Much of Britain’s automobile had industry changed to unitary construction by the time the new Silver Shadow hit the market in the mid-1960s. Rolls-Royce's adoption of this method for constructing the new Silver Shadow meant that by the middle of the decade the market for traditional coachbuilt automobiles had been severely curtailed. Of the dozens of British coachbuilders in pre-war era, just two - James Young and the now combined firm of H J Mulliner, Park Ward Ltd - were left to meet the demand for a coachbuilt Rolls-Royce or Bentley. Though now, because of unitary bodies, these might be more accurately termed conversions rather than 100 percent bespoke creations.
Recalling its glamorous Grandes Routières of pre-war days, Rolls-Royce's final coachbuilt models, entrusted to the company's in-house coachbuilder H J Mulliner, Park Ward, were limited either a two-door coupé or a similarly styled convertible - the former arriving in March 1966 and the latter in September the following year. The 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, a necessarily lengthy process that took all of 20 weeks for the saloon and slightly longer for the more complex open car. This painstaking attention to detail resulted in a price some 50 percent higher than the standard Silver Shadow's. Nevertheless, demand for these more glamorous body styles was strong right from the start. In March 1971, these hand crafted, low production models were given the name Corniche and joined the regular Rolls-Royce catalogue. The Corniche roads, three scenic routes that link Nice to the Principality of Monaco is said to have inspired the name, which would become synonymous with motoring elegance.
This glamorous Rolls-Royce was delivered new in October 1968 by RR Motor Car Limited in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to the honorable John W.H. Bassett, billionaire media mogul and owner of Baton Broadcasting Limited. Mr. Bassett retained the car for many years, eventually changing hands to Calvin Zahn – an active RROC member and marque collector. In 1999 it was acquired by H. Gary Morse, a real estate developer and founder of The Villages in Lake Sumter, Florida. Subsequently, it was purchased by its most recent owner in 2015, who continued its cost-no-object maintenance.
Elegantly presented in its original colors of Porcelain White over sumptuous dark green Connolly hides and a beautiful green Everflex top, highlights include a gorgeous burled wood dash and upper door panel trim, electric windows, power seats, power top and air conditioning. Color-keyed wheel covers and desirable early-style chrome bumpers preserve the design purity of this very special automobile.
Throughout the years, this rare coachbuilt drophead has been lovingly maintained. Most recently, it was trusted to noted Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialist Executive Motor Works of Boca Raton, Florida, for nearly $30,000 in mechanical servicing, including new head gaskets, hydraulic lifters, and more. The result is a Silver Shadow that not only looks marvelous, but runs and drives exceptionally well. As a testament to its quality, it captured the Best in Class for Postwar Rolls-Royce and Bentley Open Car award at the prestigious Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance in 2017. A factory jack and tool kit, original handbook, along with RROC ownership records, nearly 50 pages of original factory service records, and restoration receipts accompany the car.
As collectors turn their attention to the Silver Shadow series, coachbuilt models such as this MPW Drophead will rise to the top thanks to their comparative rarity, elegance, and traditional craftsmanship. This impeccably serviced and maintained example is particularly appealing, and will be at home wafting along the countryside or turning heads on the show field.
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