Buyer’s guide: Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit & Spur
With production averaging almost 1000 cars every 12 months for 20 years, just as with the Shadow there is now a surfeit of Silver Spirits and Spurs on the market. That means these fabulously built cars, hugely expensive when new, can now be had for astonishingly low prices – and some are still in very fine condition.
Rolls-Royce maintained its phenomenal reputation by evolving rather than changing its products, so the Spirit and Spur used the Shadow platform virtually unmodified. The coachwork was wider, lower, more aerodynamic and the same length in Spirit form; its engine was tweaked with higher compression and improved intake and exhaust; it had revised semi-trailing-arm rear suspension from the two-door Shadow; and in Spur form it was 4in longer, all of which was used to increase rear-seat space.
There were numerous extended editions of the Silver Spur, including 159 stretched Limousines, 104 Touring Limousines, 49 Park Ward Limousines and one Armoured Limousine. In addition, Hooper coachbuilt 17 cars and uprated 24 more.
All fittings and finishes were of the highest quality: the walnut-veneered dash should match from side to side (as a mirror image). Velour was a rare option for the seats – almost all are leather and, again, detail quality was of the highest order. Powered everything was still rare in 1980, including fore-aft, up-down and tilt for the seats, though reclining was still manually operated at first. Digital displays for outside temperature and journey elapsed time were a sign of modernity, but check that everything still works.
All the guides say ‘buy the best car you can afford’, but Rolls-Royce parts are extremely expensive (though suppliers of used spares help) so, rather than blowing all your funds on the purchase, keep a decent budget aside for unexpected outlays.
Buy a sound car with a great recent history, showing it’s had a fair amount of use and has been cherished and looked after. Don’t worry about dull paint or a grubby interior (it’ll polish/clean up); do worry about corrosion, damaged/missing trim and neglected servicing.
The size of your motor shed is an important consideration. This is not a car to be kept outside long-term and many garages are only 17ft long – you’ll need 4in more for the Spirit and 8in for the Spur, ideally with a bit extra to avoid scrapes.
Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit / Silver Spur: what to look for
Properly maintained, the all-aluminium V8 engine is good for 500,000 miles: check the service history and look for a clean and cared-for engine bay. Stuck hydraulic tappets and worn cams result from missed servicing – listen for a rattly top end. Lack of corrosion inhibitor will lead to overheating and engine damage.
Two brake calipers on separate circuits means double trouble if neglected. Electronic dampers are very costly to replace: listen for clonks when driving.
Make sure the air-con works as it should, because it’s costly to put right. Regular regassing lubricates the pump, so check the service history for it.
High-quality, long-lasting leather should only require occasional feeding (velour was rare and more fragile). Check carpets for damp.
Damaged or missing trim can be hard to find and pricey, though secondhand supply from specialists such as Flying Spares is good for standard parts.
Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit / Silver Spur: on the road
Early cars with carburettors are the cheapest, but are more thirsty, less powerful and a little less reliable than fuel-injected cars from 1987 (though a blocked injector will make a later car run roughly).
The only part that is affordable to rebuild is the GM gearbox (check all gears engage before driving off) – the engine, brakes and most other components are complex and costly. Given the size and quality of the parts, however, the prices make sense – these cars are seriously built to last, and if they’re properly maintained they are extremely durable. DIY is not impossible if you’re reasonably competent, but specialist servicing is not cheap.
Cast-iron wet liners in an all-aluminium engine, plus hydraulic tappets, give strength and smooth running – until servicing schedules are neglected. Check that service history, especially the past few years, listen for any unseemly noises, and look out for signs of overheating (or worse, emulsion in the oil-filler cap or oil in the coolant, pointing towards head-gasket failure).
Turn on the ignition and check that the two hydraulic warning lights appear; if not, pump the brake pedal a few times until they do. If they don’t, be very suspicious. Now start the engine: both should go out within 30 secs cold, 20 secs when warm.
Once it’s warmed up, stop the engine, turn on the ignition again and pump the brake pedal until they illuminate – you should get at least 40 pumps. If anything’s untoward, budget for a costly hydraulic-system overhaul.
Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit / Spur history
1980 Spirit/Spur arrives: twin SUs (EFI in Japan)
1981 Injected USA/Canada model introduced
1985 Spur Centenary built, plus 25 replicas; headlamp wipers replaced by power wash
1986 Bosch K-Jetronic injection, single-outlet exhaust (with cat), electric memory seats, Bosch anti-lock (except N America), stiffer suspension
1989 Spirit/Spur II: adaptive damping, new dash, K-Motronic; MPW option (71 built, 1990-’91)
1991 GM 4L80-E four-speed auto replaces GM400 three-speed (1992 for Spur)
1992 Spirit/Spur III: twin airbags, smoother transmission, revised seats
1993 Flying Spur with Garrett T4 turbo, sports suspension: 360bhp, 140mph, 134 built
1994 Silver Dawn edition (237 built, 1995-’98)
1995 New Spirit/Spur: lower radiator, integrated bumper/spoiler, revised interior, no quarterlights
1997 Spirit dropped; Spur gets light-pressure turbo, 300bhp, optional traction control
2000 Spur production ends
Source: Classic & Sports Car Magazine (https://classicandsportscar.com/features/buyers-guide-rolls-royce-silver-spirit-spur)