As a sheer status symbol, nothing in the world can beat the stately grandeur of a Rolls-Royce. Although Goodwood still maintains its absolute grip over the über luxury class with the Phantom and the Ghost, there’s something unmistakably charming about classic Rollers.
And I don’t mean vintage models from the Thirties or the Forties. Even those that were produced as late as the late Seventies and Eighties possessed a unique allure, which seems to be missing in modern-day Rolls-Royces. One of the best examples of such a classic Rolls-Royce is the Corniche that was produced between 1971 and 1995.
The Corniche was first introduced in 1971 as coupé and convertible variants were built on the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow platform. Designed by John Polwhele Blatchley, who was also involved in the designs of the Silver Shadow, Silver Cloud and Bentley R Type, the Corniche was powered by a 6.7-litre engine that featured an aluminium-alloy cylinder block and heads. Although these were also great cars, getting a later model will give you the benefit of all the modifications and additions they received.
By the late Seventies, the Corniche models had fuel injection in place of carburettors, a rack-and-pinion steering set-up, aluminium radiator, and a modified rear independent suspension. The engine now produced 240 horsepower and topped out at 190kph. Safety was also improved with the addition of ABS, although airbags were introduced only in the Corniche III models.
Subsequent iterations remained almost unchanged with the 1989 Corniche III featuring colour-coded bumpers and a modified suspension and the Corniche S models of 1995 got a turbocharger.
The quintessentially classic looks of the Corniche models were perfectly complemented by their finely crafted interiors, with a simple leather-trimmed three-spoke steering wheel and classy analogue gauges offering a foil to the lavishly appointed cabin. The ride quality was sublime and handling was decent considering the car’s substantial bulk.
The coupé was discontinued in 1982, however the convertible lived on in various mildly reworked versions, until production ceased in 1995, although in the year 2000 a fully reworked, new-millennium Corniche was introduced with a limited production run.
If you’ve nursed the idea of owning a classic Rolls-Royce but were put off by the sheer size of some of the older models, the Corniche, especially ones that were built between the late Seventies and the Eighties, will be an ideal choice. They were an effective blend of the classy and the sporty and will only set you back around Dh350,000.