Since its inception, Rolls Royce has built up an enviable reputation for manufacturing some of the world’s finest luxury automobiles. With the introduction of the Silver Spirit in 1980, the company continued this long tradition, moving tentatively into the modern motoring era. Motive power was still provided by the long-lived 6.75 Litre V8, modernised over the years with fuel injection and turbocharging, ensuring that the power levels remained at ‘sufficient’ levels for the demanding clientele.
The Silver Spirit had the longest production run of any Rolls-Royce model in the company’s history, spanning 18 years. Bentley also based its Mulsanne models on this same basic design, which were produced alongside the Rolls-Royce models until 1992. It’s interesting to note that demand for the Rolls-Royce models waned throughout the production run, while demand for the Bentley grew as customers’ tastes changed heading into the new millennium.
Nevertheless, the smooth and cultured Silver Spirit remains a true Rolls-Royce to this day, exhibiting the sort of effortless luxury that is expected of the marque.
Which one to buy?
The Silver Spirit was an extremely expensive car at launch, and was built to the highest standards. Top quality materials were used throughout and the slow and steady rate of development within Rolls-Royce was evident in the extremely restrained design.
To keep the Silver Spirit current, a number of changes were carried out during its long 18-year production run. The Mark II versions introduced in 1989 brought with them some welcome advances, such as ABS braking, fuel injection and an Automatic Ride Control system, as well as a four-speed gearbox from 1992 onwards.
In 1993 the Mark III brought with it twin airbags, more power and improvements to the suspension system. The Final Mark IV version was subtly redesigned to keep with the changing times, although in a very subdued Rolls-Royce fashion. Not referred to as the Mark IV in eastern countries due to negative connotations it was known as the New Silver Spirit.
The long-wheelbase Silver Spur version could be ordered throughout the production run. A number of limited edition models were also produced in very small numbers such as the Springfield and Lauderdale editions, which used the long wheelbase chassis.
The Mark I was by far the biggest seller, making it the cheapest option today, however if you can stretch to one of the newer cars, it’s worth it for the updates in suspension design and engine improvements. Condition is everything, as this is not the sort of car you want to rebuild or restore without a lot of background knowledge or excess funds burning a hole in your pocket. It’s almost always far more advisable to buy a well-sorted car that just needs regular maintenance to keep it that way.
Performance and specs
1980 Silver Spirit Mark I
Engine 6750cc 16valve OHV V8
Power 245bhp (est)
Torque 398lb ft (est)
Top speed 118 mph
0-60mph 10.6 seconds
Fuel consumption 16mpg
Gearbox Three-speed automatic
Dimensions and weight
• Parts are available from specialists as well as the manufacturer, but can be costly. The cars may be at the lower end of the price scale but the maintenance costs are often astronomical.
• Rust is a common issue and can strike anywhere. Check all the usual areas such as the wheel arches and sills and look out for interior leaks as they can cause corrosion over time. Body panel repairs on these cars can get expensive and respraying should be left to specialists.
• The 6.75 V8 is strong and reliable, benefitting from decades of development work. Turbocharged cars can suffer from head gasket failure, repairs can range from gasket replacements to full engine rebuilds. Water leakage around the gasket or head bolts can indicate issues. Warming up engines before using all the available power can reduce damage to the head gasket and is generally the recommended way to treat any engine.
• Some Silver Spirits will have lead very pampered lives but long periods sitting dormant can still cause rubber seals to perish.
• Batteries tend to lead a hard life and should be checked periodically as they only last around 4-5 years.
• Electrics can give some issues and all the buttons and switches son the dashboard should be checked. Electric window mechanisms can wear out causing very slow movement of the glass.
• Central door locking solenoids tend to give problems so check that all of the doors locks function correctly.
• Electric seat mechanisms can pack up and require replacement or refurbished motors.
1980: Rolls Royce Silver Spirit Mark I introduced. Long wheelbase version named Silver Spur
1989: Silver Spirit Mark II introduced. Automatic ride control system introduced with ABS and fuel injection now standard
1992: Four-speed automatic transmission replaces three speed GM unit
1993: Silver Spirit Mark III introduced. Power increased to a more ‘adequate’ level, suspension system improved and twin airbags introduced
1994: Flying Spur introduced – turbocharged version based on long wheelbase Silver Spur III. Silver Dawn special edition offered with unique optional extras
1995: Silver Spirit Mark IV introduced – named New Silver Spirit. Electrically adjustable steering column introduced
1997: Silver Spirit ends production run with 9614 units produced. All cars now based on longer wheelbase chassis. Silver Spur now available with the turbocharged 6.75 Litre engine as in Bentley Brooklands
1999: Production of Rolls Royce Silver Spur ends as well as all related Bentley models. 31,602 variants produced in total.
Clubs and websites
• www.flyingspares.com - Flying Spares, specialist spares and parts supplier
• www.hillierhill.com - Hillier Hill, Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialist
• www.midlandrrclub.co.uk - Midland Rolls-Royce Owners Club
• www.rrec.co.uk - Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club and forum
Summary and prices
£6000 is the entry fee for a relatively well maintained Mark I, but you shouldn’t be fooled by the low prices, as maintenance remains at Rolls-Royce levels. Poorly looked after cars can deteriorate quickly, and will cost thousands to put right. Values are still strong for low mileage Mark III and IV models with prices around £20,000 for good ones.
Whichever version you choose, the inherent Rolls-Royce traits will be there. Find a well cared for example and it should provide you with years of upmarket motoring pleasure.
Words: John Tallodi