Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow: Affordable luxury or money pit?

1971 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow front 3/4

Looking to class up your image but not sure which luxury car makes the most economical sense? The Shadow knows. No, not the old radio show. The 1965–80 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow.

If you’ve ever considered the iconic Brit, but have never had the cash, now might be the time to buy. Focusing on sedans (not drophead coupes or fixed-head coupes), prices for the 1965–80 Silver Shadow have been sliding for nine years. According to our latest pricing data, the median #2 (Excellent) value is $15,200, down from a high of $24,700. That high water mark is about what you’d expect to pay for a #1 (Concours) example today.

Repair costs can be daunting, so stay away from project cars or those without maintenance records.

“You get a lot of style for the money,” says Andrew Newton, Hagerty valuation editor. “However, it makes great financial sense to buy the very best example you can find, rather than dump buckets of cash into a neglected car with needs or that will just keep breaking over time.”

The Silver Shadow was a striking change from the Silver Cloud that preceded it. Although it was smaller, squarer, and generally less attractive, the Shadow was lighter, faster, and handled better than any previous Rolls-Royce. Early models are powered by a 200-horse, 6230-cc V-8 from the Silver Cloud III; the engine grew to 6750 cc in 1970. GM’s Turbo Hydramatic 400 three-speed automatic transmission was standard outside of the UK, as were power windows and four-wheel disc brakes.

The exemplary interior featured leather seats, wool carpet, and walnut dash and door trim. Four-door sedans are the most common.

1979 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
RM Sotheby's
1979 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow

The Silver Shadow II—essentially a Shadow with rack-and-pinion steering, a slightly different bumper, and firmer front suspension—was introduced in 1977. The luxury sedan had a luxury price tag: a whopping $65,000, which is about $280,600 in today’s money. Production ended after the 1980 model year.

As Silver Shadow values declined, a lot of them weren’t taken care of properly—maintenance schedules were often ignored—and as a result many have become money pits. In turn, potential buyers are wary of the high repair costs, and rightly so.

In our latest pricing update in May, values were down about 9 percent across all sedan models. Over the past five years, median #2 values are down about 13 percent.

The most expensive sedan is the 1973 LWB model: $30,600 in #1 condition, $17,000 in #2, $11,100 in #3 (Good), and $6600 in #4 (Fair). Considering a new ’73 LWB model cost more than $200K in today’s economy, even the very best models have seen a value drop of nearly 700 percent from new.

Regardless, they still have a way of grabbing the attention of Baby Boomers, who account for 51.64 percent of Hagerty insurance quotes for Silver Shadows. Boomers make up 39.88 percent of quotes across the rest of the market.

Pre-Boomers quote 15.79 percent of Silver Shadows, more than double their 7.26-percent market average. Gen-Xers quote 23 percent of Silver Shadows; Millennials quote 9.54 percent.

1971 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow profile
Mecum
1971 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow

Newton says the number of insurance quotes has been falling—“albeit in pretty small increments”—for about three years.

Among the considerations before you buy: Silver Shadows are prone to rust, the braking system is very complex, suspension issues are common, early models have more electrical problems, and owners of later cars have been known to remove the safety bumpers and retrofit classic chrome. Also, right-hand-drive cars are less desirable—our data notes a 30-percent discount.

If Bentley T1 and T2 models look familiar, it’s because they should—they’re essentially Silver Shadows with a Bentley badge. Since they were built in considerably smaller numbers, however, they are worth about $3K more, depending on condition.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for some British luxury and can find a later-model Silver Shadow in #3+ condition for a fair (below-market) price, bully for you. Just don’t neglect it or it’ll cost you.