Just imagine that one day you would have the money to go out and buy yourself a big, sumptuous, lumpy, five-passenger convertible car. It would be great to go touring on a hot summer day, wouldn’t it? Just yourself, the wife, your three kids and the dog. What car would you pick? Perhaps a big American passenger car from the early fifties 1950’s? Nah, of course not. If money really wasn’t the issue, you’d go and buy yourself a Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible right away!
Mulliner Park Ward
Rolls-Royce introduced the Silver Shadow four-door saloon in 1965 and started producing a two-door saloon a year later. It was called Silver Shadow coupé and convertible and that’s exactly what it was: a two-door version, with and without a roof, of the Silver Shadow saloon. These early coupes and convertibles were designed by coachbuilder James Young and only 35 RR-versions and 15 Bentley’s T-series versions were built. The Mulliner Park Ward-version of the coupé and convertible proved to be more popular, it’s shoulderline was not straight like the saloon but resembled the coke bottle line, which was popular in those days on cars like the Opel Rekord and Ford Escort Mk I. In 1971, this car was renamed Corniche the name referred to a coastal road in France and Italy and was first used on e 1936 Bentley prototype.
The Silver Shadow was produced until 1980 and was then succeeded by the Silver Spirit. All this time the Corniche remained in production and the convertible even outlived the Silver Spirit. Eventually, the Corniche lived on until 1996, in 2002 it was succeeded by the new Corniche, which was based on the new RR Silver Spur.
The Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible has always had a high appeal to people all over the world. After all it is both a Rolls-Royce and a convertible. The reputation of the car was established by appearances in several music videos and movies, like Elton John’s video clip Nikita in 1986 and the movie ‘10’ in 1979, featuring sex symbol Bo Derek. Corniches were owned by the rich and famous of the world, people like Aristoteles Onassis, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Frank Sinatra, just to name a few. In total there have been 5.146 Rolls-Royce Corniche convertibles built in total, plus another 140 Bentley Corniches. Over the years, the Corniche has seen several updates and facelifts and connoisseurs refer to Corniche I (1971), Corniche II (1986), Corniche III (1989) and Corniche IV (1992).
As Rolls-Royce motorcars have a remarkable high survivalrate, there are still a lot of those fivethousand Corniche convertibles around. A quick look on the internet shows that there are several dozens on sale right now, in different parts of the world. No surprise that a lot of them are in the USA and actually a lot of Corniches in Europe turn out to originally be American versions, with side-markers on them.
For such an immense and originally expensive car it is amazing how cheap they have become on the used-car market. Cars that would cost 200.000 or 300.000 USD when they were new, are now up for grabs for sometimes even less than USD 30.000. The really expensive ones sometimes top USD 100.000. It really is a shame that a high-class marque like Rolls-Royce has devaluated so much, especially the salooncars like Silver Shadow and Silver Spirit can only dream of the days when collectors would pay top dollar for them. The Corniche convertible, being a convertible, fetches better prices than the saloon Silver Shadow but is still a relatively cheap classic car. But look on the bright side, a Corniche is not a car that is bought by wealthy people who lock it in a safe and cherish in private, but it’s a car that even the working class heroes can buy to drive and enjoy.
The cheapest Corniche convertible that we could find this week is this black one. It’s from 1981 and has 92,492 miles on the odometer. It’s on offer with a classic car specialist in Beverly Hills and the car needs some tender loving care. For instance, the tear in the right front seat needs repair and there are some other issues. That explains the price of USD 33,500.
The red car is the envy of all the sellers’ country club friends. He’s been working on the car and that shows. It has new paint, newly refinished wood in the interior and the red piping on the original tan leather really turns head, he says. The colour may not be everybody’s taste, but the car has been well maintained and looks in good shape.
One of the oldest Corniches on offer at present is this Nugget Gold 1973 example. It’s a righthand drive car and is on offer by a classic car specialist in Glasgow. The car looks immaculate and has been meticulously maintained. It comes with a full history which begins with a Confirmation of Order letter from November 1971. The first owner, a gentleman farmer from Hampshire, appears to have been very careful with his car. Which explains why this very early Corniche is now on offer for GBP 130.000.