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Iconic British Cars: The Rolls Royce Silver ShadowBack

As part of our search for the most iconic British cars of the last 60 years (head over there to vote for your own favourite) we’re looking at some of Britain’s best-loved cars in a little more detail. Today, we’re looking at the Rolls Royce Silver Shadow.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

If ever a car lived up to our reputation overseas as a nation of toffs, it is the Silver Shadow. From the imperial grille, rampant disdain for aerodynamics and fuel economy and, of course, the iconic Silver Angel standing proud on the bonnet, the Silver Shadow fair reeked of clubbable old gents and cigar smoke. While the sun might have already set on the British Empire by the time of the car’s launch in 1965, the Silver Shadow’s hand-crafted panelling and even-then old-fashioned good looks spoke of a last burst of a certain British pride that would eventually die a death during the dog days of the 1970s.

As car it was, as you would expect, the very last word in luxury. Like all Rolls Royce’s the car boasted hand-built panelling, Connelly leather interior, burnished walnut in the interior any number of bespoke touches for the company’s many moneyed customers.

Yet for all its olde-worlde styling cues and positioning, the Silver Shadow was actually a very modern car for its time. It was built on a monocoque chassis which allowed the car to be 4 inches narrower and 7 inches than its predecessor The Silver Cloud, yet have improved luggage and interior space. The ride was also improved by the adoption of Citroen’s hydraulic suspension (which the company licensed) and the introduction of independent rear supension. Hardly a sports car, the ride quality was legendarily soft and the big (4700lbs!) car was as surefooted as any on the road.

Despite its aristrocratic heritage, the Silver Shadow soon became something of status symbol amongst the increasing ranks of Britain’s middle class. Beloved by captains of industry and pop stars alike, no public event was complete without a Silver Shadow wafting up to the kerbside to disgorge a celebrity onto the red carpet. In many ways, the Silver Shadow represented the glorious high noon of traditionally ‘British’ cars. By the time it was replaced in 1980, the Silver Shadow had become fixed in most people’s minds what a Roller actually was.

Why is it Iconic?

You need to ask? The grille alone is a totem of quitessentially British design – and the soft, cossetted feel of unalloyed luxury remains a byword for quality.

What is its modern Equivalent?

Naturally, the Rolls Royce Ghost is the ultra modern luxury equivalent, although increasingly people are turning for towards cars with arguably less pedigree, such as the BMW 7 Series or Mercedes E Class.

Posted by Paul Carpenter on 08/06/2012