The Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit and its long-wheelbase sibling, the Silver Spur, replaced the Silver Shadow and Silver Wraith respectively in 1980. Continuing the unibody construction initiated by the Shadow in 1967, they were redesigned to be much more rounded and less upright, the work of Austrian stylist Fritz Feller. These are the first Rolls-Royces to have the disappearing Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament, which sinks into the radiator shell.
The 220-hp, 6.75-liter aluminum V-8 initially used twin SU carburetors, but cars exported to the U.S. and Japan always had Bosch fuel injection, which was eventually standardized for all markets in 1986. The Silver Spirit and Silver Spur were built in four iterations, or Marks, but there were thousands of running changes through the years. A total of 8,129 Mk I Rolls-Royce Silver Spirits were built between1980-89; 1,152 Mk IIs were produced from 1989-93; 1,658 Mk IIIs were manufactured in 1993-94; and 122 Mk IV models left the line from 1995-98. The Flying Spur of 1994-95 added a Garrett turbocharger in 1997, almost doubling the power output to 412 horsepower. The Silver Spirit was replaced by the Silver Seraph in 1998.
The finish on the Silver Spirit was as superior as one might expect, with burl walnut wood trim ,Connolly leather hide interior, and Wilton carpets. Steering was power rack-and-pinion, and Rolls-Royce used Citroen’s hydraulic self-leveling suspension at the rear, power disc brakes all-around, and a three-speed automatic transmission, which was later replaced by a four-speed automatic in 1991. Almost everything was standard, including air conditioning, power windows, seats, and door locks.
Rolls-Royces are famous for their sophistication and durability, but curiously, that can lead to deferred maintenance once they hit resale channels. Be mindful that authorized service work and repairs can be frightfully expensive – the brakes and suspension in particular – and cannot be performed properly by anybody who is not a certified Rolls-Royce mechanic.
Maxims to remember are: “The wrong Rolls-Royce can be a bad deal free” and “If you can’t afford a good one, you really can’t afford a bad one.” Provenance is everything in Rolls-Royces, and records will tell you every step of a car’s ownership trail and maintenance history from the day it left the factory. Buying from the original owner or a reputable dealer is usually worth a premium, as are complete records. A pre-purchase inspection is often wise, and source a certified mechanic prior to purchase to keep the car in good running order. That said, a well-kept car can be trouble-free and rewarding to own.