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Car of the Month

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Rossfeldt: Rolls-Royce and Bentley / From the Dawn of the 20th Century into the new Millennium




Car of the Month - May 2021
Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit I, 1982, #BCH03848
4-door saloon


Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit I

At the 1980 Paris Salon debuted the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit and as a variant with long wheelbase the Rolls-Royce Silver Spur. As a sister model the Bentley Mulsanne was launched with identical coachwork and interior. Only the radiator shell and the emblems were different; the separation had been achieved by 'badge-engineering'. The new car was the result of the work of the design-team at Crewe headed by Austrian-born Fritz Feller. However this wasn't an entirely new creation but one that employed the floorpan of the outgoing model Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II and also the proven OHV 6,750cc V8 powerplant. The front suspension assembly of the Silver Shadow II was incorporated in the Silver Spirit but the rear suspension was improved considerably by new gas springs in conjunction with a finely-tuned Girling self-levelling system. Rolls-Royce Motors' 'Journal' coined the term "The Ultimate Improved upon".

Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit I

The newcomer was lower and longer than the Silver Shadow and featured a considerably larger glass area. Contrary to all predecessors which showed round headlamps the new one was fitted with rectangular units and thus used as much as possible of the area between the radiator and the wings. This was as per Fritz Feller's 'Form Follows Funkction Verdict' and indeed a great improvement in lighting efficiency could be achieved. The Silver Spirit has been the first Rolls-Royce to feature a retractable version of the Spirit of Ecstasy. The radiator ornament automatically withdrew into the safety of the radiator shell if dislodged from its standard position. A statement by the Chief Engineer for Styling and Future Projects was repeated frequently: "We will have succeeded in our task, if, on a winter's evening, in a dimply lit street, someone looks out of a window and catches a glimpse of a dark and travel-stained Silver Spirit and says "A Rolls-Royce has just gone by'".

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Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit I

The almost unbelievably long production period of some 20 years is proof what a great job had been done. There were a total of four iterations of the Silver Spirit (much more, if the variations of the sister models are taken into consideration, too). The model remained in production until 1998, by which time BMW had obtained an interest in the manufacturer and the Spirit was replaced by the BMW V12-powered Silver Seraph – with certain almost bizarre developments following when as a serious competitor Volkswagen did enter the arena, too; however that is another story.

The full story of the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit is covered in Davide Bassoli's new book “THE SPIRIT OF THE AGES”. Based on fabulously careful in-depth research this lavishly illustrated publication provides the Definitive History of the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, Silver Spur, Bentley Mulsanne, Turbo R, and Derivates. It is available from June 2021 onward from

Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit I

(Fotos: Zbigniew Krystowczyk, Poland and Roßfeldt-Archives, Germany)