1986 Rolls Royce Silver Spirit

During the 1980’s, the global money had changed once again, and now investments on the stock market were the way to get your millions rather than fighting through the ranks at Pinewood or Abbey Road Studios. For the executive market, you needed an executive looking car, and to keep in style with the 1980’s, where angles were in and not a curve was in sight, Rolls Royce waded in with the Silver Spirit and Silver Spur, a pair of audacious luxury cars that while endearing for their time, with all the luxuries of previous models in evidence, have gone down as amongst the blandest Rolls Royces ever made. But does that mean that they need to be continually maligned?


Although the Silver Spirit/Spur range made its début in 1980, these cars had been in planning and development for what seemed like an eternity. Original plans for a range to replace the Silver Shadow dated back to the mid-1970’s, but due to the company going bankrupt in 1973 after the expensive RB211 Project, the company had not the money to continue development, and thus was forced to continue slow construction of these machines throughout the rest of the decade. The result, nothing too stellar in terms of design.


The bland angular design was a response to the fact that large, flamboyant cars were no longer admired by the public, but seen more as symbols of vanity and conceit. A major problem that helped kill off the Silver Shadow and earlier Silver Cloud was that the regal design was by no stretch of the imagination subtle, dripping with chrome and built to a size of such bizarre proportions that the car would need a house of its own just to live in. Another key feature of the Spirit’s design was that it was built primarily to grapple back the American market, with its poly bumpers and angled design hoping to be reminiscent of the Lincoln Towncars and Cadillacs of the day. So technically, the car was very much a Silver Shadow with a different body, sharing nearly the same platform and being powered by the same 6.75L V8 engine. But what it lacked in looks it made up for in ride quality, with the hydraulic self-levelling suspension resulting in one of the smoothest in a motorcar, complimented by a newly developed automatic height control system. The car also had the distinction of being the first Rolls Royce to have a retractable Spirit of Ecstasy, which meant that if dislodged by a vindictive passer-by, the figure and its base would fall into the grille mounting rather than breaking off, allowing the owner to simply realign it later on.


Entering the market in 1980, the Silver Spirit and long-wheelbase Silver Spur, where the first new developments for the company since 1965’s Silver Shadow and 1975’s Camargue. Throughout its 19 year construction period the car went through a variety of designs and brands, probably the most in Rolls Royce history since the days of customer preference body-types. The first change came with the Silver Spirit II in 1989, which modified the Self-Levelling suspension using automatically adjustable dampers, had an updated dashboard and included Anti-Lock Brakes and fuel injection as standard.


This was updated again in 1993 with the Silver Spirit III, which increased the power output with modified cylinder heads, included airbags, adjustable rear seats, and yet more modifications to the suspension system to iron out earlier reliability problems. It was in this period that two other variants were built. In 1994 – 1995, a limited edition of 134 cars known as the Flying Spur was created, which for all intents and purposes was a Silver Spur powered by a Tubrocharged V8 engine from a Bentley Turbo R. Also built was the Silver Dawn, a revival of the famous brand of the 1950’s used on top of the range models that included Electronic Traction Assistance and redesigned grille and Spirit.


Finally there was the IV, which although designed in 1992, didn’t make its appearance on the market until 1995. Although the car was marketed as the New Silver Spirit/Silver Spur, the New part was omitted from the name on the back of the car. Changes to the vehicle included another modification to the dashboard, Bosch engine management was updated to a Zytec, bumpers were integrated into the body to make them look less distinct, and all cars came with a longer wheelbase, as well as a standard Garrett Turbocharger.


Eventually though, the angular design of the 1980’s Spirit/Spur range was really starting to look its age and thus a replacement had to be made. In 1997 the Spirit was discontinued and in 1999 the Spur was too following the introduction of the more curved Silver Seraph, which had been in development for the best part of 10 years.


Spirits and Spurs are probably the easiest Rolls Royces to come by due to the fact that they sold massively, but not as many as the Silver Shadow despite its longer production run. In all, about 12,000 Spirits and Spurs rolled off the production line and became the car of choice for the 1980’s stock broker and business executive, but did also show that even though the design had changed to something of a more subtle nature, internally, Rolls Royce were still on top.


In terms of hindsight reviews by both Rolls Royce and car enthusiasts in general, they’re seen as mediocre. Although not ravaged in the same way as the Camargue, the Spirits and Spurs have just been known for their dullness, their underplayed and angular design being a main point of contention. I will agree that the Spirit and Spur are quite bland in their appearance, especially when you take earlier models into account, but as practical everyday cars they are very good.


The best thing I feel about the Silver Spirit and Silver Spur is that they are fantastic entry-level Rolls Royces for those wishing to get into the luxury car market. Today you can pick one up for as little as £3,000, with a mint condition model going for as little as £7,000. Indeed Shadows go for about the same money due to their high numbers, they are more troublesome for their age, and low cost ones are probably very crooked indeed. So if you’re in the market for a luxury car but haven’t the cash in pocket for a Cloud or Shadow, a Spirit or Spur is a very good place to start!

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