The Spirit of Economical Ecstasy

Now Is the Time to Buy a Vintage Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow


March 26, 2019 Cars By Photo by RM Sotheby's

A Rolls-Royce is fabulous wealth, automotified. The materials are luxe. The craftsmanship is exquisite. The very ethos of the brand is unattainability. What if I told you a Roller was, in fact, very attainable? The Silver Shadow is one of Rolls-Royce’s defining vehicles. It’s a pure distillation of everything that has made Rolls-Royce great. Buying one has become almost stupidly reasonable compared to much of the luxury car market.

Rolls-Royce produced the Silver Shadow from 1965 to 1980 in sedan, coupe, and convertible forms. It represented a shift from coach building to modern car production and was the first Rolls-Royce to use a unified body/chassis construction. This allowed Rolls-Royce to reduce the size and shed bulk while offering more passenger and cargo volume. It had a Citroën-sourced hydropneumatic, self-leveling suspension delivering impeccable ride quality.

Aesthetically, the Silver Shadow is a classic Rolls-Royce with lacquered wood on the dash, sumptuous leather seats, and the Spirit of Ecstasy above the grill. But it’s refined. It strikes the right balance of being opulent without being gaudy. Unlike some of Rolls-Royce’s present range, you don’t need to be addressed as “Crown Prince” or “Kardashian” to pull off owning one.

Is the Silver Shadow cool? Yes. Steve McQueen drove one in The Thomas Crown Affair. While that famed arbiter of car coolness never owned a Silver Shadow, both Freddie Mercury and Andy Warhol bought 1974 Silver Shadows. Tellingly, neither ever sold theirs.

You can find a Silver Shadow for super cheap. Still running, auctionable examples can go for less than $15,000. You can find Silver Shadows for even less. Even a barely broken-in, sub-10,000 mile version can gavel for less than $30,000. The price isn’t a knock on the car’s quality. It’s a testament to it. Rolls-Royce ended up making more than 30,000 Silver Shadows because demand was so high.

A Silver Shadow will need some TLC. Vintage luxury parts don’t come cheaply. You will be dealing with 40-50-year-old British electrical work. But, it’s also getting a vintage car with stateliness and elegance for much less than, say, an SL Pagoda Mercedes would set you back. A Rolls-Royce stored in a wealthy person’s garage has probably taken much less of a beating than say a manual transmission BMW M5 will have.

With that TLC, a Silver Shadow can still be quite formidable. English car collector Harry Metcalfe took the 1969 wedding duty cruiser he bought on eBay for about $5,400 on a 2,000-mile trek to the Arctic Circle during winter.

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