I so enjoyed reading your article on the Silver Shadow. You’re quite right – it is a wonderfully elegant and restrained design. I can’t think of an angle from which it does not look absolutely impeccable. To my eyes, it’s the embodiment of a perfect design – to add or to take away anything from it would be to step away from harmony.

    It is certainly the case that Shadows can be expensive to maintain, particularly so here in England (a brake system overhaul can cost as much as £4000). However, if maintained correctly the Shadow is an inherently robust and reliable car. I look forward to the day when I can afford to own one!

    Thank you for the article.


  8. Thank you, John. But I must ask: since RR did add and tweak the Silver Shadow over time, which in your opinion worked best? Series 1, 2, Wraith or Bentley T’s?

  9. What a corker of a question – I do hope you don’t mind an extremely long-winded answer!

    I suppose the fact that the Silver Wraith looked as well balanced as the regular wheelbase Shadow showed the success of the original design. This notwithstanding, however, I still reckon the shorter rear doors of the ordinary wheelbase Shadow look just the tiniest bit better proportioned.

    While the Bentley has less of a ‘flash geezer’ reputation (possibly since there were so few built), I prefer the shape of the Shadow’s grille over the Bentley, which was the only actual difference in design between the two. That the Bentley cost about £60 less than the Royce, purely down the difference in the cost of grille manufacture, would no longer be an issue on the second-hand market!

    The early Shadows had very elegant slender chrome bumpers, which I think looked rather nicer than the series two rubber/chrome efforts. I think the North American market recieved these energy absobing bumpers much earlier, about 1973 rather than 1977 when the series two was introduced. Interestingly, when the series two appeared, the North American models were built with no front air dam under the bumper – something to do with their being pinged off on steep driveways, apparently.

    The series two models, however, drove much nicer: rack and pinion steering (not that I suppose a Royce driver would ever consider putting this to the test!) and revised suspension to reduce cornering roll, with no compromise on ride quality.

    While the dashboard on the early Shadows was more traditionally ‘woody’, I prefer the series two dash, as to me it is more pleasing to the eye. The series two also enjoys many technical advances over its predecessor, such as cruise control and bi-level AC.

    I suppose the perfect Shadow to me would be a series two in a dark metallic colour, such as Seychelles Blue, to show off that chrome to best effect. If it had an everflex roof, a cream leather interior and those Corniche style hub caps pictured above it would, of course, be even better!

    Once again, apologies for the long reply but, as you can probably tell, the Silver Shadow is one of my favourite cars.

    Kind Regards,

  10. John! Those are the kind of comments we love!

    There’s no doubt that the Silver Shadow II is the better buy. But, to have all the updated with Series I’s chrome bumpers would be the best of both worlds – even if it would upset the keep-it-original set.

    I think the Silver Wraiths look a bit out of proportion to the SWB in my opinion. And I do like the Bentley T-Series, too :)

  11. Gunnar,

    You’re probably right in that to change the bumpers would rouse the purists to a teeth-knashing crankiness, but a car is for enjoying, after all, and one could always put the original bumpers back again when it becomes time to sell the car. A series two with chrome bumpers would be very tempting, I admit!

    Kind Regards,

  12. Hi Guys. you talk about the Shadow as if she were a buyers nightmare. what you have to remember is that the oldest is aprox 45 years old and the youngest in her mid 20s. Compare that to the more modern car which are lucky to survice 10 years.

    my Shadow is 42 this year and she still smells of leather and arives graciously at her destination.i paid £7500.00 for her five years ago, she has passed each MOT since (£240.00 toatl spend)and i chose to spend £2000.00 on cosmetic touches. for £10,240 i have the car of my childhood dreams, a piece of history and an amazing drive.

    the only proble i have with her is people wanting to look at her. unintentionally when people peer through her windows their hand bags, belt buckles and jeans studs mark her paint work, the finger prints on the windows, radiator grill soon polish off. she always causes a stir.

    she is ivory roof over burgundy coach work and with a full chrome kit she looks fantastic.

    at 42 years old and 65000 miles on the clock i wonder what her carbon foot print is in real terms. i think a lot less than my £35000 BMW now on its last legs.

    if you want one buy one, enjoy her and look after her and she will reward you. dont be afraid of the name, you can always find a good mechanic to work on her because she was built to be worked on. not like modern cars.

    regards Henry
    (not a wealthy guy but a contented on)

  13. i love this classic

  14. this is very expencive in iran.

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