Rolls-Royce’s adoption of unitary construction for its new Silver Shadow and T-Series Bentley necessitated the reorganisation of in-house coachbuilder H J Mulliner, Park Ward to enable it to produce new designs on the Shadow floorpan. Recalling the firm’s glamorous Grands Routiers of pre-war days such as the Phantom II Continental, these final coachbuilt models were limited to just two, a two-door coupé or similar convertible, the former arriving in March 1966 and the latter in September the following year. Some of the frontal panels were shared with the standard four-door saloon, but otherwise the new bodyshells were unique, featuring a distinctive dipping upper wing line with parallel crease, and revised, more rounded posterior. Construction involved shuttling the bodyshells between the Crewe factory and MPW’s Willesden plant, a necessarily lengthy process that took all of 20 weeks for the saloon and slightly longer for the more complex convertible.
These exclusive cars were hand built in the best traditions of British coachbuilding using only materials of the finest quality including Wilton carpeting, Connolly hide and burr walnut veneers, such painstaking attention to detail resulting in a price some 50% higher than that of the standard Silver Shadow. Nevertheless, demand for these more glamorous alternatives to the much more numerous four-door model was strong right from the start, a state of affairs that resulted in them being given their own model name – ‘Corniche’ – in March 1971.
In Corniche form Rolls-Royce’s well-tried 6.7-litre V8 produced around 10% more power than standard and proved capable of propelling the car to a top speed in excess of 120mph with sportscar-beating acceleration to match. The model proved a major success for Rolls-Royce; periodically revised and up-dated, it remained in production well into the 1990s, the last (Convertible) examples being delivered in 1995.
This left-hand drive chassis number ‘04226’ was manufactured for the US market and first registered in 1982. Imported to the UK in June 2014, this delightful Corniche is said to drive beautifully – with “unmarked bodywork” and recent colonised red leather interior. With a recent service and brakes overhauled this wonderful Corniche would prove to be the perfect motor car for continental driving or the cote d’azur.